December 5, 2022
November 17, 2022
Nguyễn Văn Phúc
Originated from an unrealized series of installations ten years ago that Phúc had fully formed idea about, ‘no-think’ when comes into being at manzi this month, is an interplay of the physical presence and the re-appearance of what -used -to- exist-and-archived:
A bottle of penicillin filled with tears
A reptile animal
A flying strip of fabric tied with a knot
A painting made of scorched rice
A man running on a blooming field of yellow flowers
A man perching on a loofah pergola
A man lying on a blossom bush
A ring on the floor formed by buffalo dung
Such an overload of visual materials on disparate forms, ‘No-Think’ offers a space crammed full with images. They collide, or more accurately pushing down and simultaneously lifting up, interrupting while harmonizing & backing each other. The audience gets struck by a great amount of visual information and an overwhelming force inherent therein that directly attacks their senses. Though being perceived, this visual data is seemingly unable to be processed, obviously incomprehensible due to its absurdity and lack of coherence.
Rejecting any logical connection or cohesiveness, the visual fragments featuring in ‘No-Think’ are nevertheless authentic and original as Nguyễn Văn Phúc “...did not aim to question their origins, but rather to perceive and keep them in one’s own limited memory”. As if an effort to catch some random images popping into our heads or to summon fleeting shadows in a dream. From this perspective, the immateriality of our subconscious mind has been materialized in Nguyễn Văn Phúc’s installations, with a distinct structure composed of aggressiveness along with playfulness, roughness mixing into delicacy.
By that way, ‘No-Think’, though saturated with its visual indulgence, is not a spectacular superficial parade. Neither is a cunning disguise concealing an internal shallowness nor a tactfully strategic formation striving for a defined goal. The intensity and purity of visual perceptions as well as physical sensation are confronted with the (active) emptiness of thoughts. Such juxtaposition of body & mind in ‘No-Think’ provokes the transparency closing to mindfulness - a mental state in the insight meditation. When thinking is insignificant and futile; when any labels/beliefs/concepts, … all abstract forms that often shadow our view of things have all been eliminated, in such cases where shall we be led to? Can it be close to the truth itself, as Phúc expects: “[...] I make no attempt to protest against or intentionally diverge from the movement of postmodern art which centers on the concept; instead, my approach is simply based on my own living experiences, and as I believe it offers me a way to come to the truth.”
“No-Think” marks an end of twelve-year -(half) absence of Phuc from the local art scene and excitingly opens up a brand new chapter of his art practice.
An artwork that is merely an image, without any thinking and concept.
Long time ago, back in 2012 or so, I had a plan to do an installation featuring images that I had envisioned and kept in my mind. Time passed by, then somehow I did put a stop to thinking about them. Now, I want to put those specific images into being, display them in a physical space - a presence of the fragmented and logically incoherent images.
Due to an unfavorable situation at that time, I could not realize my idea. However, ever since then, those images have been preserved perfectly in my mind; until this year when I chanced upon an invitation from Manzi, encouraging me to do a solo show at their exhibition space; I decided to let it take its own course and chose to display my unrealized project ten years ago.
I know that anything that occurs in our minds, the whole of our thoughts and mental visualizations, do not exist by accident, without any particular cause. In fact, they either stem from our past obsessions and traumas, appear as an inevitable consequence, (from the point of view of Psychoanalysis) or emanate from forgotten memories of our past lives (in the explanation of Buddhism). Nevertheless, I did not aim to question their origins, but rather to merely perceive them, and keep them in my own limited memory.
There was a period of time when I found myself coming into a dead end and lost in a search for the meaning or the core essence of the problems in my own life. Overthinking to no avail, I put a stop to the thinking itself. I started engaging in some practices of ‘no-think’ that cultivates an empty state of mind, for example, watching the ripples on the lake’s surface for hours, looking at a burning flame, or examining the leaves stirred high on a tree without having any thoughts. I applied the same technique in conversations with other people. At the moment I realized that I could not follow what they were talking about, I would turn my focus to their gestures, their attitudes, their mental states. That’s also my personal way to connect with others.
Regarding my new installation, I make no attempt to protest against or intentionally diverge from the movement of postmodern and contemporary art which centers on the concept; instead, my approach is simply based on my own living experiences, and as I believe it offers me a way to come to the truth.”
- Nguyễn Văn Phúc, Hanoi, October 2022
SOME THOUGHTS ON 'NO-THINK'
A dialogue between Nguyễn Như Huy (a thinker) and artist Nguyễn Văn Phúc about Phúc's new series of installations titled 'no-think'
1. First of all, let’s imagine a scene like this: There was a baby not talking yet. One day, when the family was gathering around, this baby suddenly pointed to a chair. All members of that family then looked at each other, trying to guess what the toddler wanted. The father said, “Maybe he wants to sit on the chair.” The mother disagreed, “No, he does not know how to sit on the chair yet. Probably, he thinks that the chair is a walking pet.” The sister laughed out loud, “I don’t think so. He just wants to go through the chair, so he is asking us to put the chair away.” The toddler’s grandparents just shook their heads, smiled and explained, “You are all wrong, he is implying that many ministers only know how to keep their “chairs” rather than how to do their jobs well.” The family went on arguing until bedtime. Everybody was frustrated because there was no way to know for sure what the toddler meant when he pointed to the chair. What did he actually mean then?