Through the looking glass

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April 9, 2022
March 16, 2022
Nguyễn Trần Nam

Known as one of Hanoi’s second wave of contemporary artists, Nam’s practice embraces a diverse body of multimedia works such as paintings, installations and video art. ‘Through the looking glass’ is the artist’s third solo exhibition with Manzi, following ‘Undone’ in 2017 and 'The broken chapters' in 2013.


Consisting of a stop motion film, a few sketches and a series of found objects, the exhibition questions the relationship between human belief, power and violence, and between loss and oblivion.


In the works on display at Manzi, the film – the only moving element of the exhibition – is composed of pure fantasies and unreal chronicles, like an aimless journey through an unknown tunnel with various exits, leaving us disoriented in the shattered imagery and incongruous juxtaposition of faith and violence, a phantasmagoric hybrid between ‘Alice in Wonderland’ and Dante's ‘Inferno’. In here and out there, or out here and in over there. The hand drawn pictures – frozen moments – have now been endowed with movement through a stop motion technique and have come to life in the form of an animation which is ultimately just another kind of freezing over.


The other parts of the exhibition feature left-over elements that were used in constructing the film and its motions. Paper sheets reveal the figures and traces of the drawing process; Bone fragments collected by chance around the walls of Huế Citadel now turn into a poem arranged with the dense areas and white spaces of a written composition or a painting; evoking undeciphered ancient writings, the poem seems to be whispering the lost tales of extinct civilizations; The Landolt C chart, developed by the Swiss-born ophthalmologist Edmund Landolt for vision testing, can readily be found in any ophthalmology clinic in Vietnam; The Katuk plant blends the artist’s own memories of his childhood garden with Andersen’s fairy tales ‘The Rose Elf’ and ‘Under the Willow tree’; Soil and sickles are found objects from the artist’s hometown, intimately associated with personal loss – soil collected on a field that the artist has never cultivated and sickles that are just blades without handles that have never been used. Side by side, these two elements are reflections of each other in different dimensions.


Creating a parallel world unbound by truth, time or place, ‘Through the looking glass’ can be seen as a change in Nguyễn Trần Nam’s artistic practice, leading to a new phase in his creative path.


The show will commence on 16 March and will be on display until 09 April 2022.


Notes for visitors:

  1.  Due to the fragility of the installation and the complexity of the set up, we can only accommodate max 10 persons for each slot.

  2. In light of the current coronavirus developments, please wear mask when visiting, scan QR code and use the hand sanitizer provided at our door.


'Through the looking glass' is part of Manzi art programme supported by the Goethe Institut

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