Nam Quốc Sơn Hà (Mountain and Rivers of the Southern Country) / Vietnam’s first Declaration of Independence
Artists Talk is a performance piece conceived by artists Aliansyah Caniago and Cam Xanh, during Caniago’s one-month residency at MoT+++ in HCMC, Vietnam in March 2018. The title challenges the contemporary artworld’s penchant for artist talks, and questions the implied necessity for artists to talk at all. How much should artists explain their practice, vision, and process, and to what extent should their artwork speak for itself? Artists working in any discipline were invited to speak simultaneously for two hours about their practice, or any other issues that seemed pressing to them. They were given a manifesto titled Freedom of Expression written by Cam Xanh, which set out a number of performance directives. Most importantly, participants were required to stay in the room for the full two-hour duration. One participant described the effect as “cerebral-like, like being in a brain that isn’t quite yours or any one person’s”. Going beyond the manifesto’s instructions, some artists began drawing on the walls: Caniago brought a box of charcoal sticks, which he pressed heavily into the walls as he spoke. Elaborating on this gesture, some artists began smearing his markings across the walls, while others added additional drawings, as well as questions and statements in various languages. The markings added yet another layer to the emerging discourse, offering a defiant reply to the commandment that “artists must talk”.
(Edited from text excerpts provided by the artists)