18/09/2009 | 18:24:00

Contemporary art in folk festival: impressive, strange

The Lanh Giang temple festival in Duy Tien district, Ha Nam province from July 23-26 was the first folk festival in Vietnam to see the contribution of contemporary art.

To prepare for this festival, 30 contemporary painters went to Duy Tien on July 22. Each day ten painters drew patterns on 20 village boys to serve the hau dong performances.

“We didn’t have to use traditional patterns. We were free to express ourselves,” said young artist Le Minh Nam.

Looking at the 20 village boys who sat quietly for painters to create paintings on their bodies, one could see their eagerness for this first-time event.

These boys had to submerge their bodies in water for a long time and wriggle their bodies like snakes for the hau dong performances.

The sixty people who participated in the hau dong performances were from Moc Nam commune. These amateur artists practiced for nearly two weeks to perform three hau dong performances in the evenings from July 24-26.

The presence of village boys with patterns of dragon and snakes, the four seasons, and modern patterns, mysterious music by Vu Nhat Tan, impressive art video clips by Phuong Vu Manh and performance art by Pham Van Truong conveyed to the audiences legends dating back to the Hung Kings.

The stage looked outstanding with a large-scale painting of three big snakes, which symbolise the three deities worshiped at Lanh Giang temple. The mysterious colours enshrouded the space. The story about three snake brothers who were born from a womb on the river bank and helped King Due Vuong defeat the invaders was told slowly and impressively.

In front of the stage, “co dong” (sorceress) performed a hau dong dance to praise the merit of the three deities. Behind them, 60 people in white-blue costumes held candles in their hands and sang and danced.

On the stage backdrop, a video clip showed the three snake deities who became three sinewy men.

The audiences clapped their hands when they saw the strange and modern pictures appearing on the screen. An old man said that in its hundred-year history, the Lanh Giang temple festival had never been like this.

Both the Vietnam Institute of Art and Culture and the people’s committee of Duy Tien district confirmed that the Lanh Giang temple festival was a festival of the people and would be organised by the people next year.

However, next year’s festival is a concern. How will the people in a rural village 60km from Hanoi deal with electronic music, art video and body art? If everything is done by hired labour, can this still be a folk festival?

Vietnamplus/ Vietnamnet Bridge

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