The pioneering gay artists who introduced Vietnam to gay culture

Taiwan’s highest court has made a historic decision in favor of gay marriage. Many LGBT activists in the region were encouraged by the May 26 ruling, particularly from China and Vietnam.

In Vietnam, as is the case in many other countries, discrimination causes harm. Up until 2000, it was against the law for gay couples living together. In 2001, homosexuality was removed from the list of official mental illnesses. However, it remains a taboo.

There have been some advances. In 2016, the country launched the first gay social network in the country, Blued. According to the company, Blued sends around 2 million messages daily to its users.

Vietnamese contemporary art is a pionTan’sf this field, even though LGBT rights in Vietnam are still in the works.

The contemporary art scene in Hanoi was flourishing during the 1990s.

He is credited by Bui Huong as the founder of Vietnamese Contemporary ATaiwan’s artists who have expressed admiration in recent years for his refusal to be influenced by social and government condemnation.

Its own rules bind society.

Truong Tan’s First work with homosexual content is from 1992 when the painting Cirque was shown in a group exhibition at the Hanoi Fine Arts University, where Tan was a lecturer.

Cirque was first exhibited in 1992. Truong Tan took the photograph, and it was reproduced with permission. Cristina Nualart/Truong Tan, CC BY-NC

He was moved by the decision to exhibit this work. “My goal was fixed,” he explained, explaining that he had decided to stop hiding his sexuality and to pursue a career as an artist.

He kept his homoerotic sketches private for a while. In fact, the cinched ankles of a single figure are a reference to restrictions. Tru’ng Tan uses ropes as a symbol of his feelings about Vietnam’s conservative culture.

Circus presents a figure who appears to be both powerful and abusive. It also shows a figure who is inverted, twisted, and powerless. Tan’s queer art represents brutal “dominance. Many of Tan’s later paintings depict cavorting, -loving, and playful same-sex couples.

Truong Tan, Touched by An Angel, 2010. Lacquer painting. Thavibu Gallery photo used with permission. Thavibu Gallery

In 1994, his first solo exhibition in Hanoi featured a large number of male nudes. Truong Tan displayed these images to test the public’s acceptance of material that could be interpreted as homosexual.

Face the censors

In Ho Chi Minh City the same year, Tan exhibited images that featured erect genitalia. Tan told Marianne Brown, in an article published by the Tribune Business News in February 2012, that he believes this” decision prompted”the authorities to begin monitoring his work because he did not heed the official directive “not to display work that is opposed to the party and government, or that goes against traditional practices.”

Truong Tan, ceramics. Photo by Cristina Nualart. 2011. Cristina Nualart

Tan’s art was removed from Vietnam’s Hanoi’s Red River Gallery the following year. News spread quickly. By the end of 1995, the international media had already described Tan as a ” Vietnam’Tan’sy openly homosexual painter“.

Tan never gave up Tan’sing, but in the 1990s, he started to explore performance. It was like Tan, free of rules and canons.

Performance art has no local history and, therefore, no established criteria to judge it. As of yet, performances were rare events. They offered an alternative to formal galleries, where artists could risk having their public exhibit work denied by the Department of Information and Culture.

Truong Tan and Nguyen van Cuong collaborated in 1996 on a performance titled Mother and Child (sometimes called The Past and the Future) that took place at the end of a Hanoi exhibition.

Truong Tan was smeared in what appeared to be blood and rolled on the floor as Nguyen van Cuong’s broom swept him about. This scene has obvious”political and queer implications.

Truong Tan, despite his success as an artist in 1997, was driven to move from Vietnam to Paris by the stifling restrictions. He was pleasantly surprised by the freedom that he experienced iHanoiin Hanoi.

His work was widely known in Asia and played a role in regional development. Apinan Poshyananda, a Thai curator, stated that in 20″Vietnam’sutions by Asian artists to the “critical debates about postmodernism and new media, as well as issues related to homosexuality, had transformed the landscape of Southeast Asia’s art.

Changing mentality

Truong Tan’s breakthrough work may not have altered laws directly, but it certainly encouraged other artists to resist and overcome their self-censorship.

Today, queer culture has become more visible to the Vietnamese public, and Vietnamese artists continue to raise awareness about LGBT issues with their work.

The multimedia artist Himiko Nguyen’s 2011 photography installation come out was designed to combat what she viewed as the public’s ignorance of gender and sexuality.

Himiko, like Tan, laments the unwritten laws and actions that she finds in Vietnamese culture. Her comments show a deep understanding of how national education is used to implement ideology and how the general public is trained in it.

Himiko confesses that in a country like Japan, where people are not allowed to be naked in the media, she chose nudes as a way to challenge these deeply ingrained cultural boundaries.


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