Build empathy with a sense of art
Today’s artists are more than just creatives. With sharp observations, they are also society’s watchdogs, especially adept at picking up the complex emotions of the very people living in it.
Our world is a turbulent one, constantly multiplying the problems we ought to face while making them even harder to unfold and for others to empathize with. With their sharp observations as well as emotional depth and acumen, artists instill compassion in their communities. How? Unlike mere propaganda, artworks seek to evoke a sense of empathy in people through diverse sensory experiences, tapping into our unconscious awareness, therefore bringing about fundamental changes.
In the 21st century, we find artists working with all kinds of knowledge and know-how. Here in Vietnam, we have artists working with traditional artisans on the revival of age-old technique and meaning like Bui Cong Khanh; we have artists working with commercial businesses to create artworks that speak about environmental responsibility like UuDam Tran Nguyen; we have artists working with animal wildlife organizations concerned about exploitation and extinction like Tuan Andrew Nguyen; we have artists building space to self-organize, to gather, exchange and make — think San Art, Art Labor, Hanoi Doclab, Nha San and so many more.
Their committed presence and responsive methods have galvanized the development of a critically-thinking artistic and internationally-connected local cultural community.
An art award in the name of honoring community
We can see very clearly how the definitions of “art” and “artist” have changed in our time. Art is hardly only for pleasure anymore, but also an area of contemplation about mankind and society. It is a much needed reflection to assess ourselves looking towards an uncertain future.
To have more contemplation calls for more art, and the need for more art calls for more artists. That’s one of the reasons why the Artist Excellence Award (AEA) was established in 2021 by The Factory — Vietnam’s first social enterprise dedicated to contemporary art. They seek to encourage our community to work together, to think “outside of the box” when it comes to what art can be today.
Awarded every two years, AEA recognizes artists whose practices have not only produced critical experiments in their studio, but have also contributed to their social landscape — demonstrating that art today is of an interdisciplinary nature, and that in the 21st century, our cultural voices matter in ways and means that are urgent unlike ever before.
AEA is co-sponsored by The Factory (HCMC), ROH Projects (Jarkata) and Chu Foundation (Hong Kong), and supported by the Nguyen Art Foundation (HCMC). The resulting exhibition at The Factory in 2022 will travel to Hanoi, co-hosted by ADP (Art Patronage & Development), in 2023. These organizations share a mission to empower creativity and cultural innovation through art. They’re also actively contributing to the formation of a strong and sustainable support network for artists not only in Vietnam, but within our broader region of Southeast Asia — because artists need such a networked community as much as this community needs artists.
Translated by Jennifer Nguyen