Galerie Quynh is pleased to present Towards Realist Socialization – a solo exhibition by Ngo Dinh Bao Chau, curated by Arlette Quynh-Anh Tran. The show presents Ngo’s most ambitious work to date and marks the culmination of a five-year research project that examines the repetition of symbols and imagery, the intersection of public and private space, and their lasting effects on collective memory.
Towards Realist Socialization investigates how the public sphere bleeds into the private: how the concrete of monuments – and the beliefs they represent – filter into the home and manifest in our daily routines. Present in Ngo Dinh Bao Chau’s homespace, exuding an air of both familiarity and detachment, are the shadows of monuments and traces of slogans – the stowaway fragments of what otherwise exists in the public realm. Delving into the overlap between public and private spheres, her body of installation work – modelled after items of furniture – disturbs the dualism of the public outside and the private inside. Speaking to Gaston Bachelard’s observation in The Poetics of Space that ‘outside and inside are both intimate’, Towards Realist Socialization visualises interior and exterior worlds as intertwined and dependent spaces.
In bringing monuments into the home and crafting that home within a gallery, the works of Ngo Dinh Bao Chau scatter freely in a space that is both private and public, but that is also neither. As the artist gives form to that ambiguous space, she is also remembering: drawing from her memories of growing up in Vietnam, where the imposing grandeur of monuments become part of childhood routines and rituals. In Uniform – Wallpaper, again and again the silhouette of a schoolchild saluting the flag is woodblock-printed onto sheets of wallpaper – the salute being a laden act that is nevertheless as mundane as doing homework. Similarly in Closed eyes – Light, the resin artwork brings to mind ‘đèn ông sao’ – star-shaped lanterns made from glassine covering a bamboo frame – flooding streets and parks during the Mid-Autumn Festival, though undeniably its undisguised shape alludes to the immense power of simple imagery. Yet despite our repeated exposure to slogans and banners and flagpoles and public sculpture, ubiquity in turn renders them invisible (but not in the sense that they cannot be seen). Rather, they become embedded in our subconscious, alter memory, and, for Ngo Dinh Bao Chau, fuel imagination.
The artworks on display are dense with detail. True to the fickle process of remembering, some details have become blurred and abstracted, while others are unknowing last-minute additions, and through endless repetition become more and more vivid. Towards Realist Socialization is a house of memories, but the materialisation of those memories reflects the present and has implications for the future. To visit the artworks in each of its rooms is as important as journeying through space and exploring what Bachelard calls ‘the hallways of the mind’ – the recesses of our psyche that Ngo Dinh Bao Chau has laid out for all to inhabit.