Vietnamese Residency Shuttered Amid State Pressure

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A residency program at Vietnam’s prominent Sàn Art nonprofit has been suspended after government scrutiny over the institution’s foreign attendees. The decision to temporarily drop the studio and residency effort, called Sàn Art Laboratory, was made on Monday, and follows “ambiguous regulations” imposed by the country’s cultural police force, known locally as PA83, ArtAsiaPacific reported.

Sàn Art was founded in 2007, and its Laboratory residency was established in 2012 “in response to a great lack of educational access and opportunity concerning contemporary art in Vietnam,” according to a 2015 crowdfunding campaign. That effort raised $13,324 to support three resident artists: Vo Tran Chau and Nguyen Thuy Tien of Vietnam and Ratu Saras of Thailand.

The residency exhibition supported by the fundraiser was eventually scrapped due to the Vietnamese Ministry of Culture, Sport, and Tourism’s nonrecognition of performance art and a specific objection to a video by Nguyen. The ministry allegedly refused to acknowledge her project as an artwork despite testimony to the contrary by the Ho Chi Minh City Fine Arts Museum and the Ho Chi Minh City Fine Arts Association, ArtAsiaPacific noted.

The difficulties encountered by Sàn Art, which describes itself on a New Museum page as “the most active independent, artist-initiated contemporary art space and reading room in Vietnam,” come amid apparent crackdowns on independent art spaces worldwide, including the partial closure of Townhouse in Cairo at the hands of Egyptian authorities and an “arbitrary and political” warrant issued against Ashkal Alwan curator Christine Tohmé in Lebanon.

Mostafa Heddaya (@mheddaya)

(Photo: Video still via Kickstarter)