Nguyễn Thế Sơn (2019) | Photography in Southeast Asia (III) at Lumenvisum, HK

山連山 水連水 (2012/2019) – 東南亞攝影系列 III:阮世山(河內,越南)
Mountain Connecting Mountain, River Connecting River (2012/2019) – Photography in Southeast Asia III: Nguyễn Thế Sơn (Hanoi, Vietnam)

藝術家 Artist
阮世山 Nguyễn Thế Sơn

策展人 Curator
莊吳斌 Zhuang Wubin

開幕酒會 Opening Reception
6.4.2019 (Sat) 5:00 – 7:00pm

藝術家講座 Artist talk
6.4.2019 (Sat) 2:00 – 5:00pm

展覽日期 Exhibition Period
6.4.2019 – 19.5.2019

開放時間 Opening Hours
11:00am-1:00pm ; 2:00-6:00pm
星期二至日 Tue – Sun
(逢星期一及公眾假期休館 Closed on monday and public holidays)

展覽地址 Venue
光影作坊 Lumenvisum
L2-10, JCCAC, 30 Pak Tin Street, Shek Kip Mei, Kowloon


Artist Statement

山連山 水連水(2012/2019)



然而,這首歌的命運也隨著國際關係的變動而改變 。蘇聯和中國在60年代末發生摩擦以後,越南因為不想反對蘇聯而導致越中關係惡化。 1979年,中國向越南發動邊界戰爭,直到1990年才宣告結束。在這段時間,《山連山 水連水》這類的藝文作品就變得不合時宜了。取而代之的是譴責中國罪行或激勵越南青年維護祖國的詩歌、電影、小說等。

80年代末,冷戰結束和蘇聯瓦解使得世界政局再次變動。越南沒有了支點,需要和中國重修舊好。自1992年以後,在越中交惡時期所廣泛流傳的藝文作品又變得不合時宜了。為了跟中國搞好關係,越南領導進而提倡16個金字和4好精神。而像《山連山 水連水》這樣的歌曲又再次在廣播媒體流傳開來。

2012年,我從河內前往老街,順著紅河來到越中邊區,為的就是想看看歌曲所提及的那條維繫兩國命運的紅河,在過去半個多世紀以來的改變。我挑了沿途所拍的6張黑白照片, 試圖對比歌詞中所呈現的意象和現今的實際情況。我為照片配上6張磨漆板,用書法的形式刻上歌名,背景的拼貼取自中國和越南的網絡世界所下載的照片。我希望作品像是一幅開放式的對聯,引領觀眾審視越中過去和現在、既模糊又具體的關係。

Photography in Southeast Asia III: Nguyễn Thế Sơn (Hanoi)
Mountain Connecting Mountain, River Connecting River (2012 / 2019)

Vietnam—China, mountain connecting mountain, river connecting river, together fronting the East Sea, our friendship is like the morning sun. Drinking from the same river, we look at one another, day and night, in the early morning, together we listen to the rooster sing. Ah, we share the same ideals, our hearts remain connected, and the path of victory is lined with red flags flying. Ah, together we proclaim, long live, Ho Chi Minh—Mao Zedong.

This is an iconic song that symbolised the warm relationship that Vietnam and China enjoyed during the 1960s. At that time, the song would often be heard on public radio and cultural performances. There were many literary and artistic works made in the same spirit, often describing the relationship between the two countries with the adage of “lips opened, teeth gets cold”. In the North, students were required to memorise and sing this song before the start of school.

However, the fate of the song changed with the shift in international relations. With the surfacing of the conflict between Soviet Union and China in the late 1960s, Vietnam was forced to take sides. As Vietnam did not want to go against the Soviet Union, her relationship with China began to deteriorate. It culminated in the border war between China and Vietnam, which broke out in 1979. It was only in 1990 when the last army unit withdrew back to China. In that period, cultural works such as Mountain Connecting Mountain, River Connecting River no longer fitted with the realities. Instead, songs, poems, films and novels condemning Chinese aggression while mobilising the Vietnamese youths to join the national defence gained wide circulation.

In the late 1980s, global politics shifted again with the end of cold war and the collapse of the Soviet Union. Having lost its fulcrum, Vietnam started normalising her relationship with China. After 1992, cultural works that were popular during the Vietnam-China conflict no longer fitted with the times. To cement her relationship with China, Vietnamese leaders started emphasising the Motto of 16 Golden Words and the Spirit of Four Goodness. Songs such as Mountain Connecting Mountain, River Connecting River began circulating, once again, in the mass media.

In 2012, I travelled from Hanoi to Lao Cai, following the Red River to the border regions of both countries. I wanted to see how the image of the river, which connects the fate of both countries, as the song proclaimed, has changed over the last 50 years. Selecting six images from the trip, I made a set of black-and-white photographs to compare the current realities and the imageries conjured in the song. The photographs are paired with six lacquer panels, which feature found images downloaded from the Internet worlds of both countries and the name of the song inscribed in calligraphy. The installation is like an open couplet, inviting viewers to re-examine the ambiguous and tangible relationship, its past and present, between Vietnam and China.


Curatorial Statement

Vietnam has had a complex history of interacting, collaborating and resisting the Middle Kingdom. I know a young artist in Hanoi who recently changed his name from Trung (中) to Việt (越), suggesting that the Vietnamese experiences of China (and Chineseness) remain intense and personal. On the other hand, with the rapid proliferation of quốc ngữ (國語) at the start of the 20th century, most of the Vietnamese today no longer have the capacity to directly access their histories, which were typically written, before that, in Chinese characters or chữ Nôm (an indigenous script constructed from Chinese to represent spoken Vietnamese). This makes a Vietnamese contemporary artist like Nguyễn Thế Sơn quite rare. Because of his education background, Nguyễn Thế Sơn has been able to mediate Vietnam’s current developments through its longstanding cultural resources, which are not always available to Vietnamese artists who only understand quốc ngữ. He had studied Chinese at the Hanoi Foreign Language University before completing his BFA in 2002, majoring in lacquer and traditional silk painting. After that, taking advantage of his proficiency in Mandarin, Nguyễn pursued his MFA at the Central Academy of Fine Arts, Beijing. I suspect his stint in Beijing must have been productive in offering him an intimate view of the ways in which China artists carve out a space to speak and work. The need to be given room to speak while staying grounded to the realities in Vietnam requires a delicate balancing act. This is why Nguyễn Thế Sơn is an obvious choice for the third iteration of the Photography in Southeast Asia series at Lumenvisum. I feel he has been quite successful in using his art making to make sense of the Vietnamese experiences of engaging with China and Chineseness.

Mountain Connecting Mountain, River Connecting River (2012 / 2019) takes the form of an installation that incorporates photography, lacquer work and calligraphy. The work takes its title from a popular song of the 1960s that characterised the camaraderie between Vietnam and China. However, Nguyễn Thế Sơn focuses on the fate of the song, which veered with every shift in Sino-Vietnamese relationship. During the Third Indochina War, when clashes occurred from 1979 to 1990 in the border regions between Vietnam and China, the song disappeared from public circulation. At the same time, to fuel the war efforts against Vietnam, new songs were being composed in China, including The Blood-Stained Valour (血染的風采, 1987). In an ironic twist, this song has since been used in Hong Kong to commemorate the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests. It is clear that the afterlife of these popular songs has not been completely dictated by the authorities. Even though the government has since reinstated it, Mountain Connecting Mountain, River Connecting River is no longer as popular as before. In this work, Nguyễn Thế Sơn references the song’s afterlife to encourage viewers to reconsider how the political elites in Vietnam and China have manoeuvred their longstanding relationship. In the installation, there is also a scanned reproduction of the illustrated picture book that Nguyễn Thế Sơn’s father produced for the government in 1980, narrating China’s aggression against Vietnam. It was also Nguyễn Thế Sơn’s first picture book, indirectly germinating his future interest in using art making for social commentary.


「山連山 水連水」(2012/2019)是一項涵蓋攝影、磨漆、書法的裝置作品。作品的名字來自一首60年代普遍流傳的歌曲,歌詞具體刻劃了越中友誼。然而,阮世山關注的卻是歌曲迂迴的命運,它隨著中越關係的反反復復而屢受波及。第三次印度支那戰爭爆發,越南和中國在1979至1990年期間在邊境多次交火,這首歌自然就銷聲匿跡了。與此同時,為了動員民眾,許多新創作的歌曲開始在中國流傳開來,其中包括《血染的風采》(1987)。諷刺的是,《血染的風采》後來經香港而被轉化為紀念1989年天安門事件的代表曲子。顯然的,有關當局並沒有辦法徹底控制這些熱門歌曲的解讀權。雖然越南當局不再禁止《山連山 水連水》的廣播,其受歡迎的程度卻已大不如前。阮世山以歌曲曲折的命運作為切入點,引領觀眾重新思考越中政治精英如何操控兩地過往的關係。阮世山也在空間內展出一本由他父親為政府於1980年製作的畫冊的掃描復刻本,畫冊描繪中國的侵越行動。這也是阮世山擁有的第一本畫冊,間接開啓了他對藝術創作和社會評論的熱忱。

莊吳斌 / Zhuang Wubin


Artist Bio

Nguyễn Thế Sơn (b. 1978, Hanoi) is a visual artist, independent curator and a lecturer at the Vietnam Fine Arts University. In 2012, he graduated with an MFA (photography major) from the Central Academy of Fine Arts (CAFA), Beijing. His projects are often driven by sociological research, reflecting the loss of cultural values and memories in the midst of rapid change in Vietnam. Nguyễn’s artworks can be found in private and public collections, including the Worcester Art Museum, RMIT University Vietnam, Aegon Art Collection and CAFA.

In recent years, Nguyễn Thế Sơn has also served as a mentor and curator for CSAGA (Center for Studies and Applied Sciences in Gender – Family – Women and Adolescents) in Vietnam, working with vulnerable social groups to put up multimedia art exhibitions. In addition, he has also curated group exhibitions to showcase contemporary art in public spaces, like along Phùng Hưng Street and at the basement of the National Assembly.


近年,阮世山也以導師和策展人的身份跟CSAGA(性別、家庭、婦女、青年研究和應用科學中心)合作, 協助社會的弱勢群體舉辦多媒體藝術展。此外,他也在馮興街和國會大廈地下層策劃群展,把當代藝術帶入公共領域。


View the exhibition brochure here:ễn_Thế_Sơns_solo_show_Mountain_Connecting_Mountain_River_Connecting_River_in_HK

For a review of the exhibition:失落的對聯_阮世山_山連山_水連水_2019_Review_of_Nguyễn_Thế_Sơn_s_solo_exhibition_at_Lumenvisum_Hong_Kong_


4 April 2019 / Hong KongSetting up the exhibition at Lumenvisum
4 April 2019 / Setting up the exhibition at Lumenvisum

4 April 2019 / Hong Kong Setting up the exhibition at Lumenvisum

4 April 2019 / Hong Kong Setting up the exhibition at Lumenvisum

4 April 2019 / After setting up the exhibition and having dinner, we move on to Luk Lam Dessert (綠林甜品) at Sham Shui Po.


6 April 2019 / Hong KongAll set for the artist talk and exhibition opening
6 April 2019 / All set for the artist talk and exhibition opening
6 April 2019 / Hong KongArtist talk
6 April 2019 / Artist talk
6 April 2019 / Hong KongArtist talk
6 April 2019 / I provide a brief historical context to the exhibition.
6 April 2019 / Hong KongExhibition opening
6 April 2019 / Exhibition opening

6 April 2019 / Hong Kong Exhibition opening

6 April 2019 / Hong Kong Exhibition opening

6 April 2019 / Hong Kong Exhibition opening

6 April 2019 / Hong Kong Exhibition opening

6 April 2019 / Hong Kong Exhibition opening

6 April 2019 / Hong Kong Exhibition opening

6 April 2019 / Hong Kong Exhibition opening

6 April 2019 / Hong Kong

Installation view of the exhibition
Installation view of exhibition

Installation view of the exhibition

Installation view of the exhibition

Installation view of the exhibition

Installation view of the exhibition

Installation view of the exhibition