- Cristina Nualart, Universidad Complutense Madrid presented a paper on Queer Art in Vietnam at the ‘Queer’ Asia 2016 Conference. The abstract is below and the full paper is available here.
From Closet to Pride: A 20 Year History of Queer Art in Vietnam
This research looks for the first manifestations of queer art in contemporary Vietnam, finding that the artworks that may be described as ‘queer’ because of their homosexual subject matter often include a performative aspect.
From the early 1990s to the new millennium, male and female artists in Vietnam have created art that gives visibility to non-normative lifestyles that go against the traditional values espoused by national rhetoric. Coincidentally, performance art also arose in Vietnam in the 1990s, the beginning of the timeframe explored here.
Although the pioneering artist in this study, Truong Tan, has a prolific output of drawings and paintings, many of which depict homosexual narratives, he is also one of the harbingers of performance art in Vietnam. Subsequently, contemporary artists all over Vietnam have often either created performances or incorporated performative elements to other artworks. Since the year 2000, other artists from Vietnam have made queer artworks. This analysis discusses works by Ngo Dinh Truc and Himiko Nguyen created up to 2015.
For the most part, the artworks explored here cannot easily be categorised within the boundaries of traditional media –they break with the conventions of art practice in Vietnam— and are thus subversive in form as well as in content. Such innovation, needless to say, does not go unnoticed by the country’s censorship board, nor even by art historians and critics of Vietnam, who sometimes hesitate to embrace these departures from tradition. Nonetheless, the determination of some of the artists to push the boundaries, defy censorship or find ways to resist it is commendable.
Although this research does nor find a direct correlation between the introduction of performance art, the birth of queer art, and recent changes in the country (such as the first Gay Pride in 2012), it is the first known account of the history of queer art by Vietnamese artists. This study collates social and artistic developments, identifies the first queer artworks in Vietnam and thus opens the path for further research on a topic that has not been studied previously: queer art in Vietnam.