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  • Writer's pictureThe Night Owl

Urban-ese and urban-ian

Updated: Sep 15, 2020

I grew up in an impoverished district of Ho Chi Minh City, although I have wonderful memories from childhood. In 2003, the People’s Committee of Ho Chi Minh City began a social program to destroy the slums in my old neighborhood and replace them with low-income housing. The work commenced in the summer of 2005, giving rise to my inspiration. The slums are now gone and new buildings are being completed in order to relocate thousands of people. But somehow, the buildings are as ugly as prisons and the people in them are even more miserable than before. This drove me to create my “Slum and Sunshine Life Series,” to depict both the present and the past, in order to retain the images that have lasted in my mind for twenty years.

At noted earlier, the series springs from a dream I have had since childhood. At this time, everyone in my country was desperately poor. The Vietnamese had a saying then: “No one is richer, no one is poorer.” We all lived in the same situation, in the same kind of houses—some, like mine, made of cardboard—that are known as “slums.” Since that time, some of my childhood friends have become wealthy, some not, but all of us have retained unforgettable good memories of our childhood. We played under the rain, swam in green rivers, ran through the noisy markets... I want to keep our wonderful childhood memories alive through my slum series as a gift for all the people who were there with me, showing our wonderful life amidst the squalor that surrounded us. I also want those who were never there and never knew it to know it, feel and understand it.

Utilizing an array of materials, some of them “found” and others carefully designed, the first two selections in the series are “DAY” and “NIGHT,” as these are the two more important terms during the 24 hours of a day. The new modern buildings and the old poor paper slums are mixed together. They have shown their “beauties” under the light and dark and the beauty of the souls that inhabit them—not of the place where they are located or the materials of which they are constructed.

The purpose of reality creates the power of transformation.

Went to England for postgraduate study in 2006 and then travelled around the globe from 2008 to 2012, I have witnessed and been affected by the rapid and massive changes in my birthplace, Ho Chi Minh City, Viet Nam as well as every cities I had set my foot on. It has been far from beautiful and encouraging for the future, as the emphasis has been on speed and utility, rather than on respect for the individual, the society, the past or the future—not to mention aesthetics! I had examined the beauty of the slum life, the ugliness of urban “renewal” that is bereft of soul, and how they exist within the elements of nature that always surround them.

It has always being a good and global question of how to get the right balance? How to keep the green space for both economic and environment? How to keep your life and your planet safe? Global warming. Climate change. Unhealthy ocean. Political conflict. We suffer because we encounter a world of harshness and suspicion, caused by ourselves who do not realize there has a secret connection of lives and places. This connected idealization lay between the profit of jobs for local residents, profit of economic plus finance and the harmful impact on the environment and society.

Auckland and New Zealand soon will join to Ho Chi Minh City and Shanghai series. It had been said 'in a country that prides itself on living the easy life, Auckland’s cultural upheaval and rapid growth puts it at odds with many other parts of the country.' 'Auckland’s booming population has meant a very large increase in housing prices for Auckland residents which has put house ownership out of reach for many lower-income city workers.' []

Watch this space!

@nighowlart 2016

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