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Cristimãng cầu Nualart does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

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‘Why are you Standing on my Foot?’ 1996, Chinese ink & acrylic on Do paper. Thavibu Art Gallery, Truong Tan

Art critic Bui Nhu Huong cites hyên ổn as the pioneer of Vietnamese contemporary art, và many artists in recent years have expressed their admiration for his resistance to being constrained by social và official condemnation.

Bound by society

Truong Tan’s first work showing homosexual content dates from 1992, when the painting Circus was displayed in a group show at the Hanoi Fine Arts University, where Tan was a lecturer.

The painting Circus was exhibited in 1992. Photograph taken by Truong Tan và reproduced with permission. Cristimãng cầu Nualart/Truong Tan, CC BY-NC

The decision to show this work activated something in hyên ổn. “My goal was mix,” he said, explaining that he was ready khổng lồ stop hiding his homosexuality and that he was determined to forge a career as a professional artist.

It wasn’t easy, & for some time he kept his homoerotic drawings private. Circus, in fact, references restrictions in the bound-up ankles of one figure. Ropes are a recurrent image in Truong Tan’s artworks, symbolising his feelings about Vietnam’s conservative sầu environment.

More directly, Circus shows a figure that appears to be powerful, controlling & abusive sầu, và one that is twisted, inverted và powerless. It is striking that Tan’s first queer artwork represents brutal domination. In contrast, many of his later paintings show cavorting, loving & playful same-sex couples.

Touched by an Angel, 2010, lacquer painting by Truong Tan. Photo by Thavibu Gallery used with permission. Thavibu Gallery

His first solo show opened in Hanoi in 1994, displaying an abundance of male nudes. In exhibiting these, Truong Tan tested the water for public acceptance of nội dung that could be read as homosexual.

Facing the censors

Later that same year, in Ho Chi Minc City, the artist exhibited imagery that included erect penises. As he later told Marianne Brown in a February 2012 article for the Tribune Business News, Tan believes that this decision drove sầu the authorities to lớn start monitoring his work closely because he didn’t heed the official guidance “not lớn show work that opposes the buổi tiệc ngọt and the government, or goes against traditional customs.”

Ceramic pieces by Truong Tan. Phokhổng lồ by Cristimãng cầu Nualart, 2011. Cristimãng cầu Nualart

The following year, Tan experienced a notorious case of censorship when 18 of his art works were removed from an exhibition in Hanoi’s Red River Gallery. News spread quickly. And by the over of 1995, the international truyền thông was already describing Tan as “Vietnam’s only openly gay painter”.

Although Tan has never abandoned painting, in the mid-1990s he began khổng lồ embrace performance; lượt thích him, it was miễn phí from rules and canons.

Since performance art had no local history, there were no entrenched criteria on which to lớn judge it. Performances were as of yet uncommon events, an alternative sầu to lớn the more formal gallery setting, where artists risked having permission to lớn show their work denied by the Department of Information and Culture.

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In 1996, Truong Tan collaborated with the artist Nguyen Van Cuong on a performance called Mother and Child (sometimes called The Past và the Future), which took place during the closing sự kiện of an exhibition in a Hanoi gallery.

In this ten-minute performance, Truong Tan curled up on the floor, smeared with what looked like blood, và rolled around tormented by Nguyen Van Cuong’s broom, which swept him around. It’s not hard to lớn imagine the political và the queer connotations of such a scene.

Despite his successes as an artist, by 1997 the grind of low-level restrictions spurred Truong Tan khổng lồ leave Vietnam giới và move to Paris. The freedom he felt there surpassed his expectations.

News of his work continued to reach Asia, playing a part in regional developments. Tnhị curator Apinan Poshyanandomain authority stated that by 2000, the contributions of Asian artists lớn critical debates on postmodernism, new truyền thông and issues relating to lớn homosexuality had changed the panorama of Southeast Asia’s art.

Changing mentality

Truong Tan’s breakout work might not have changed laws directly, but they certainly played a part in encouraging other artists to attempt resistance và overcome self-censorship.

Today, queer cultural production is much more visible in Vietnam’s public sphere, and Vietnamese artists have sầu continued to lớn foster awareness of LGBT issues through their work.

The multidisciplinary artist Himiko Nguyen’s 2011 photography installation, Come Out, aimed to lớn counteract what she sees as public ignorance on gender & sexuality issues.

Like Tan, Himiko laments the unwritten rules & constraints that she finds in Vietnamese society. Her comments indicate a thoughtful understanding on how ideology is implemented through national education và how it is naturalised by the general population.

In a country where naked people cannot be shown in the truyền thông, Himiko admits that she chose nudes to push up against these ingrained boundaries.

Poster for the Come Out exhibition, 2011, by Himiko Nguyen (used with permission). Himiko Nguyen

Today, homosexuality is slowly becoming part of mainstream culture. In 2011, the openly gay film Hot Boy Noi Loan (Lost in Paradise), directed by Vu Ngoc Dang, saw great success in and outside the country.

In 2012, the sitcom My Best Gay Friends launched on YouTube and became an instant hit. Its debut coincided with the first Viet Pride.

The next year, Nguyen Quoc Tkhô nóng, a founding member of the Hanoi art space Nha San Collective initiated Queer Forever, an art festival in Hanoi that encompasses art exhibitions, conferences and concerts. And an art zine called Vanguard is produced by the Vietnamese LGBTQ community.

These contributions would have not been possible without the pioneering work of Truong Tan. By raising hope through art, he has fostered social acceptance for Vietnam’s LGBT community.

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