Do Puppets Dream of the Mekong Delta?

a Contemporary Art exhibition
27.11 – 11.12.2022
Weird House – Nguyễn Mạnh Đức’s studio, hamlet 2 Bat Trang village, Gia Lam, Hanoi.
Free entry

WAITING ROOM is the final showcase of Month of Arts practice MAP 2022. The exhibition forms part of Month of Arts Practice, abbreviated as MAP, is an annual art project of Heritage Space since 2015.

Time: From November 27th – December 11th, 2022.
Opens from 10h00 – 18h00 everyday (except Monday).

Venue: Weird House – Nguyễn Mạnh Đức’s studio, hamlet 2 Bat Trang village, Gia Lam, Hanoi. Location: XWG6+F3Q, Bát Tràng, Gia Lâm, Hanoi, Vietnam.

Do Puppets Dream of the Mekong Delta?
By Miho Shimizu

Today, water puppetry is a popular tourist attraction in Hanoi. It originated in Northern Vietnam when villagers started to create puppetry as a form of leisure activity using available resources, and it dates back as far as the 11th Century. Since then, artisans have been creating puppets that reflect, that mimic the daily lives of villagers in a particular way, passing on values, and an aesthetic consistency.

Though at times difficult, water puppetry survived wars and hardships. The puppets continued to smile even when the social climate changed. Attempts to use it as a propaganda tool seem to have failed, I’m told, because the authority figures the puppets were supposed to idolize appeared comical with the way puppets moved, making them seem ridiculous. Puppetry must have been seen in a different light during the war, since what they performed related to the life they used to have – something they were missing at the time.

A smile during times of war may not be the same thing as a smile in happier times.

Having a rare opportunity to see backstage, I was thrilled by the innovative and creative approaches artisans have, and their sense of humor. The textile pieces are a form of response to this, where peaceful faces mirror the simplicities and complexities of reality and fiction while water reflects their gaze.

In parallel to this, I have been recording street sounds, incomprehensible voices and people telling their dreams about war. This is in a way an eclectic record of my stay in Hanoi, a reflection of feeling lost and in constant transition surrounded by noise and traffic.