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Inside Á Space's Residency Program Where Emerging Artists Shine

Founded in May 2018, Á Space offers a safe haven for burgeoning young Vietnamese artists, offering them a platform to actualize their ideas while inviting them to participate in Hanoi’s contemporary art scene.

Urbanist Hanoi sat down with some of the management team to learn more about their #Solo#Marathon program and their plans for the future of the venue.

The #Solo#Marathon residency program, which began at the start of 2019, offers artists specializing in experimental art resources and support for a month. One of the few programs of this type in Vietnam, it allows emerging artists, many of whom are often at the beginning of their professional journey, much-needed time to develop and showcase work. Once accepted into the program, each artist spends a 30-day period at Á Space on their proposed idea, culminating in a public presentation in the form of an open-studio event, performance, or artist talk.

Located beside the train tracks in Long Bien, the venue includes an exhibition space on the ground floor with a spiraling staircase leading to a cozy library and meeting area above. They also utilize their outer terrace for performances, discussions and screenings; recent resident Jo Ngo screened her films under the night sky accompanied by sound artist Jung Buffalo. It is a peaceful setting within the vibrancy of an ever-changing creative space interrupted by the occasional passing train car.

“#Solo#Marathon is a foundation for young and emerging artists to come and create something,” explained Quang, the project's general manager. “The main point of Á Space is to nourish young talents. I feel that the #Solo#Marathon program makes a positive contribution to Hanoi’s art scene. There aren’t many projects within the city for young and emerging artists, so this project is refreshing.”

Towards the end of July, Jo Ngo hosted her open studio along with a series of workshops and an artist talk. Within the exhibition space, she installed her piece ‘Aquatic Greenery’ (xanh nước cây); the room created an eerie, yet peaceful, setting with projections on the walls that allowed for complete immersion into natural scenery with trees and films of flowing water.

Jo Ngo from Saigon was Á Space's artist of July.

The use of the Vietnamese word "xanh" captures the combination and harmony of the greenery of the trees and the color of the water. HR manager Tree commented, “She explores these moments where we cannot regulate ourselves like we usually can, creating this chaotic unease where we struggle to find peace within. Her personal safe space comes in the form of a forest; water, nature and calming sounds. With her work she wants to recreate that healing and spiritual space for others.”

Urbanist Hanoi spoke separately with Jo Ngo about her time at Á Space and the effect it has had on her practice, “My first solo exhibition with a team behind it is quite a thing. Usually, I am in charge of everything from the initial proposal stage to taking down the work, but this time I learned to share the workload and received so much support.”

She had nothing but high praise for the efforts of those she worked with: “I could see the team spirit and truly appreciated the supportive close-knit community at Á. I was so moved by the enthusiasm of the volunteers. Anh Phương, for example, rode a bicycle from Long Bien Bridge to drop off some wild plants for the installation. Sometimes he would walk 40 minutes and arrive early just to lend us a hand. Chi Hương Donna, the first artist to participate in the #Solo#Marathon last year, was always so kind and helpful even with the tiring physical labor of installing and closing the exhibition.”

When COVID-19 led to the temporary closure of many venues earlier this year, Á Space began plans to create the digital platform Á Space Virtual. Tree explains, “The virus was the starting point of this idea for a virtual space, moving everything to a digital platform so that we can still showcase our art. It's also an opportunity for artists who are unable to travel to still display their work. Hopefully, by the end of this August, there will be a beta version ready, with the multimedia art team ‘MO HOI MO’ will curate the first exhibition on Á Space Virtual.”

We asked the team if they had any advice for young artists who might be considering applying for their program. One of the team advised, “Be vulnerable, be brave. I think the first step for me when I arrived in Hanoi was that I had to accept that the art scene was going to be totally different from what I imagined it was going to be. I assumed that to succeed and learn it had to be within a museum or a contemporary gallery, but it’s really not the case. I’d advise that you must allow yourself to be open to all opportunities.”

[Top photo: An installation by Á Space's June artist Xuan Ha]

Á Space - Experimental Arts is located at Ngõ 59 Ngô Gia Tự, opening times vary depending on the program of events. You can stay updated on their progress and news of their upcoming open studios through their Facebook page and website.

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