In April and May 2018, Enkhbold was stationed as a resident artist at MoT+++ as part of the performance plus performance art program, in which time he conducted an artist presentation and staged multiple performances in Da Lat and Ho Chi Minh City.
Far more than merely a portable dwelling, all the individual components of the ger are loaded with symbolic meaning. This ger, which he personally constructed and brought from Mongolia, is unconventional in that it was made from bamboo—an excellent, lightweight building material common in South East Asia but less so on in Mongolia, and hence, never used in ger construction—thereby enacting a fusion of Vietnamese and Mongolian craft traditions.
In this Dalat performance at the Pongour Falls, Enkhbold set up his ger at the foot of a waterfall, before an audience of a few MoT staff and more than thirty amused and bewildered tourists who happened to be at the falls that day. Once the ger was up, Enkhbold attached one end of a rope to the center beam and the other end to a large rock, which he threw up in to the waterfall, energetically connecting the ger and the falls. He then stripped down to his boxers, and lit a fire of dried horse dung in the center of the ger, and from the center beam he hung another large stone over the fire. Placing this stone on the nape of his neck, he held it there with the smoke wafting up into his face, before extricating himself and tying an avocado on top of the stone, winding it up by running around the inside of the ger in a tight circle, then releasing the wound up stone and avocado and allowing them to spin in the center of the ger.
Horse dung is a material of much significance in Mongolia’s traditionally nomadic, horse reliant culture; accordingly, Enkhbold often uses dried horse dung in his performances, paintings and installations. Avocados, by contrast, are not indigenous to Mongolia, and hence were a novelty for the artist on his trip to Vietnam. By creating a physical continuum from the earth below, to the fire and smoke made from the locally gathered horse dung, to the human body of the artist, to the stone on his neck, to the avocado, to the ger, to the falls, the artist symbolically situated himself as just one of many natural elements that coalesce together to create a harmonic whole.
Leaving the ger, Enkhbold entered the waterfall, where he crawled inside a large burlap sack and allowed the water the crash over him while screaming wordlessly into the falls—an ancient practice of the zen Buddhist tradition. Finally, kneeling in the burlap sack amidst the falls, he messily ate the avocado with his bare hands as if consummating some primal rite, and with that, the performance came to a close.
location: Pongour Falls, Da Lat, Lam Dong Province, Vietnam
about the artist
Enkhbold Togmidshiirev is one of Mongolia’s leading contemporary artists, and has represented his country at the 56th International Art Exhibition, la Biennale di Venezia, in 2015, marking Mongolia’s first participation at the Biennale. His practice draws inspiration on the traditional Mongolian nomadic life and uses the ger (a portable hut) as a central feature of his performance art practice. Additionally, organic materials such as horse dung, ash, rust, leather and wood are often found in his paintings and installations, referencing humans’ relationship with nature.