One World | Le Phi Long

This body of work was initiated in Paris as part of the Réciprocité / Villa Saigon residency programme of the French Institute of Vietnam. About 3 times a week, I would sit in prayer at Saint-Paul Church on Rue Saint during the Paris lockdown because of Covid-19. I thought of Jesus’ saying: “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing” on the day He was crucified in Judea in the first century. At A. Farm I experimented with the module “Hic Domus Est Dei” no.5 — a yellow cloth circle in the garden with a diameter of 5 meters simulating the Crown of Thorns. Almost a religious ritual, every day I maintained the circle with a broom and water so that this cloth has enough weight to maintain its round shape in the rain, wind, and sun. At the same time, I drew a string of Crumples of God in ink and gold on paper; enumerated drawings in the power of imagination and memory from the documentary thorns to the head of God that I am known.

From January to May 2020, I stayed at the Cité internationale des Arts, Paris under the program Villa Saigon – Program “Mutual 2020”. At the time France started the campaign against Covid-19, I and artists at the Cité internationale des Arts had the opportunity to witness Paris in a historic period and we had to change our work strategies to adapt to the situation. At that time there were many different sources of information, it was difficult to verify exactly what Covid 19 was and how it was, which made us quite concerned and I felt low in energy and even panied at times. Although I have not had a medical examination, I had all symptoms of Covid-19 while in Paris. To deal with this situation, I understand that the focus lies in being optimistic and accepting reality, this lesson I’ve been training for many years, and I used it to solve problems. I watched and thought about the theory of Trang Tzu, some of the lectures in Eckhart Tolle’s book The Power of Now. I also used to go to Saint-Paul’s Church and pray there. I quickly got along with the Parisians with nothing to worry about like in the beginning.

I returned to Vietnam on the first rescue flight in early May and stayed two weeks in quarantine in Uong Bi, Quang Ninh. At the beginning of June I moved into A. Farm, Ho Chi Minh City. I brought the attitudes and customs of Paris, but was happy with the lively and relaxed Vietnamese scene. I no longer felt a viral environment at that time. I quickly forgot and went back to working. I chose to do an installation with yellow fabric in the A. Farm courtyard. I describe the circumference of God with my practice of patience for over a month and a half here, which I consider to be the future axis of attitude with the art projects I choose. Experimental works, such as this one is like a meditation process that makes me healthy and optimistic. I am happy with that.

The very pivot of attitude goes back from the early days in Paris, a long practice of accepting reality. I came to A.Farm in a very gentle manner. I brought with me the routines I had in Paris such as exercising regularly to maintain body and mind healthy. Going to bed early and optimism! I learned Xuan Quyen Bay from Saverio and  observing Chu-Hao Pei’s gardening was a great lesson for me as well. Mr. Tran Tien Chanh taught me the boxing punches of my time in the Uong Bi isolation ward and I practised it every morning with the apricot trees at A. Farm. The branches in front of me, from young to old, taught me a lesson of time and humility. My works, Mao Gai God, also included a series of performances which lasted for more than 1 month. Every day I spread water over the cloth to maintain the circular shape of the fabric, to attach the fabric to the ground before rain, wind, and sun. This work took place about 7-10 times a day, most difficult at midday, when the sun is hot and the wind strong. My main audience was the security guard, the janitor and the artists Saverio, Trang Ly, Chu Hao Pei and Iggy. I am grateful to them.

I find it interesting that each person has a unique personality, and cultural differences, both in terms of the way of thinking and their work practice. Chu Hao Pei, Iggy, Trang Ly, Saverio, Cian and Luke are all unique individuals to me. We often cooked meals together, then sang karaoke and played cards at night. At that time, we connect via beliefs, jokes, and plans. Although we supported each other in our work, each artist has a unique personality, sometimes bringing conflict. I think the person who had more challenges during the lockdown was the guard ‘uncle’ who is from the Central Highlands of Vietnam, and was far from his comfort zone.

Le Phi Long (b.1988) is a visual artist based in Ho Chi Minh City and Dalat, Vietnam. He graduated in interior design at Hue Fine Art University in 2012. Long’s practices include paintings, site-specific art and conceptual objects. His practice is based on the study of the historical and geographical origins of humans, intervention in the cultural shift and the effects in the community, especially his generation.

Long feels that his generation lacks knowledge of Vietnamese history. Local materials and teaching documents about this matter are incomplete, and this has impacted the way his generation identify themselves, their journey of self-development and the connection to the international community. Long is eager to search and compare local and international materials to close the knowledge gap. Since 2016 Long has been focusing on the Dong Duong Lang Du project, which examines French Indochina archives (late 19th and early 20th centuries) to explain the concern in the issue of generation transmission in Vietnam.

Long co-founded the artist residency eNAME Art Center in Hanoi (2012) and MOIland, an art centre in Dalat (2017). He took part in residencies at Sàn Art in Vietnam (2013), the Bamboo Curtain Studio in Taiwan (2015), Asian Highway Project in Korea (2018) and the Cité Internationale des Arts in Paris (2020). Phi Long has exhibited and taken part in programs in the UK, USA, Korea, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam.

Le Phi Long is a member of the MoT+++ collective