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Art Labor

Art Labor is an artist collective based in Ho Chi Minh City, who work in between visual arts, social and life sciences in order to produce alternative non-formal knowledge via artistic and cultural activities in various public contexts and locales. It includes 3 core members as cultural workers: artists Phan Thao-Nguyen, Truong Cong Tùng and curator/writer Arlette Quynh-Anh Tran. 

In the first three weeks of November 2018, Art Labor with three Jrai artists took part in a residency at Bellas Artes Projects.

The most recent and ongoing project Art Labor has been working on is the Jrai Dew Project (2016–ongoing). Jrai people are the biggest ethnic group of the Highlanders in Vietnam. Tùng, who is from the central highlands, together with Phan and Arlette were able to access the Jrai community and began a collaboration with its members. The project encompasses small projects, one of them being the Jrai Dew Sculpture Garden. 

The residency has been such a contrast and informative experience for Jrai artists Ró Mah Aleo, Rchâm Jêh and Puih Hăn. Arlette mentions that they were able to witness Las Casas wood carvers handling materials with small and intricate tools as opposed to their axes used to “carve” wood to create expressive and bold, gestural strokes. This has opened the artists to further experiment with the wood materials in Bataan and create wooden sculptures.

Tùng too was inspired by materials found in the Bataan and he created an installation produced from the Las Casas terracotta workshop and a floating mobile sculpture using wire, gold leaf, and a piece of wood also from the workshops. 

These works were exhibited in Casa Quiapo, Las Casas within Cian Dayrit’s exhibition Busis Iba’t Ha Kanayunan (Voices from the Hinterlands)

Art Labor’s forthcoming projects involve research on the robusta coffee which relates to the story of industrialization in the central highlands and its important economic attribution to Vietnam and the problems of the coffee industry. Furthermore, the collective is partnering with a senior researcher to publish an art book about some of the most important text regarding anthropology of the central highlands. A third aspect involves collaborating with a comic artist to adapt the myth of the Jrai people. This comic book will also functions as a portfolio for seven Jrai artists.

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