Contemporary Saint Gióngs are UUDAM's new invention of new hero figures borne from a process of cultural transformation. He merges the old Western legend of St. George the Dragon Slayer with the Vietnamese folk hero Saint Gióng, and 21st century social realities, to create a host of contemporary knightly Vietnamese motorcycle riders, and takes these “heroes”, a symbol of everyday people, to bravely confront invisible enemies, including the scourge of environmental pollution.
Scooters are commonly referred to as “metal horses” in Vietnam. I fantasize the riders and their mechanized “horses” are contemporary “knights.”
The scooters and their riders remind me of the story of Saint Gióng (Thánh Gióng), a Vietnamese folk hero from around 1690 BC. He was conceived when his mom tried her foot onto a huge footprint she found in her families’ rice field. She got pregnant the next day. After 9 months, she delivered a boy. She and her husband were very happy, but the handsome boy did not move, talk, or smile until he was 3 years old. But one day, upon hearing the news of his country being invaded, he suddenly spoke up. He asked the King for an iron horse that can spit fire, an iron armor and an iron rod. With those, he rode into battle, fought bravely and defeated the invaders. Then, he flew to heaven.
How interesting to think Saint Gióng story might have foreseen Vietnam’s industrial future from nearly 4000 thousand years ago. Now, the new iron horses are the scooters. However, development and globalization comes with a price. The new visible enemies they now fight with are the gap of poverty between the rich and the poor, pollution of information and dust, natural and man-made heat, and ultra violent storms. These riders also battle noise, toxic rivers, dangerous virus, and real ripple effects of far-flung financial disasters. Their iron horses don’t blow fire; instead they spew out smoke. There is no hard iron armor but flexible plastic ponchos, no iron rod but the latest knowledge for the new demands of global economy jobs. The Vietnamese now share the life of people who live in big cities in our contemporary world. They fought a universal battle being fought worldwide in Dubai, Melbourne, New York, Tokyo, Singapore, etc.
It artwork is a reminder for the transformation of Viet Nam, from a boy (girl) to a man (woman), from a farmer to an industrial soldier. Saint Gióng fought against visible invaders. But his countryman’s new heroes will fight with a more difficult and often against invisible enemies, themselves. The Vietnamese knights’ fights will continue far into the future, onto the stage of a brave new world.
Contemporary Saint GIÓNGs in Hà Nội (Public Art Phúc Tân) has 2 parts:
Part 1: This brand-new artwork inspired by the Saint Gióng of today, male and female.
The two contemporary knights is fighting with the serpents representing pollution produced by their exhausts. The exhaust gas is a by-product of their (and our) everyday activities. Dimension: 5m x 2.5m
The bench is conceived as a make shift gallery, light-box bench for visitors and the locals. Continued and inspired by the old cement bench, the new extended bench is a continuation of the past in to the future, a museum of the old metal horse parts who produce the pollution that turned in to the dragons above. Made of inox and reinforced glasses. Dimension: 0.6 x 0.3 x 10m