Tran Luong on Lap Lòe and Welts

4:14 | Published on June 18, 2013 | 276 Views

Tran Luong discusses the genesis and significance of his video Lap Lòe and performance piece Welts. In these works, a red scarf—inspired by the artist seeing his son wearing one—takes on shifting personal and political meanings. The artist also talks about the ways in which the performance itself has changed and evolved as it has been restaged in different cities around the world.

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June Yap: So here we have the work by Tran Luong, Lap Lòe. In this work, you have the artist waving a red scarf, and then being hit by the red scarf. Then you have the scarf falling, in three parts. The work does two different things within this exhibition. Firstly, it represents the Vietnamese nationalist struggles that Tran Luong experienced in his time. But also, the red scarf is actually a very simple object. It is a piece of fabric that is dyed red, and is thus an ambiguous object. It’s an object that has meaning imposed on it.

Tran Luong: It started in 2007. Yes. It came up very accidentally, when my son, who was a boy at that moment (he’s 10), came back from school, and I was really shocked when I saw that he was wearing the red scarf. Because the red scarf is symbolic of the left wing of the Communist Party. But for me, it was really a little bit shocking to see that image, because he looked like me when I small. We were small boys during the Communist time. We fought with the red scarf because we didn’t have any toys, or any forms of entertainment for children at that moment, during wartime.

June Yap: So in his performances, what he would do is, he would first be waving the scarf as in the video, throwing it up, brushing himself with it, or waving it like a flag. Then he would ask audiences to take the scarf and fight with him, have this engagement, this moment of conflict with him. 

Tran Luong: Welts, the Performance title is Welts. A lot of people fight me, and then they question me, asking “Did you get hurt?” or “What are you feeling?” But actually, I feel very happy. Not really happy, but I feel this kind of high, like taking drugs. Because I can feel the real part of a million people, not just only me anymore. And I feel that’s a successful psychological game.  

June Yap: He started this performance in 2007, then brought it to eleven cities, including cities in China, Japan, and Indonesia, and in each of these performances, the responses of his audience would be very different; the meanings that were imbued in the scarf were completely extreme.

Tran Luong: During this practical journey, I found that not only people carrying the memory of communism, but even the younger generation would come to fight. Another aspect of dialogue—totally different when I performed in Indonesia—is that the scarf can tie you, like a rope. The scarf can be a carrying thing, like a bag or sack. You can put food inside. You can put weapons inside. Through that kind of interactive performance, we understand the history of humanity. It’s very exciting.

June Yap: In this video, what we have is an abstraction, like a reference to his performance, but at the same time, as a video which is perhaps not so directly engaging with the artist, but which has all the elements of the performance. Hopefully, it will also challenge or encourage viewers to think about what the meaning of that scarf is.