Long March Project--Ho Chi Minh Trail

Curatorial Proposal

Initiated by the Long March Project, the Ho Chi Minh Trail Project (HCMTP) is a collaborative contemporary arts project whose mission is to implement physical, discursive, and artistic activities among China, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. This project aims to involve multiple individuals (visual artists, writers, historians, filmmakers, performers, musicians, etc.), artistic organizations, and institutions (public and private) from across this region and its diaspora. Discussions, lectures, public forums, informal screenings of historical and contemporary visual material, new art works, performances, new imaginings, and new texts are being created, shared, exhibited, documented, and distributed in a spirit of artistic exchange that is recognized as a paramount foundation to the crucial relationship between culture and contemporary society.

The Long March Project began with a grand historical narrative in 2002 and has continued through the following eight years as an ongoing investigation of critical discourse surrounding art and culture. Today the Project places its focus specifically on the disguised spaces that reveal the political economics of visual culture. The geographical and historical complexities of the Ho Chi Minh Trail make the route an ideal metaphor for engaging with and constructing a new interrelational reality among Southeast Asia, China, and other communities in the world.

The Ho Chi Minh Trail Project calls for a questioning of fixed relations within social production as determined by ideas of history, identity, market logic, and the subconscious effects of a geographically imposed divide. The tangible elements of the project include dialogue, artistic production, physical experience, and other forms of expression to reach a state of baigan jiaoji, literally, “a multitude of feelings.” This process of following through intellectual, physical, and interactive resensitizations transform the act of acting into actual action.

In contemporary times, social conditions encourage us to assume cosplay
characters determined by the nature of specific social production models.
It is crucial that we re-evaluate and contemplate upon the terms “postwar,”
“postrevolution,” “postcolonial,” and “posthistorical,” which define our
cultural realities today. A parallel urgency is evident in the contemporary
art world in which art is continually identified as the materialization and
spectacle of global capitalism and neoliberalism, instead of what it can
be—a materialization of cultural/thought production and negotiation
between memory and reality. What new artistic modes will follow the recent trends of institutional critique, social engagement, and relativism?
What are the ways in which an individual can perform his/her historical
consciousness? How can we take the Ho Chi Minh trail, a layered
geographical network with multiple intertwining historical narratives,
and examine its disguised spaces of contemporary visual, political, and
economic complexity? Through “Thought–Discourse–Body–Action,” the
Ho Chi Minh Trail Project will journey through these hidden spaces and
histories, thereby constructing “a disguised political space.”

The Ho Chi Minh Trail Project is not a continuation or extension of A Walking Visual Display. Instead it is conceived with critical reflection on the failures and successes of our previous endeavours. The Ho Chi Minh Trail Project investigates the potential common threads and divergent perspectives of lived and felt experience, and it aims to serve as a progressive artistic and discursive platform built on the value of process and exchange, rather than an assumed investment in result and subsequent object-making (though undoubtedly this is an inherent part of the process).

Long March Project—Ho Chi Minh Trail Project is not an exhibition title,
or a project name, or field research. It is a working site that is constructed from the following elements:

Project Implementation

The Ho Chi Minh Trail Project consists of five stages: field research, residency, physical journey, rehearsal theatre, and an ongoing database, Knowledge of the Ignorant, which is a collection of research material relevant to the project.

A. Field Research (2008–09)

B. Long March Education Platform 1: Ho Chi Minh Trail (July 7–31, 2009)

This month-long residency hosted eleven thinkers from Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, Phnom Penh, New York, Seoul, Hangzhou, and Beijing. This phase of the Ho Chi Minh Trail Project was organized in conjunction with Long March Education, an ongoing educational program focusing on the study of critical relationships among art, its production, and the systems in which this visual practice is historicized and displayed.

The July residency program operated as a curatorial brainstorming session
for the Ho Chi Minh Trail Project through which residents closely examined
the shared physical and psychological landscape embedded within the
Ho Chi Minh Trail route. Throughout July, four thematic topics were
introduced as starting points to discuss ways in which artists transform
discursive material into visibility.

• How are geographies border-lined by images and texts that become their own fictions bearing no relation to actual territory?
• Political games as psychological strategy
• Political propaganda vs. capitalist promotion
• Disguised Space: anti-mapping of the contemporary art landscape

C. Journey (June 12–July 3, 2010)
Strategic sites: Ho Chi Minh City, Phnom Penh, Vientiane, Hanoi, Hue, and
a segment of the Ho Chi Minh Trail.

Participants: Ten writers and thinkers were invited as participating artists, ten artists invited as participating thinkers, four Long March staff members, and four media representatives and volunteers. This team of twenty-eight travelers also engaged with local participants along the way.

The June program was a journey realized through walking, rehearsing, artistic and textual production, dialogue, and recording. Throughout the journey, local and international participants were invited to perform a process of confessing and flushing-out to explore issues of globalization and the local, empire and the Third World, ideology and politics, art and theory, and other critical questions that concern us today.

To achieve this state of existence we decided we would rather admit our position as cultural travelers—we would not pretend a romantic level of interaction and interjection or seek to reach the impossible “goal” of being on the same page with the locals (any imagined success in this aspect would nevertheless have been a mirage). What we faced along the journey was something beyond China and Southeast Asia, beyond artistic production and other realms of activity. Every local and international participant was simultaneously host and guest to engage with subjective and local interpretations of geopolitics, historical and war memories, and cultural and ethnic conflicts encountered along the way, thereby revealing the absurdity and futility of political correctness. The continuous, intense, and physical process of confessing, discussing, walking, and recording along the way transformed the act of acting into actual action. While the journey was taken mostly by bus, there was a walking segment through a critical portion of the Ho Chi Minh Trail in Laos.

D. Theater (September 2010–ongoing)

Strategic Sites: Beijing (September 2010), Shanghai (October 2010), and
other sites in the future.

Drawing inspiration from the project’s textual and visual documentation,
interconnected resources, and physical experiences of walking the Ho Chi Minh Trail, the Project is presenting a series of rehearsals realized as
different chapters of a theatre piece. These performances/actions are being
organized as simultaneous or staggered events in various locations.

E. Knowledge of the Ignorant
This is a database of information collected by participants and interested
persons, with considered focus on documentation, memories, and issues
relevant to the Ho Chi Minh Trail. The growing database is an ongoing
construction and will be finally uploaded online as an open resource akin
to an online encyclopedia. This database has the following characteristics:

1. Cross-region: Gathered information will include, but not
be restricted to, the Ho Chi Minh Trail, Southeast Asia,
their visual cultures, and other material provided by
local and international participants.

2. Cross-media: There is no limit to the form of submitted
information. Accepted materials have included text,
sound, moving, and still images.

3. The database will also include material amassed from the
physical journey of the Ho Chi Minh Trail in June 2010.

4. The database is an ongoing construction, and its organic
development will not be predetermined by any particular
phase of the Project.

Team Structure

Chief Curator: Lu Jie
Project Management: Zoe Butt (2007–09), Sheryl Cheung, Song Yi,
Xu Tingting

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