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Sai Gone is a series of artworks that includes photographs, pencil drawings, Vietnamese lacquer paintings and screenprints.
Originating with a body of photographic research started in 2010 -when I first moved to Vietnam- this series of multi-media works explores the rapid urban development of Ho Chi Minh City. There are two aspects within that: the demolition of housing, and the volume of traffic.
Confronted with the quantity of buildings destroyed in Saigon for development purposes, the “Sai Gone” artworks offer homage to the loss of abodes. The loss isn’t necessarily a negative occurrence. Demolition affects insignificant houses, huts in a slum, or even colonial architectural gems. There is an equality in the destruction which can be interpreted as a just model for a balanced society. The rate of destruction should be analysed objectively, weighing up the pros and cons in the mid to long term, but although my foreign status gives me a lack of attachment to places I have no connection with, I find it hard to remain impassive. Nostalgia (a sentiment that is probably a consequence of my Mediterranean upbringing) and the odd news article on expropriation lead me to feel sadness, an imagined sadness fictionally attributed to the residents (people I have never met personally) who have had to leave their homes.
To keep relics of the constructions that are to be obliterated, and preserve the ties to the past, remnants of cement and bricks from sites of demolition have been incorporated into some artworks, such as the lacquer paintings -that contain pieces of cement I grinded to dust- and the rubble mural.
Fact: Over 1000 urban development projects took place in HCMC between 1995 and 2009, causing 61.000 evictions. The transformation of Ho Chi Minh City includes large-scale plans to create a financial centre over what was until recently a working class community in suburbia.
Source: Erik Harms, ‘Beauty as control in the new Saigon: Eviction, new urban zones, and atomized dissent in a Southeast Asian city,’ American Ethnologist 39, pp. 735–750.