Cristina NualART

Tag: Poetry

During Uncertainty, a visual poem

I take photographs of words on artworks, museum displays, urban paraphernalia, sticker art and anything else that contains beautiful text or a suggestive combination of words.

Here are some of those photographs worked into a visual poem, titled During Uncertainty.

DURING UNCERTAINTY During a time before slowlife a small catastrophe, somewhere in the third word, does not consume itself They think this is history because urban fields have been broken beyond group occupation Go! or come to a naughty place on your side Scapegoating city lights were his eyes missing voyages that changed the picture-story Good parts, casual sparks, doth fade, we return then at so-called city of surprises Please follow ahead action to be continued embrace uncertainty


Like many people who studied art and humanities, I often catch my mind holding hands with the preoccupation of professional uncertainty. For no very good reason, since I have managed to get by in a number of countries without too much existential angst. Each job and each trip has been a joyful risk and successful experience -only a little bit scary.

While creating this piece I wondered more and more about refugees’ perception of travel, of emigration, of life change. I admit, with a mixture of guilt-shame and thankfulness, that despite the precariat ravaging culture and knowledge work,  I am in a random -and lucky- position of privilege. I hope that refugees too will witness their life journeys as an adventure with a happy ending.

Good luck (and resist the Precariat!)


THE MADWOMAN, a poem by Hoang Hung


Carrying a broken stick on her head
she walks and sings
Evening comes gradually at the end of the street

She walks and sings
Fragments of a tranquil song
break in my heart

Alas, the madness of tile and brick
Please sing and sing again
of all the destruction
you carry in your head


Black dog, black night: Contemporary Vietnamese Poetry.
Edited and translated by Nguyen Do and Paul Hoover.

(Permission was sought from editor to post this poem, but after a year no answer was received. Please note that copyright lies with publisher and poet. This poem is not covered by this site’s Creative Commons license.)

Curated Tweet Poems

The first #curatedtweetpoem: Calliope Baristess, Cafe Warrior

I make art in series and I collect some of the things I find when walking. When I have enough of whatever it is I’m collecting, say, bones, photographs of padlocks, or pieces of driftwood, I feel that I have an art series. Then I have to make whatever interventions on the collected items (e.g. attaching pieces together with wire, painting them, printing over them, or whatever other creative methods suits me at the time) that I feel are necessary to fully appropriate them and bend the haphazard moment in which we found each other into a volitional, constructed and significant one.

For about 6 months now, I’ve been saving tweets, choosing my favourite short word arrangements and taking screenshots of them. Once I’d collected enough tweets, I was able to play around and curate them into a lyrical narrative. Here is the first Curated Tweet Poem, I call it Calliope Baristess, Cafe Warrior:

Calliope Baristess, Cafe Warrior.


Dear Tweeters featured here, if you should disapprove of your public tweets being part of this artwork, just let me know and you shall be un-retweeted as soon as is humanly *this-is-not-a-tweetbot* possible!

#curatedtweetpoem 2: Coldsore Love Curse

A curated poem made of Tweets. This is a metrosexual love story set in London. I re-tweeted each chosen ‘line’ in sequence from last to first, so the poem can be read on my Twitter timeline.

Coldsore Love Curse #curatedtweepoem


Dear Tweeters featured here, thank you for your inspiring tweets. As you know, it is common -even desirable- practice for tweets to be retweeted by interested parties. If, however, you should disapprove of your public tweets being part of this artwork, just let me know.

(First published on 30 September 2012)

#curatedtweetpoem 3: ‘The Unemployed Ice Cream Vandal and the Chauvinist Chill’

Creating order out of the seeming chaos of my Twitter timeline, the third #curatedtweetpoem makes meaning out of ice cream desire/consumption in the global economy of exploiters and exploited.

Unemployed Ice Cream Vandal and the Chauvinist Chill


Curated Tweet Poems are selected tweets, carefully chosen over months of Twitter activity, re-tweeted in order so they read from top to bottom with a narrative different from the purpose of the individual tweets. Again, I thank Tweeple re-tweeted here for their inspiring tweets.

(First published on 4 October 2012)

Ironies of ‘the female condition’

Below are my digital drawings currently on show in Cúnhouse Lounge. I like seeing and capturing funny anecdotes. The poem and illustrations chosen for this small exhibition on the occasion of International Women’s Day humorously picture some favoured debates of ‘the female condition’.

glassceiling_cnualartWoman Underneath Glass Ceiling

hormonalblackbird_cnualartBet You Thought She Was Hormonal! laughed the Crow…

rocketscientist_cnualartRocket Scientist Dips Her Toes into the Waters of Love as She Looks into Her Future

skyinmouth_cnualartThe Sky Inside Your Mouth

ode2pms_cnualartAn Ode to PMS

This illustration was first conceived as a poem, and published in <a href="http://www.blankmediacollective omeprazole 40″ target=”_blank”>Blankpages magazine in 2010.

Dear PMS,
my moonly visitor
red traffic light
to stop
to stop and check
And in that
little waste of time
of road rage
I feel.
Thank you PMS
for the warning.
Flashing amber
(go slow now)
Do some thinking.
Interrupt my sleep
with thoughts
middle deep.
Sweet films and hurts.
Thank you
for the thin skin,
for the blood
that drains
the stagnant still
I enjoy the feeling
of feeling.
I cry
the hurt
of others.
Sorrows come alive
spiking through my pain.
(You give me)
I like to hear
my soundbeat,
and to love more.
To love.
To miss.
To no sorrow.
Better tomorrow.
Thank you PMS.
Until we meet again.



Why does Vietnam not do well in the visual arts? (part 2)

Read part 1 here

My personal impression is that Vietnam, a dynamic nation with a wide multicultural heritage, currently shows little innovation in the visual arts. Here I outline the factors that I believe have caused this.

In a country with very high literacy rates, visual literacy seems to lag behind. For example, note the desperate shortage of visuals in the popular realm. Advertising is everywhere, but it often looks like this:


In 300 metres, most signs are block text in primary colours. This is the norm nationwide. Pictures are rarely used, and when they are, more often than not they are used in a very literal and descriptive way, not a creative or aesthetic one. In this respect, things appear to have changed little since the 1960s, as can be seen in this old photo of Saigon’s central market:


The dominance of text, however, has a proud tradition, and Vietnamese literature and poetry have been very significant forms of art for the nation (1). There are two reason why text may have overtaken visuals as a communication device: on one hand, the 1000 year Chinese domination of Vietnam could have fostered a localised literati tradition; on the other hand, apart from outstanding ceramics (15th century), Vietnamese arts and crafts were mostly produced for practical reasons, devoid of patronage or religious impetus to push creativity and prestige.

Artist Hoang Duong Cam comments that no native visual tradition exists (he excludes Dong Ho woodcuts, since he considers them a folk art, rather than a fine art). Cham architecture and sculpture created on present-day Vietnamese soil were in fact products of Khmer culture. Chinese influenced ink painting never proliferated in Vietnam, although calligraphic brush work has been adapted to the quoc ngu script (Roman alphabet adapted to Vietnamese pronunciation) that became widespread in the 20th century.

A French diplomat posted in Cochinchina in the late 1800s blames poor economic models, noting that, in contrast to the Chinese commercial and royal patronage of the arts, skilled Vietnamese artisans were taken in by the royal court and practically reduced to slavery, thus hindering any entrepreneurial craftsmen from honing their talent. With negligible governmental impulse to foster arts and crafts, only in the colonial missions, sheltered from royal monopoly, did local products of mother-of-pearl inlay and niello copperware reach masterful standards (2). Emperor Tu Duc, the last independent Vietnamese monarch, had splendid palaces built and furnished, allegedly financed with forced labour and higher taxes. Yet he was a keen poet and man of letters, developing a circle of writer friends. The Nguyen dynasty which ended with him saw the decline of the arts, with the exception of imperial court dances, music and performing arts (3).

In the 1900s, oil painting came along with the French, and therefore is considered a foreign art form. I find it amusing that nationalism has resulted in some anti-oil painting sentiment. No Western country puts down its oil painting achievements just because the invention and development of oil and pigment technique are not originally their own. In any case, the content of Vietnamese oil paintings responded to the market forces of French settlers, and didn’t change the course of art history.

In the second half of the 20th century war and financial distress continued to take their toll on art production. Propaganda art, inspired by Russian and Chinese communist art, resulted in some passionate creativity, highly articulate in its zeal. Vietnam’s communist closure to the world ended in 1986. Since then, the economic reforms made some people in Vietnam very rich, and generally improved the lot of the majority, although there has been no real democracy. This brings us to present day Vietnam. The clean-cut propaganda art style has continued to be used in government posters, but the new, bland and repetitive digital renditions lack punch and come across as watered-down brainwashing.

To date, any public performance or art exhibition must obtain a license before it is allowed to open. Censors can and do restrict cultural freedom of expression. The current rising economic power of the nation as a whole has not translated into a local art market of any significance. Most of the historically significant artworks made in Vietnam in the 20th Century are in the private collections of a handful of European men. Almost every gallery purchase of high-end contemporary Vietnamese art is made by a foreigner. Commercially viable native lacquerware and traditional embroidered pictures are made with a high degree of craftsmanship, but the subject matter remains formulaic. There is limited impulse, governmental or private, to make art a successful creative industry in the near future.

In his recent solo show at San Art, young artist Trung Công Tùng makes us aware of Vietnamese artist’s lack of exposure to great art. According to the press release, ‘Tung admits he has limited English skills and that access to knowledge resources in Vietnam, such as books on contemporary international culture, are few. His frustration with these restrictions is also laced with anxiety in how this context breeds ignorance and narrow-mindedness in Vietnamese society.’

The mention of English language being a hindrance may sound surprising to those who have come across art publications in hundreds of languages. The reality is that few contemporary art publications exist in Vietnamese. Occasional collaboration projects (e.g. Vietnam-Thailand, Vietnam-Japan…) result in a bilingual compilation that is often poorly translated/edited. Currently no bookshop I have come across in Vietnam stocks a selection of art books or magazines of any ‘wantability’, neither in Vietnamese, nor in English. In a developing economy, art and design books would not be accessible to the majority, who have more pressing purchases to make, but there is obviously no market amongst the local rich, who are reported to buy their luxuries abroad. I cannot comment on the content of public libraries, but I am aware that a permit is required to access at least some publications and historical documents. While the internet is not heavily firewalled, with limited language skills and not really knowing what to search for, how easy is to come across information on international, cutting-edge art?

In summary, Vietnam’s complex history with multiple influences offers a playground on which to cement a visual identity, but economic forces have seen several waves of ‘brain-drain’, and too many wars. The present-day political and social scenario might well hinder the development of world-ranking artists, but not all is lost. There are a few artists driven by passion who are exploring creativity in their art production. Nevertheless, to encourage the growth of a flourishing art scene Vietnam should consider:

  • fostering critical thinking skills in schools and universities
  • reducing the red tape for exhibitions and performances
  • public or private commissions/competitions/grants/sponsorship
  • raising awareness of art as a cultural good/consumer product/investment to develop a local market
  • above all, opening up to international collaborations and increasing exposure to a variety of artworks. Working in a vacuum is not conducive to creativity!


1. Jamieson, Neil (1995), Understanding Vietnam, University of California Press.
2. Barrelon, Corbigny, Lemire & Cahen (1999), Cities of Nineteenth Century Colonial Vietnam, Bangkok: White Lotus Press.

Stuck on Childish

Due to my regrettably poor memory, I confused Billy Childish with Charles Thomson, ignorantly putting all stuckists in one mental box, and I went with naughty glee to the ICA expecting to see some awfully bad paintings. You are wondering why I would do that: it’s because although Thomson isn’t a painter that rocks my visual world in spite of his expoundings on the value of painting, he does act with passion and purpose in his mission of trying to rid the world of conceptual art, a mission that tickles my humour glands.

Anyway, I cheerfully looked at the works of Billy Childish, and I came across a lot of unfamiliar stuff. I had never known about his musical career – much like I never bothered much with Laurie Anderson.

But other than the record covers, the visuals on display kept my interest alive through all the rooms and corridors (exhibitions at the ICA always seem small, although it’s actually a big space…). It is clear to the naked eye that he left the stuckists early one, after 2 years, in fact, in 2001. And it seems that his ideas did too. The yellow uniform with his quirky little hangman symbol suggests how funny his performances might have been – something that you’d expect to see on performance poet Steve Tasane – but with enough signs by way of concepts, that you wonder how he once felt compelled to sign a manifesto that said in bullet point four: ‘Artists that don’t paint aren’t artists’.

The hangman/teardrop symbol is then replicated in the recent poster-like poem paintings that have sweet or amusing short messages. His poems, many in dyslexic spelling that is becoming so ubiquitous you never know now when it’s put on just for ‘fun’, are poetry for sensitive souls in the age of txt messages. Last summer, the Concrete Poetry exhibition at the ICA featured young and old arrangements of text on paper. Billy Childish arranges the text like a sign painter, and it smells good.

He also sings them.

Maybe in future I will confuse him with Malcom McLaren…


Random ocurrences. hockey Yesterday was of some cheap MLB jerseys is of my Sit poems wholesale nba jerseys and an illustration football were cheap NBA jerseys published in Steelers cheap nfl jerseys Blankpages magazine, cheap mlb jerseys so I re-read Sweatsteam (the last sentence of which wholesale jerseys reads ‘Exit Sauna’, but for that ?????? some mysterious reason was removed from wholesale nfl jerseys cheap jerseys over the publication). Now I’ve just stumbled upon this cheap nfl jerseys wholesale NBA jerseys wholesale mlb jerseys image, with digital steam and dripping cheap jerseys drop sounds wholesale jerseys that took me ???????????? back to the poem imagery. Go to Cai’s website for the virtual ‘steamy’ experience!


Unless otherwise specified, text and images © 2017 Cristina Nualart

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

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