open archive & reading room
Nguyen Nhu Huy
Sten Are Sandbeck
Bank & Rau
Asia Art Archive (AAA)
Arts Network Asia (ANA)
Art Autonomy Newtwork (AAN)
Cemeti Art House
the house of natural fiber
| a little blah blah (albb) is an artists' initiative that since 2005 has operated as a platform for contemporary art through a wide range of channels including projects, exhibitions & events, screenings, talks, a residency program, internships and an open-access archive of art books & catalogues. Our program has evolved in a pioneering spirit, in response to the gaps and needs of the Saigon art scene. Since 2008 we have re-focussed our program to presenting one major project each year, capacity building and the ongoing running of albb Reading Room.
what is a little blah blah (albb)?
a little blah blah (albb) is an artist-run initiative based in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). Established in 2004, we are the first initiative of our kind in Vietnam. Since its inception, albb has operated as a platform for the development of visual art and creative practices through a range of art-related activities that are much-needed in the Vietnamese context.
Our program has evolved in a pioneering spirit, in response to the gaps and needs of the Vietnamese art scene. The first three years of albb activities included an active and regular program of projects, exhibitions, art events and talks, in addition to a residency program, research & network-building, capacity-building, and the running of albb Reading Room. In response to the evolving art scene, the program was re-structured in 2008 to focus on one major project per year, project-based capacity-building, and the albb Reading Room.
For our delightful name we owe thanks to international curator, Hou Hanru, who unwittingly christened us one night on his visit to Saigon in 2004.
a little blah blah's mission is to be a dynamic, stimulating and professionally-run
platform for artistic and intellectual dialogue, reflection, and an appreciation of
the role of visual art and creative practices in contemporary life.
The impetus to establish a little blah blah arose from a series of passionate talks between three Saigon-based artists during 2004, Sue Hajdu, Nguyen Nhu Huy and Motoko Uda. These talks were focused on our needs and desires as visual artists working in this community and urban context at this point in the course of its development.
After an intensive 6-month period of meetings, research and the establishment of regional networks, the albb concept was developed, and we launched our activities in January 2005. albb quickly initiated a regular series of talks, workshops and presentations by visiting international artists, curators, academics and critics. These were integral to albb's mission of making a difference in the local art scene, by expanding activities beyond gallery exhibitions and by encouraging information flow in and out of the country. In the mid-2000s, high level artistic and curatorial traffic was moving in and out of Vietnam, but very little contact was being made with the majority of artists living here. albb therefore made a conscious effort to form connections and crossroads in this area to create a forum in which ideas, practices and news from outside could be shared with the local community. With this in mind, from 2005 to 2007, albb presented 38 talks by locally and overseas-based artists and curators. These regular gatherings also worked to bring the community together in a context of intellectual challenge and engagement, another area in need of development.
In 2005 we ran our first residency, with a four-month stay by Czech Republic-based butoh dancer, Ryuzo Fukhara. Later in the year albb became a member of RESARTIS. Other areas of focused activity in 2005 were research into artist's initiatives and alternative spaces in the region, networking, attending conferences and the acquisition of catalogues and monographs to form the open-access collection that later evolved into albb Reading Room. It was with regret that our co-founder, Nguyen Nhu Huy left us in mid-2005.
The driving force behind albb through its most intensely active years of 2006 and 2007 was co-directors, Sue Hajdu and Motoko Uda, both of whom practice as visual artists, but also actively curate and write about art and cultural life in the region for international and local publications.
Our program of exhibitions and art events was launched in January 2006. Following on, more or less bi-monthly came a series of projects and exhibitions, and our second residency-based project, The Dream Collector, which was the first public art project to be run in Ho Chi Minh City. Each project aimed to present something new, something that had never been done before in the local context. Meanwhile, through the networks that we had developed over two years of activity, albb started building towards further international collaborative projects with artists and curators—projects which took shape in 2006, 2007 and beyond.
After consolidating our collection of catalogs, books and art ephemera, we launched the Reading Room program in November 2006. Capacity-building with young Vietnamese artists and students through our talks and projects programs also became an aim at this time, and remains an on-going concern towards building arts management in Vietnam. albb worked with a variety of assistants and volunteers throughout 2005-2006, and launched its internship program in early 2007 in a more concerted effort towards capacity-building. In early 2007 we also established a residency program. In late 2007, albb co-director Motoko Uda permanently left Vietnam and re-settled in Tokyo.
By 2008 the Saigon art scene had experienced a shift of character. Artists were now familiar with artist talks, biennales, the notion and role of international curators; and had experienced the potential of innovative and dynamic artist-run activities by albb and other groups. The introduction of talks or reading rooms by other art organizations in Saigon was a signal that albb's period of pioneering had matured, and it was now time to re-orientate the program.
albb currently presents one major project each year, with a focus on work in the public space and community-based projects. Curators interested in co-developing a project in these fields should contact albb via email. Capacity-buidling and the Reading Room remain an ongoing part of our program.
|how we operate
Operating as an initiative, a little blah blah can be likened to an engine for art-related activities. We do not run an art space per se, although albb Reading Room is located in a publicly-accessible spot in downtown Saigon.
albb positions itself as an alternative to the existing gallery and institutional structure in Vietnam. Regarding the 'alternative' as very much the arena in which an impact can be made, albb seeks to remain constantly responsive to the changing landscape of opportunities and possibilities available in Ho Chi Minh City or that can be attracted to this city. Working in a challenging cultural and political environment with scarce funding and limited familiarity with contemporary art, this necessitates a tactical and highly sensitive approach. Our core program has been entirely self-funded, while individual projects and exhibitions are funded through grants or sponsorship on a case-by-case basis.