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Culture Lab, a Creative Feast Spanning Disciplines, Media, and Even Physical Borders

In May this year, the Goethe-Institut of Hanoi initiated the project "Xưởng Văn Hoá" (Culture Lab) in an effort to support artists and their community during the Covid-19 pandemic.

From July to December, with a series of 22 public events from theater, comedy, performance, music and design, the Hanoi cultural scene has truly come together to not only offer the public a varied program, but also to support each other's projects that have been affected by the pandemic of 2020.

Creatives of all genres and experience levels were invited to submit a project proposal, and with encouragement from the Goethe, were able to experiment and try out new things. This refreshing addition to the Hanoian cultural landscape has seen the space filled with a variety of collaborations, giving artists a rare opportunity to receive support from an international cultural institution as well as a warm public platform to showcase new works.

Dance performance 'The Nest.'

Since the beginning of the program, twelve projects have premiered in the Goethe's Nguyen Thai Hoc event hall. Highlights to date have been the powerful 90-minute poetry and experimental music performance 'The Long Poem for Boundaries' featuring Chinh Ba, Alex Schachner and Linh Ha, as well as the theater project 'Happy@Home' — a series of short plays written by four female writers that moved the audience to different stages around the space.

Both works involved and challenged the viewers to reflect on current situations of immobility and access. Whilst 'The Long Poem' considered the timeless construction of human-built boundaries, 'Happy@Home' focused on the borders of the home, recently re-discovered during the lockdown period.

In July, Heritage Space hosted the film night 'The Space in Between,' sharing the latest documentary about the artistic exploration of performance artist Marina Abramovic. A very special event that was joined by Marina via Zoom, the night showing was a unique occasion for the public of Hanoi to interact with the infamous and internationally celebrated performance artist from her base in New York.

'Lotus.'

Contemporary dance has also had a strong presence in the program with projects like 'SPLIT,' 'Bougainvillea - A Fairy Tale,' 'The Nest,' 'The You' and 'l'Ego: The Pieces of Moments' all showing for their first time in Hanoi. As each performance developed different uses of the space, viewers were able to be immersed in the artists' atmospheres as these alternative stage compositions invited spectators to experience works in non-traditional formats.

Musical events showcased a wide variety of styles, from classical propositions performed by pianist Hồ Thị Ngọc Hà and violist Đỗ Hương Trà My to the live electronic music and visual collaboration project Lotus by composer Trí Minh and Nguyễn Thanh Tùng (Crazy Monkey) based on worldwide real-time COVID-19 data.

'Bougainvillea - A Fairy Tale,' a theatrical piece consisting of music, dance and performance art.

The music industry, much like most of the creative arts in Vietnam, has been strongly affected by the pandemic period. With venues closing both temporarily and permanently and difficulties transitioning to a paid online format, musicians of Hanoi have had to exercise patience until public gatherings and sustainable platforms were once again available. Hopefully, the success of "Culture Lab" has highlighted the need for such environments of experimentation and presentation, and with an eager audience now accustomed to a regular and varied program, we hope to see the initiative continue well after the pandemic is resolved.

Each Monday evening until the end of the year you can participate in one of the "Culture Lab" activities. Keep informed via the Goethe-Institut fanpage and the sub-website of "Culture Lab."

[Top photo: A moment taken during 'Bougainvillea - A Fairy Tale']

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