“All space is occupied by the enemy. We are living under a permanent curfew. Not just the cops — the geometry.” — Raoul Vaneigem, in the sixth issue of Internationale Situationniste
In every history of the urbex movement, you’ll see a hat tip to the work of Guy Debord and his theory of the dérive — a kind of unplanned drift through an urban environment, clearing your mind of the usual motives for movement and action, letting the attractions and encounters you find there pull you to and fro. This is what urban explorers do, and it opens up worlds to them that are permanently out of the reach of basic citizens.
But our artists don’t except the limits of physical space in their explorations. And in doing so, they open up an entirely different space — that of the mind, made concrete.
Based on a smashed American War compass, where the cracks resemble a bird’s eye view of Ho Chi Minh City. The outside ring has a detailed history of how the city was formed, from the days when it was a Khmer fishing village through to the Gia Dinh era, the Nguyen Dynasty influences and the French occupation. Then finally the Liberation of Saigon and the era post-1975.
‘Barbie’s Dream Church’
I have no idea what goes on behind closed doors at Hai Ba Trung’s hot pink Catholic church... but I can only assume it mainly consists of bake sales, selfies and pillow fights. New age, sassy churching for the iPhone generation.
In my senior year in university, I lived in an old apartment — literally ‘old’, with all the systems inside broken down and people living there adapted to the conditions. They even had some farms with chickens and ducks and pigs living together. Here I imagined what it would be like if we lifted up the entire block to see how this old building actually works.
Back in my childhood in the Mekong Delta, I had a river in front of my house. The life of villagers along that river is very unique: they live on the river, drink river water, wash their clothes in the river and bathe there too. Nowadays this kind of rural scene has changed to a city scene, and these slums eventually disappeared.
When I moved to Saigon, I saw houses like this around District 8, which reminded me of the days before, and reminded me of my family. I quickly captured it in this drawing.
‘Some Cities Have Magic I + II’
Saigon is a magical city, and in it is a type of unimaginable excitement.
On Hai Phong’s city streets, a collision of the old and new.