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Artist in Focus | Mzung Nguyen

Small Talk, 2021

Introducing Mzung Nguyen, Vietnamese Artist


My name is Mzung Nguyen. Let us start with a few scenes of my childhood so that I may walk you through my creative path. I think that I am the type of artist who makes art to express their inner voice and illusion. My works in all forms were influenced very much by my memories and imagination.

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Self-Portrait, Mzung's Studio & Process Shots

I was born in central Vietnam, Quang Tri province to be specific. It was poor, very poor back in the period of 80s to 90s. The province remains underdeveloped till today. Very typically, I grew up laboring for my family’s living. I remember that I got to do so many things to help my parents. Luckily somehow, these works are associated with being creative! That could be stage design (you know, some kinds of local events) such as the commune’s performances, for propaganda purposes mostly. That could be making flora services (for weddings and funerals). That could be all kinds of craft and handy products to sell in the market for special occasions in Vietnam, etc. I enjoyed making these so-called arts my way that it helped fool me out of a tough childhood, yet so wild.

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Top Panel - Fulminate, 2021 / Elevate, 2021 / From When the City is Home, 2021

Bottom Panel - Voice of Nothing, 2021 / Citizen Networks, 2022

Let me state a bit more detail of what urged me to explore. It was stuffed in upside-down reverse, missing elements, changing color, opposing time and space. To recall, I looked at my dad, my teacher working, and saw him/her being separated in a different or opposite space. Living in an imagined world made my youth fruitful, both a mental experiment and physical experience. However, I bet that it was challenging for my family to raise me in such a conservative culture.

Here, you might guess whether I embarked on art education. But no. It was costly to enroll in art schools those days.

From When the City is Home, 2021

I started my career as a writer after graduating from journalist’s college. Somehow I still work with images. I wrote film scripts. After some time, I got scholarships to take courses in filmmaking in the US (at USC)and film directing (in Korea). After that, I started making films and have been known as an independent filmmaker from then on. It’s been 10 years now.

I make experimental films. Some of my films have been selected, screened, and exhibited in the US, Europe, and Asia.

From the experimental film project, When the city is Home, 2019

Despite the plentiful experience I gain from making films, I never reached the top of satisfaction. I feel that there are more and more things to explore that are so limited to show in the film. It’s my calling to start digging deeper inside of me and try out other platforms and forms of art. I started painting about 5 years ago and practicing mixed media, including digital art and collage recently.

Regardless of art norms, I am inspired by Jung’s philosophy, also the sustainability (nature-based balance) theory. I practice recycling art quite a lot.

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Born in Nowhere, 2021 / Office of Storms, 2021

In the meantime, when traveling and international exchange are limited, my time spent in the country leads me to explore my inside world, my identity - personal and national.

It’s said that you must get into the crowd to understand the public, you must touch to feel someone or something. To me, I rather get isolated from something or someone, experiment with illusion and imagination in all types and kinds, put them in another angle of view, and see them in different ways. All this saying that I seem to favor turning back time to the imagined world of my childhood once.


Q & A with the artist:

DA: You spoke of your childhood and the challenges your parents must have faced raising you in a conservative culture. Artists are often thought of as "outsiders" and in some cases being an artist is not taken seriously and considered to be more of a pastime. How did you negotiate this growing up? Did you ever sacrifice your artistic integrity because of the cultural/societal pressures in Vietnam?

MN: I was aware of being financially independent since I was in high school. I had after-school jobs. I earned scholarships for education both in Vietnam and abroad. I accumulated my family's trust and respect by building my social reputation. I taught in college to reveal my expertise. I used to have a nine-to-five job, got married, and was a typical woman like everyone else. Besides, I live minimally and rely very little on money. I publish not every piece of my work but limit it only to what I need to share. Trust me, only when you ask people for nothing to persuade your path, you are free from expectation and judgment. As such, I have never had to make any choice between a so-called successful life and being a fulfilled artist. In other words, I have never thought of sacrificing art for anything. As a result, I achieved my family's slow understanding; hence, I have never been more true to myself than at the moment.

DA: Carl Yung said, "The more your actual life becomes routine and habit, the less it will be satisfactory." As a creator, what are your thoughts on this sentiment? How can we maintain a creative spirit amidst the drudgery of life?

MN: No matter how theoretical it might sound, I have no better option than keeping my balance. Retaining a creative spirit to an artist is just like other people who hold a work-life balance. We have to deal with the other aspects of ourselves.

DA: What would you like to share with your fans? What’s in store for the remainder of 2022 and beyond?

MN: An artist working in multimedia doesn’t necessarily mean she/he lacks concentration as they seem. In my case, I am a filmmaker who’s trained to be one, meanwhile, I am fascinated by paintings, music, and other forms of art, too. Performance, photography, and even wood carving, I practice all these. Though, the topics I focus on and the artistic philosophy I obtain remain consistent. I am in love with the wide openness of the arts. I want to get my hands down to one by one of these. I want to play with creativity. In fact, I am crazy in love with this. Does it sound too much?

I am heading toward installations for my future works. The installation allows urban-related concepts to literally have space and visual structure as the topic itself supposes to be. Specifically, I tend to create visual interactions between artworks and the audience. Unlike communicational works that I expressed before, my next move would be more about experimenting with the reactions of the audience.


Check out Mzung's tune recommendation Human Behaviour by Björk. Enjoy!

Instagram | @mzungnguyen

Website | Mzung Nguyen


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