2013 Visible Award / Texts

“between popular mass culture, historical legacy and futuristic utopias” a curatorial statement on The Propeller Group by Zoe Butt

‘The Propeller Group’ sits at the nexus between popular mass culture; historical legacy and futuristic utopias. Their desire to challenge the values, codes, and distribution of an art system began by their first establishing themselves as a commercial media production house in Vietnam, known as ‘TPG’, in 2006. Aware that the space for ‘art’ in this country is understood as the fashion show, the music video, and the drama TV soap, they began to establish a name for themselves via music video, television commercial and TV Game show which crosses the popular and the elite world of visual merchandise; between the locally informed world of communist commercial aesthetic and the international world of socio-politically informed consumerism. At the core of their practice is an unpicking of historical consciousness – from what references and from what understanding of historical time do our possibilities of a future remain anchored. What ‘The Propeller Group’ thus compels us to contemplate is the nature of power as it is recorded and disseminated by media – advertising, social media, crowdsourcing, documentary and the Internet.  Speaking of ‘collaboration’ as a medium unto itself, ‘The Propeller Group’ stand between cultural forms of production as a commercial popular labor (TPG); as a fine art in its circulation of commercial galleries and museums abroad; and also as co-founders of ‘San Art’ – an artist-initiated, non-profit contemporary art organization committed to the exchange and excavation of cultural knowledge within an interdisciplinary community. San Art is the most active independent arts organization in Vietnam dedicated to promoting, facilitating and showcasing contemporary art through production, exhibition, discourse, and education. ‘The Propeller Group’; ‘TPG’ and ‘San Art’ currently share premises in downtown Saigon, around the corner from ‘San Art Laboratory’ – the first artist/studio residency program which focuses on the role of history, critique, and dialog as central to artistic practice.

‘The Propeller Group’ are conceptual sleuths who challenge what it means to be coded by a nationality, by an ideology, by a social class, by a historical fiction (for history in Vietnam is particularly clouded, a murky story full of bias, censorship, lies and Hollywood imagery). By connecting to their community on and off-line; by operating as key mentors inside ‘San Art Laboratory’ to challenge constructs and stereotypes of the past, by training young aspiring film producers, cameraman, scriptwriters and editors to be critical, TPG also educate a growing sector of cultural producers and supporters in professionalizing and improving creative standards and knowledge in Communist Vietnam.

This is the context of ‘The Propeller Group’. I have had the pleasure of working with this collective since 2006 on a near daily basis, on and off-line, and I am in great respect of their willingness and determination to make their practice and San Art work as a cohesive and supportive engine room. Their desire to see the community better socially informed, to enable their art to support what has become a very rare arts organization takes hard work and due diligence.

To know more about the shortlisted project Christ the King of Bling by The Propeller group go here