Heavy metal art

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Thierry Bernard-Gotteland at his exhibition at Quynh Gallery in Ho Chi Minh City in July

A contorted leather bed dangled from the ceiling, and metal chains arranged in a pentagram were lit up by stage lights. This was heavy metal art and it rocked the art world in Ho Chi Minh City this July.

It was Thierry Bernard-Gotteland's first solo exhibition held at Quynh Gallery. Gotteland, a French multimedia artist, pushed the limits as you would expect from a heavy metal musician.

The exhibit, A Physical Obedience Of A Certain Geometry, combined text, image, sound, smoke and light. Part of the exhibit was reminiscent of a domestic space, while other areas were like the aftermath of a heavy metal concert.

"There has never been an exhibition like that before in Vietnam," said Pham Thi Nhu Quynh, the director of Quynh Gallery. "It was poetic, dark, conceptual and in cooperation with nature, with light through a window and a branch of a tree. Though to the public it can be hard to so understand [because it is conceptual]. I am happy that we can have the show after three years of discussion, and we want to make a book about this exhibition."

The exhibition showcased a musical world, and all the objects in the air were a bit overwhelming. There were so many new ideas conveyed with strange objects.

There were paintings made out of viscous black enamel on the ground floor of the gallery. In another space on the first floor, there was a tree branch bandaged with tape, and text from Hollywood scripts. Industrial fans rotated black duct tape, which created noise from a guitar.

Gotteland said it took six months to prepare the exhibition and make sure everything worked well together to achieve the concept.

According to Gotteland, art work exists when there is communication between it and the public. Within the exhibition, he tries to create communication between objects. "These two boards with text from Hollywood scripts are arranged opposite to each other, creating communication," he said.

The exhibition created a Zen atmosphere in the communication between different objects, as well as the glamour and mystery of different cultures.

Gotteland is interested in sound and the living environment, as well as matters such as the inner-sounds of material and light.

 "I wanted to learn music at the age of 17 and it was a bit late to start. I try to practice music and include musical sounds in art work. To me, the power of music is the power of imagination," said Gotteland.

"Inner sound always exists but it depends on how you listen to it, and you have to amplify it. I also regulate the light to create atmosphere, sign, icon and dialogue," he said.

Gotteland graduated at Fine Art University in Grenoble, a French border city around one hour from the border with Switzerland and Italy. He never imagined that one day he would come to Ho Chi Minh City to settle down.

On the road to Saigon

Talking about his migration to Vietnam, the 37-year-old artist, who loves "communication," said, "By chance, I met a Vietnamese friend from Soc Trang Province on the Internet. And after one year, I came to Vietnam to visit her." At that time Gotteland worked for an art project about sound art at MU Association, based in Paris.

It's already been five years since he came to Vietnam the first time, and he decided to stay after getting married with his "Soc Trang friend," who now manages a flower shop in town.

After moving to Ho Chi Minh City, Gotteland started teaching at the design department at the Raffles Design Training Center.

Immediately, Saigon's special rhythm of street noise, with vendor calls and motorbike horns, inspired him so much that he changed to work as a lecturer of sound at RMIT University in HCMC. There, he taught students how to create sound for video productions.

According to Gotteland, this course has been influenced by the evolution of music and sound design during the 20th and 21st centuries, and the development of multimedia and its various techniques, from video recordings to sound mixing.

"In terms of motion pictures, audio and the visual have the same amount of importance and we should understand how the quality of sound is primordial for the visuals," he said.

The multimedia artist is a founding member of the band Moeth, a drone doom metal band that sometimes performs with underground bands in Hanoi. The band Moeth will perform Saturday, August 20 at Street Bar on Do Quang Dau Street in District 1 in Ho Chi Minh City.

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