Tram Luong - Welts @ Mobius 1/31

<br>7PM-8PM January 31, 2014

           

            The last time I was at Mobius seemed like it was in November, but I had a strenuous day the day before and I was in a strange lull. I arrived at Mobius early and chatted with a few of the Mobius members I knew. There seemed to be quite a few people there, some members and some students. I kept mostly to myself and just listened to people’s conversation. I guess some people wore scarves in commemoration of his past performances. I don’t know if this is true but I think perhaps in the past, Luong has used audience members’ scarves to inflict the marks. I worried, “should I have worn a scarf?” And, “is it really okay to let an artist take your belongings to “hurt” himself with it?” And “is this even politically correct to think this way?” I just had a few negative feelings and I imagine that’s what affected my personal experience with the piece.

            I was noticed the walls were repainted black but I could still see some remnants of human residue. The track lights were only focused on the center of the room. There was a man seated near a projector and speakers. The wall space filled up quickly. I always find it amusing how during performances, people cling to wall space instead of being deviant towards the artist and standing right in the way. I stood near the left side of the room near the corner and waited for the performance to begin. I left my jacket on because it was cold and crowded, but I knew it would get warm.

            Tony, an SMFA film professor announced Luong and the Mobilize series of international artists. Luong walked out of the small office room and he had a very stern look on his face. He walked towards the center and took out a vibrant red scarf or bandana that showed some wear. He began to toss it lightly in the air, carefully observing the direction and way it fell. This gesture seemed to be a greeting and a way of acknowledging the audience. Ever so often, the scarf might land on someone or near them. The room was stuffy and quiet with the exception of Luong breathing and the sound of the scarf being tossed in the air. Eventually, this action became more energized and aggressive. He started to switch hands if one got tired. Within fifteen minutes, Luong was working up a light perspiration. He action was entrancing and hypnotic, but one didn’t lose interest because if you didn’t pay attention, the scarf or Luong arm might accidently hit you.

           

 

 

 

The scarf turned into a weapon halfway through. As Luong whipped the air, I imagined the air particles being cut and agitated. I began to grow concern because I’ve been whipped by a cloth playfully and bullied and I know it hurts. I really didn’t want him to start whipping himself with the scarf. He began to see how the cloth contorted and twisted it tightly around his hands. He was mimicking what looked like either rope or cuffs and I immediately thought of my father. I was never close to my father until his deathbed, but when he was really sick, he hallucinated that he was being captured and threatened with guns. He screamed, “Get away from me” and “don’t shoot me,” to his family members who were in the hospital room praying he’d pull through. I wanted to cry, but no tears came.  Even though Luong was from Vietnam, there was still a Communist influence that created genocide in my homeland. I couldn’t believe that this red scarf held so much power and could be pushed on a young boy, Luong’s son. When Luong, kneeled in a prisoner position, the projector came on and a film entitled “Welts” came on. It was edited and manipulated. I moved to the other side of the room to see the projection better and I watched as Luong watched. I wondered if he would begin to cry, but if he did, would it be genuine or acting?

            I was troubled by the projection because it took me out of the moment and I switched gears to viewing a film.  It was awkward for the people who decided to stay on the wall but they couldn’t see very well from their position. A ceiling hung projector would have been a good solution. Once the film ended, Luong stood up and thanked the crowd. He took a moment to recollect himself. The audience was pretty solemn, actually I think a few people seemed bored or unimpressed. I would question that. Any ways, I awkwardly spoke to Luong after and probably made myself seem frivolous, but I thought the performance was simple but contextually deep.