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Mekong

2007-04-01

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In February I went to Vietnam with Lisbeth Asle Håkon and Piotr of Verdensteatret collecting material for the next production. I was there for 10 days but the others stayed for five weeks with some of the actors joining in after I left. The time I was there was spent in the Mekong Delta. Above is the boat we used with the Verdensteatret trademark in the foreground.

 

 

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Håkon at work tapping into the sounds of the mud at the river banks.

 

 

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Piotr did a lot of video filming using two video cameras simultaneously. I am curious to see how the material will be working and how it can be used. If installation art implied a human condition as fragmented multiple and decentered denying one “right” way of looking at the world this could be seen as a similar approach to video filming.

 

 

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Before leaving for Vietnam I did not know what to expect so I ended up having no expectations at all. It certainly did not at all resemble any impressions left by the numerous movies on the Vietnam war (or the American war as it is called in Viet Nam). We seemed to be there at the driest part of the year. The sun high temperatures and nice weather was very welcome to me just having experienced 80 consecutive days of rain in Bergen. In spite of Viet Nam being a single-party socialist state the military were nowhere to be seen a very pleasant surprise.

We seemed to be on an ever-failing quest for untouched wilderness. Maybe this was a Norwegian reaction to the dense population a search for similar remote and desolate places as we imagine to find in Norway (although they are dwindling by the year with 1/3 of untouched land lost since 1970)? The Mekong delta seemed a jungle turned suburbia. Substitute palms for pines rain for sun roads for rivers and multiply the amount of people by 100 or so and it would not be that much different from Å sane.

Earlier Verdensteatret trips have had a tendency of being left of center places like Illulissat Greenland or Odessa Ukraina. But this felt further left than ever. Murray Schafer discuss soundmarks aural equivalents of landmarks. I came home with three such soundmarks ringing in my head: The sound of scooters the sound of the engines of the boats at the rivers and Hello! What’s your name? a phrase constantly heard for the duration of the stay. It was utterly impossible to become an invisible observer wherever we went we seemed to work as catalyzing agents disturbing the equilibrium of everyday life by our mere presence. I found it difficult to film either I would have to do it openly catching and interacting with the situations occurring because of my presence or it would have to be done secretly. I also noticed that some of the obvious motives such as the river banks drifting by as the boat sailed the delta did not appeal to me. The journey seemed to stir up some of the same motives as previous trips: people at the market place landscapes passing by while traveling the recording of someone calling Hello! What’s your name? at a distance. All of these we have used before for Tsalal or Concert for Greenland.

 

 

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What did catch my attention was the new forest spreading out seemingly growing rapidly: The antennas at the top of the houses. I think I have hours of filming of them against a blue sky.

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