“There is soil, bare soil
There is water, muddy water
This is where it all begins”
(excerpt from ‘Đẻ Đất Đẻ Nước’)
The project ‘In One’s Breath – Nothing Stands Still’ by Tuấn Mami borrows its inspiration from the ancient Mường epic ‘Đẻ Đất Đẻ Nước’ (‘The Birth of Soil and Water’), from which immerses a belief that there is spirituality in all beings, that the creation of the world is constantly in a state of chaos, where humans struggle to cohabit harmoniously with other creatures, and especially with themselves. Conducted on the basis of Tuấn Mami’s on-going fieldworks in the stone mining areas of his hometown Hà Nam since 2015, this multimedia body of works investigates and documents the significant loss of biodiversity caused by human’s overexploitation of natural resources, and its devastating consequences on the people inhabiting the land here.
The decadence of industrialisation and modernisation, the arrogant privileging of human desire and greed, the violent decay of nature, the irreversible decline of a system as it moves towards the ideal – these are the vectors that transverse the human-less environment of ‘In One’s Breath – Nothing Stands Still’. Everything – from the grandioseness of the exhibition space and the sporadic arrangement of the works, to the cool and detached characteristics of the imagery – points to a future after catastrophe. Here, only fragile traces of human existence are found, among landscapes in different states of ruin, and strangely, revitalisation. Are we witnessing the end of Nature, or her new beginning? Have her intruders been swept out, her place reclaimed?
This uncanny premonition of impending disaster is intensified by the dual visualisation of opposing qualities: stillness and movement, proximity and distance, silence and noise. It is as if a (dys)utopia is casting its ominous shadow over everything as it hovers between dreams and nightmares, resurrection and extinction, past and future. By revealing a scene marked by both conflicts and hopes, and by making visible the unspoken and unheard reality of his land and people, Tuấn Mami demands us to face the truth: humanity – for all their contemplating, scrutinising, reflecting and wondering – is once again trapped in the obliteration of their own creation.