Our chosen element for 2020 is Earth! The Factory is pleased to announce Hanoi based artist Lê Giang as our successful ‘Realigning the Cosmos’ Fellow with her proposal to investigate the meaning, extraction and trade of precious stones in Vietnam in the popular Feng shui belief that its energy brings fortune, good health and prosperity. Examining Feng shui beliefs in the given meaning of these precious stones, Lê Giang aims to dig deeper into the possible environmental repercussions, economic profits and cultural degradation of such resources. Examining not only present day mining techniques and their impacts on the livelihood and spiritual life of the local indigenous communities, including the increase of such trade during the colonial occupation of Vietnam, she also intends to research the current realm of luxury brand products, of how the design of our material desires represents Nature as resource that humankind can own, and thus exploit. Following on from this curiosity in how Nature is (ill) valued and depicted, Lê Giang seeks to know more about the historical occurrence of ‘sơn thuỷ hữu tình’—a romanticized genre of depicting landscape through painting, sculpture, textile (always with mountains and rivers) that are often found on display as decoration in many Vietnamese households. Through folktales, myths and collective memory, Lê Giang envisages resulting artwork/s that re-construct such notions of beauty in Vietnam, one that is in stark contrast with the current exploitation of the elements in their natural environment.

Lê Giang (b. 1988, Hanoi)

Lê Giang earned a BA in Art Education from Vietnam Fine Art University and an MA in Fine Art at University of the Arts London, UK. Lê Giang’s point of departure is the question of the role of humans in nature and social structure. Intrigued by an Utopia that has none of humans, her practice attempts to research and depict how nature would react to the disappearance of humans when it happens, what legacy humans would have left behind, and what life form would then take place. Giang explores various mediums in her practice including coal, plaster, paper, recycled plastic.


Giang’s most recent exhibitions included: D’eau et de Verdure (Institut Francais Hanoi 2020), Phản niệm (Art Central Hong Kong 2019),  Phản niệm (Vin Gallery HCMC, 2018), Vestige of a Land (Goethe Institut Hanoi, 2017); Above Under Sky (Manzi Art Space Hanoi, 2014); Reincarnate (Conflictable Cube, Irabaki, Japan, 2013).


Re-Aligning the Cosmos is a twelve-month ‘Fellowship’ (curatorial mentoring in the assistance of funded field work and community liaison) exploring Vietnam’s cultural traditions of respect for the five elements – wood, fire, earth, metal and water – essential materials to our planet’s physical sustainability that have, over centuries, provided great inspiration to visual artists, writers, architects, the culinary arts and so many more in the creative industries across the world. 


This Fellowship, for Vietnamese visual artists living in Vietnam, seeks to dig deeper into the role, presence and meaning of these elements in contemporary life, to examine the impact of humanity on their superstitious /spiritual conditions, to reflect on our devotion or neglect of their symbolic value and meaning (which has caused irreversible damage of many natural wondrous habitat across the globe). 


This opportunity grants one artist (sourced via National Open Call), the opportunity to critically respond to one element and its endangerment in Vietnam, co-developing their ideas and research with relevant local community, co-facilitated (with a year-long associated international public program) by The Factory Contemporary Arts Centre and Fulbright University, Vietnam.


Applications closed: 23 APRIL, 2020


Who is involved:

‘Re-Aligning the Cosmos’ is initiated and organized by The Factory Contemporary Arts Centre; co-sponsored by Prince Claus Fund & Goethe Institut; co-facilitated with Fulbright University Vietnam; supported by the Public Engagement, Oxford University Clinical Research Unit, Ho Chi Minh City.

Why has The Factory initiated this program?

Wood, fire, earth, metal and water are the five elements that govern time, space and human relations in Vietnam. Fengshui readers, shamans, divination mediums and more are common consultants for domestic, professional and spiritual conduct, subsequently designing architecture, schedules and human association. At times these symbolic investments (which often demand the employment of that element) are grossly detached from the conditions of these materials, believers predominantly unaware (or ill-informed) of their own role in the exacerbation of its resource depletion and the repercussions of its industrialized extraction. In other circumstances, the lack of social respect for spiritual practices and its employment of natural material can cause long-term detriment to particular ecologies. This investment in representation of belief (eg. temples, shrines, offerings, rituals) is in urgent need of re-connect to the environmental conditions of these very elements that guide our everyday, in the hope of re-aligning spiritual practice with social attitudes of consumption. 


Current conundrums of this vein include: Tam Chuc Pagoda Complex in Ha Nam Province, slated to be the largest pagoda complex in the world, has eaten an entire limestone ecosystem for its construction (this limestone consequently used to construct entertainment centers for this complex such as hotels, restaurants etc.). The impact of mining this resource on human health and natural habitat is of little scientific study in Vietnam but has been artistically investigated (see the exhibition of Tuấn Mami at The Factory).  The spiritual lust for rhino horn (believed to extend longevity and virility within the animist/traditional medicinal practices across the country) has seen the illegal poaching of this now extinct animal in Vietnam, subsequently spurring Vietnamese hunters to African ecosystems for this rare substance (see the exhibition of Tuấn Andrew Nguyễn at The Factory) – these examples are just a few of the known artistic projects by Vietnamese artists over the last few years.


In thinking of the inverse social disregard for spiritual connections to the elements – ethnic minorities in Vietnam’s central highlands have had their habitats decimated for development projects, these displaced communities removed from the environments that govern the wellness of their life and country (eg. loss of rice rituals and particular burial practices are jeopardizing indigenous knowledge and care for the health of the land), thus causing psychological tension between ethnic minority and the predominant Kinh people of Vietnam. 


‘Re-Aligning the Cosmos’ aims to set up a system of curatorial, financial, and intellectual support for the chosen artist, The Factory committed to engaging with a broader set of questions regarding climate and culture, seeking to nurture interdisciplinary artistic practice that is tied to specific locale, yet at the same time, responding to regional and global concerns. 


*This ‘Fellowship’ is envisaged as a 5 year (5 elements = 5 years) institutional program for The Factory, focusing on one ‘element’ per year, as part of its curatorial and public programs. We are currently fundraising for 2021 onwards.

Methodology and Expected Outcomes of the Fellow

Co-facilitated by The Factory and Fulbright University, Vietnam; with the support of Public Engagement, Oxford Clinical Research Unit: Ho Chi Minh City


  1. Artistic Research and Artwork Production: Provision of curatorial mentoring in the assistance of field-work and community liaison (where necessary and effective), offering a Vietnamese artist (sourced via national open call), the chance to develop a proposal that critically engages one of the five elements and its environmental/social endangerment in Vietnam. The successful artist’s proposal would need to engage the nexus of spiritual/superstitious practice (in its consummation of particular element) with the impact/contradiction of that particular belief on that particular natural resource and its current conditions. This proposal would encompass the production of art as an interdisciplinary process, the final outcome (artistic object/event/process) continuing that artist’s particular artistic skill/pre-occupation. 
  2. Public programming (once every 2 months): Throughout the Fellowship, the successful artist would be responsible for co-devising public programs to raise awareness of his/her research particularities. This could involve working with: anthropologists/spiritual leaders in the unpacking of cultural/historical meaning and value of particular rituals; successful entrepreneurs who have identified means of raising awareness of spiritual connection to material and their necessity in sustainable business; social media influencers in producing video content that sheds light on consumer role in caring for our environment. 
  3. Exhibition : The Fellow would be given a solo exhibition, showcasing resulting artwork, at The Factory, in March 2021. 
  4. Documentation: The Fellow would be expected to record and reflect on the development of the Fellowship throughout the 12 months. This documentation would be used as discussion material for public programming and group critique.


What are the benefits and responsibilities of the selected Fellow?

  • Awarded a Fellowship, to the value of up to VND200,000,000. This amount covers artist fee, artwork production fund, travel costs between Ho Chi Minh City and the chosen community of study, local accommodation, per diem and other research expenses. This fund will be finalized and managed by the chosen artist in consultation with The Factory;
  • To undertake and arrange travel and research plans in close collaboration with the curatorial team of The Factory;
  • To co-devise public programs with program partners to raise awareness of his/her research particularities and to participate in regular offline/online meetings and public programs that take place in Ho Chi Minh City throughout the year;
  • To submit and implement an exhibition proposal, as a consequence of the travel and research, to be realized at The Factory in 2021.

How do I apply? 

Please submit the following documents in either Vietnamese or English, as a PDF file (maximum 5MB) to art@factoryartscentre.com:

  • A statement of purpose, explaining the reasons of applying for the Fellowship (one page);
  • A full Curriculum Vitae and portfolio with biographic information, supporting images, video links/website (two pages);
  • A proposal (500 words minimum), for a project exploring the relationship between belief and a chosen element (wood, fire, earth, metal or water), which gives background on: 1. the context of the project (clearly giving details on the specific locale/community of the researched issue and existing networks of community support, if available); 2. the artistic approach and methodology; and 3. tentative timeline and budget estimates of the project using our budget template here.


Applications closed: 23 April, 2020


What are we looking for in the applicant?

  • Clear articulation of relationship between belief, chosen element and the irony behind its consumption/neglect;
  • Commitment of care towards community most affected by environmental issue; 
  • Critically nuanced in sensitivities towards community (demonstrating ethical parameters of consideration towards livelihood and the need for artistic action to not jeopardize community existence); 
  • Known and experienced community networks of support in their research of issue; 
  • Critically informed of their chosen artistic methodologies (recognizing historical and comparative artistic practices that have similarly engaged said cause). 


Got questions? Please see our FAQs here.

For further enquiries, please contact: art@factoryartscentre.com