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, facilitated by The Factory Contemporary Arts Centre.

*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.


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. 

Methodology and Expected Outcomes of the Fellow


  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. 
  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 of a particular sum of money to support artist fee, production etc. Exact details would be tailored according to the nature of the specific project. All funds would be finalized and managed by 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.
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.

*Please note we are currently fund raising for the next iteration of this project. We shall keep you posted!


Application for 2020 is now closed


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