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11th December

Making art is an act of faith

Recently, I had an Online Flow conversation with Nguyễn Trinh Thi, the Vietnamese artist who won the Han Nefkens Foundation, Mori Art Museum, M+ and Singapore Art Museum Moving Image Commission 2021. She told me that she feels full of uncertainties and this feeling motivates her to learn and make sense of the world. Therefor, she’s guided by her curiosity rather than a sense of purpose when embarking on a new project like this commission. 

It is paramount for her to be open to whatever comes her way. When she films, she leaves her ego behind. 


I could relate to that; I too have my doubts but when I write I forget about myself. At the same time, I am completely myself when I write. I long for this state of being, but still, occasionally I feel blocked, unable to write.


When that happens, I tell myself that life is pulling me away from my desk. The jury meetings, the taping of the podcasts, errands that have to be run, mails that have to be checked, our dog that has to go out for a long walk: it all requires my attention.


But perhaps there’s something else that keeps me from writing. I explore issues I’m concerned about through writing, and these matters are sometimes deeply personal. Is it a certain ambivalence that keeps me from writing about what perturbs me? Is there a deadlock between my desire to show myself and my profound fear of doing so?


The philosopher Alan Watts said that the nature of love is self-abandonment. He described giving yourself up as the most powerful thing that can be done. There is always a curious tie between letting go and creation. Taking that risk, he said, is the condition of there being life.


With our commissions and grants we would like artists to explore new ways of creating. For her new work Thi will investigate how different sound perspectives might overcome the cinematic limitations of representation, something she hasn’t done to this extent before.


Just as life, which we have to live without knowing where it will lead us, making art is an act of faith. Thi knows this and I should follow her example, taking that leap whenever I’m hesitant and uncertain. 

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