James Nguyen and Victoria Pham
2018 - ongoing
RE:SOUNDING aims to locate, record, digitise, and re-engage with the percussive sounds of the Vietnamese Bronze Age Đông Sơn drum.
Displaced by colonisation and the post-war trade in Southeast Asian antiquities, these drums have the significance of announcing the rain, harvests, fertility, and well-being of local communities as well as instruments of resistance and warfare. Now held in museums and collections throughout the world, this project reimagines how the Đông Sơn drum can conceptually exist beyond the museum display cabinet. In the hands of contemporary artists and musicians, the digitised drum sample will continue the acoustic voice and cultural impact of these ancient instruments.
This large scale and international collaborative research and artistic intervention to the systems of museum curation, modes of collection, archival research, decolonisation, repatriation and rematriation has spanned ongoing work, commissions, showcases and publications across multiple institutions. Below it an outline of the project's current public presentation and programming:
2020: Commissioned for BLEED Festival for Arts House Melbourne and Campbelltown Arts Centre, support from Create NSW and the Australian Council for the Arts
WINTER: Samstag Museum of Art (Adelaide)
CONNECT 1: Footscray Community Centre for Arts (Exhibition)
CONNECT 2: Footscray Community Centre for Art (Performance)
Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (Melbourne)
Commission of 'A Drumstick is a Hammer' for the Anna Schwartz Gallery
Conference Presentation for 'CARE'
Commission for RE:TUNING as part of ANTIDOTE FESTIVAL, The Sydney Opera House. Supported by ARROW Collective.
Fairfield Museum and Art Gallery
IMAGES OF DRUM: James Nguyen and Victoria Pham. 2019-21.
IMAGES OF PUBLIC PROGRAMS: James Nguyen, Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, Samstag Museum. 2021.
IMAGES OF RE:TUNING: Katje Ford. 2022.
For full credits and information regarding the RE:SOUNDING project, please visit the project's official website and social media page below.
media and publications
Commissioned and presented by Sydney Opera House
Curated by Micheal Do
RE:TUNING at Sydney Opera House is enabled by Janne Ryan and ARROW.
This year forms the forth project of ARROW’s ongoing support of contemporary art at our Talks and Ideas Festivals.
You're invited to a series of workshops and performances to re-tune the way we listen. Building on their practice exploring the Vietnamese Đông Sơn drum, artists James Nguyen and Victoria Pham have gathered an interactive assembly of master performers of the Dizi flute, the erhu, the didgeridoo, classic Indian movement, and Mongolian throat singing. Teaching us all to connect with sound systems that might be unfamiliar, RE:TUNING is a generous, experimental invitation to listen beyond the Western scale and dissolve auditory biases. Featuring musicians Chloe Chung, Bukhchuluun Ganburged, Nicholas Ng, Priya Srinivasan and Norm Jurrawaa Stanley, we encourage you to bring along your instruments, voices, ears and hearts, to the songs of our ancestors.
RE:TUNING forms part of the larger RE:SOUNDING research project by James Nguyen and Victoria Pham, which works to reframe our relationship to objects and artefacts in order to produce and offer new, collective experiences and sound traditions.
'Re:sounding is a multi-faceted project exploring the Đông Sơn drum, central to Vietnamese culture, put together by Australian artists James Nguyen and Victoria Pham. Nguyen and Pham have sat with the intricately-decorated Đông Sơn drum, considered it from many angles, let it resonate. Their response encompasses research, sound experimentation and performance...
It was piquant, nostalgic; although the nostalgia was more for the tattered remnants of Vietnamese culture passed down through family memories, rather than for a clean cut origin story.
You’ve got to sit through it so you can experience the flood of questions that follow. Like how their music relates, reflects, replaces the traditional sound of the Đông Sơn. Like how Vietnamese culture – any culture – is so much more nuanced and multi-layered than any one version of the story of Au Co. Like how listening to a wall of noise for an extended period evokes feelings of claustrophobia, anger and transcendence.
Maybe I did get something out of it after all. Weird shit par excellence.'