Art is the way that I communicate with the people and I express myself, and what is the point of expressing myself if there’s nobody listening?

This is Vietnam’s Renovation Generation. In episode 3, we hear from multi-media multi-faceted artist Nguyễn Hoàng Giang.


Giang has an ability to see and hear things, digest them and spit them out into artworks which will shock and humor you in equal measures.


The sound collage you can hear was made by him.


Born in 1990, he’s certainly a digital native, he harnesses the power of the internet to be his willful audience, gathering Facebook followers and Facebook trolls in equal measures. To me, he’s an extremely talented, thoughtful artist and friend. To others, he’s an offensive self-seeking terrible artist. But what I wanted to know was what does his dad think of him. I met him on the closing day of his very first drawing exhibition at the Six Degrees contemporary art gallery in Hanoi.


This is his Dad speaking.


What he says is that I should try to win the bread first before doing any kind of creative work because it is impractical to live as an artist in Vietnam. The type of painting and drawings that I’m pursuing is too personal so I cannot gain a wider audience. They came and they said that it’s hard to find somebody who will be interested in your work and it’s weird to hang your paintings in their living room.

When I was young I wasn’t good at any kind of sports or video games so art and drawing was the only way I could entertain myself.

The childhood doodling he did matured in his teenage years as he started harnessing the potential of the Internet and seeking the rewards of having friends and strangers at his fingertips.

I always evaluate the audience. I’m not the one who says that I made this totally for my personal enjoyment and I don’t care about how you think about it. It’s my art.

But he doesn’t actually see himself as an artist, perhaps that takes formal art training before it’s defined like that, which Giang didn’t have nor need.

I don’t think that it’s really necessary to define yourself as an artist and the reason I create things is that when I feel bored I need to create new things and it’s my way of dealing with this boredom.


It’s this boredom that let him be the holder of over 4000 strangers’ secrets.

I eat then I force myself to vomit. I look at myself in the mirror every morning. I become a bit thinner, I’m happy. One day I will die of this pleasure.

His idea was called “Cái Hố Đen” (Black Hole). People send a secret anonymously, he illustrates it and shares it on a blog.

I found that a lot of people had the same problems and even worse problems than mine so I felt a little bit better after that. I felt that I had to have something to do every day, if not I got really nervous and I decided to make a drawing every day.

Giang had hit a nerve as messages started pouring in. Secrets became more personal and took a turn for the dark.

Secret 118. Female Scorpio, fire in the oven…

12th grade, abused by a friend’s cousin. He flirted with me, took me out for dinner and raped me…

Freshman a 12th grader to not know that I lost my so-called precious purity…

Feeling hurt

Accounts of sexual abuse, multiple abortions, suicidal sentiments became so frequent that Giang actually started to question some of their authenticity, so he moved away from the negativity and concentrated on some other types of messages.

There were some messages which were unbelievable. I mean like… because the Internet was always a good environment for protecting your identity, for hiding your identity, to be someone else; I think it’s inevitable that somebody will try to exaggerate about their stories or they try to insert some kind of fictional elements into their stories. I didn’t want to illustrate that kind of things anymore. I craved for something more positive and more poetic.

Giang has found the internet to be the best platform for him to do his thing, and even though he himself has dealt with a lot of Internet trolling and backlash because of The Black Hole, he sees his future firmly in the virtual.

Because in Vietnam there’s a censorship, the most ridiculous thing is that on the Internet, you can talk freely about almost anything, even politics.

Giang obviously spends a fair amount of time online, seeking out, digesting and reforming the art which he most relates to. These things that form his identity are a rejection of the things he was taught in school. 

From the very young age, I had been bombarded by all the propaganda by the government, the thing that I learned from school. It wasn’t really interesting to me. But then I discovered other parts of Vietnam which reflect, not the lives of the poor and the farmers and the peasants, but the urban life.

Giang had to go beyond what was readily available and dig deeper in the cultural history of his countrymen and women. He researched the works created by intellectuals that had lived in Hanoi before him. He stumbled across the poets and writers who had been active in the 1920s and 30s and found in them kindred spirits.

I find some connections between me and the people in the past living the city. I was born here, I lived in this environment. I didn’t have the same kind of dilemma, I didn’t have the same kind of struggle like the poor people so I was more associated with these books and for the first time I had a taste in literature, which is something I didn’t expect to have.

Armed with city literature, in the daytime, Giang whizzes around Hanoi on his 50cc red Honda Wind and white helmet, which he has painted to look like he’s been shot in the head.

Tearing through the city, he is seeing Vietnam today shaped by communism, capitalism, Korean and Japanese pop culture, together creating a cultural mess, through which Giang is digging to copy and paste the things that he thinks may one day make up a uniquely Vietnamese aesthetic that no longer relies on influences from outside.

We are in the phase of transition to something really uniquely Vietnamese, but it takes time. Right now we have a lot of cultural noise. I think in the future maybe we can have something truly innovative and truly Vietnamese out of this mess, this noise now.


Art is the way that I communicate with people and express myself, and what is the point of expressing myself if there’s nobody listening? Even though they don’t know much about art, they can feel it, and I always want to reach out to these people because I think that’s what art is for.


The Renovation Generation was produced by me, Eliza Lomas, Fabiola Buchele and Trang Nghiem. It’s an & Of Other Things production.