Traditional Vietnamese Acerbic Sense of Humour: Gestures that Matter in Literature and Contemporary Visual Arts

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Abstract

This article discusses how the Vietnamese sense of humour in literature and visual arts has been deployed as gesture as a powerful tool for creative expression. Using this tool, Vietnamese people addressed social and political matters after the Vietnam War to engage with all social classes. This article approaches three aspects of gestural communication using an emic ethnological approach, narrative methods, and interviews with Vietnamese artists and scholars. First, I will discuss how humorous strategies and acerbic social remarks have been used to criticise corruption, through “gestures that matter” in Vietnamese folk literature. Second the article examines the theme of post-war trauma using installation art by the artist Truong Tan, who uses a Taoist approach and presents gestures visually to depict his acerbic feelings about war trauma. The third aspect of the article is an investigation of how cultural gestures express community feelings about social matters since 2000, using the work of performance artist and activist Dao Anh Khanh. This article reveals that the role of humour can be used gesturally to communicate widely in social education and as a method to criticise political and social issues.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-14
JournalThe International Journal of Social, Political and Community Agendas in the Arts
Volume12
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2017

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