Vietnamese, US artists, sons of war pilots, to burn "peace plane" By Kay Johnson
dpa German Press Agency
Sunday November 26, 2006
Hanoi– The fathers were both fighter pilots on opposite sides of the Vietnam War. More than 30 years later, the American and Vietnamese sons are now friends and are both artists in Hanoi. This weekend, as US President George W Bush visits Vietnam, the sons are preparing an artistic homage to their fathers and the bloody war they fought in.
Mixing contemporary performance art and Vietnamese religious tradition, Bradford Edwards and Nguyen Manh Hung have built a life-sized jet plane out of bamboo and rice paper, and plan to burn it in a performance next week.
"It's a little bit of personal exorcism on both our parts to artistically and personally deal with our fathers' parts in the war," says Edwards, 52, who splits his time between Hanoi and California.
The idea was inspired by a Vietnamese funeral ritual of burning elaborate paper objects – kitchenware, 100-dollar bills, motorcycles, even houses – to send to the recently deceased and ancestors in the afterlife.
The artists say their "peace plane" is not meant to send the jet fighter on to their fathers in the next life – Hung's father is still alive, though Edwards' father died last year.
Instead, they want to send a message while the world's eyes are on Vietnam, which is hosting the annual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) leaders meeting this weekend.
"The meaning is just to say no to violence," says Hung, 31.
The life-sized paper airplane that Hung and Edwards have built is so realistic it looks like it could fly. But instead of the American F-16 that Edwards' father flew or the Soviet-made MiG-21 Hung's father piloted, their plane, Edwards says, is "a white bird of peace."
The winged tribute will be on display at the countryside home of Dao Anh Khanh, a Vietnamese-performance artist, until November 25, when Khanh, Hung and Edwards will host a gathering to burn the work, accompanied by live music and a dance performance by Khanh.
"A jet is a destructive instrument," said Edwards. "But using simple materials we've built a plane turned it into something soft and harmless and beautiful."
Starting this week, an exhibition of artwork related to this project will open at Chim Sao Gallery in Hanoi.
© 2006 dpa German Press Agency