arrowDong Xuan Vietnamese Theatre Festival Berlin

25.11.10 by Kim

21 until 27 November, Theater Hebbel am Ufer.

Vietnamese represent the biggest group of persons seeking asylum in Berlin. Meanwhile they are popular in the city and at the same time almost invisible. They divide into two very different groups: The East-Berlin contract workers who came shortly before the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the boat people who had immigrated to West-Berlin. On account of their origin they sometimes seem to mirror the German-German mental states.

The artist Danh Vo will ask his father and other Vietnamese to draw the festival posters by hand. Danh’s parents came to Copenhagen as boat people and made a living with frying hamburgers. Quite contrary to that the art of calligraphy comes up with a different working concept, implicitly asking the question of the value of work. Under the title of “2.2.1861” Danh Vo creates a framework for the festival with the performance “Last letter of Saint Theophane Venard to his father before he was decapitated copied by Phung Vo”, as well as with the talk with Dominic Eichler.

The festival’s main project is “Dong Xuan oder Frühling in Lichtenberg”. Two tours with several stops will lead along Herzbergstraße and the Vietnamese market halls of the Dong Xuan Centre. Tour A will focus on the halls. Tour B will also include the nearby high-rise slabs, as well as the hall’s surroundings in the street that was once highly industrialised. An interesting thing about the market venue is the symbiosis between the inhabitants of the district of Lichtenberg, among them many pensioners, and the merchants, creating an atmosphere as if one were in Hanoi in the halls that bear the same name.

“From the ruins of the GDR’s biggest electrical carbon factory the Dong Xuan market halls blossom: A spring meadow in full bloom – a reminiscence to Hanoi with its halls that bear the same name, over there in a former French colonial building, here Berlin’s Asian warehouse is in the stretched trade fair halls. Here the merchants stock up on tender artificial flowers and neon-pink underwear, Asian food, twinkling Christmas decoration, China-lamps and utensils for manicure. There are also massage and hair salons to complete the shopping experience – very popular among friends of shaved hair with ornaments. This is where the Vietnamese community of former contract workers communicates, works – and celebrates. In the permanent sadness of Lichtenberg’s slabs this is a trip to quite something different. While the oven of the working hero Hans Garbe, immortalised as “wage squeezer”, has long been shut down and is now being dismantled, the halls are stuffed with the objects of cheap producers from Asia and Arabia. The backstage of Vietnamese merchants, who used to run the sweet and sour Chinese and who are now in for pan-Asian lifestyle cuisine, the backstage of the kiosk owner, of the florist and the children generation of bi-national pupils and high-school graduates assembles biographies of diaspora and arrival in the hinterland of capitalism. All this on the digging grounds of German industrial history, on the wasteland of the GDR there are now blossoming shopping malls of a globalization, where working diligence and trade chain can be found when looking closely. As a panda, what do I do underneath the cows, is what Baly asks in Hall 1. An approach. A station drama between booth, ideological battles, the free internet platform “Talawas”, the fatal scissor-grasp of Vietnamese Kung Fu and the delicious Pho Bo soup afterwards.” (Gesine Danckwart, curator of “Dong Xuan oder Frühling in Lichtenberg”)

Tours with works by Phil Collins, Gesine Danckwart, Barbara Ehnes, Baly Nguyen, Nguyen Tan Hoang, Truong Ngu, Pham Thi Hoai, Rimini Protokoll, Susanne Sachsse/Marc Siegel and others.

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