Talk With Trần Thảo Miên – Linh Trịnh: Is The “Naughty Duster” Really “Naughty”?

On 21.11.2022, the creative pair of Trần Thảo Miên – Linh Trịnh had the opportunity to sit down and have an in-depth conversation with VFCD audiences of VFCD about their project “Thật Hư” (Naughty Duster) in the Creativity Challenge Playground.

The pair said that the chicken feather duster “Thật Hư” would become a part of “Stillness Corner”, a larger and longer-term project launched by Collective SŌNSŌN in 2020. The duster came to life with the idea “an object is needed to clean up the Stillness Corner”, which can both be used for playing and as an object to contemplate how children are raised in the family, and the role of women.

“Thật Hư” bears great meaning in respect of feminism. The duster represents mothers and grannies, the Vietnamese women with one hand on their hips, the other holding the dusters and managing every matter in the family. The pair turned that image to a more modern feminist perspective, no longer rigid but can be pliant, elegant and graceful by replacing the usual bamboo or wooden handle with a more elastic one using rattan.

Beyond the scope of feminism, the feather duster has inadvertently become a symbol of domestic violence. During their research, the pair discovered that feather duster is a children’s nightmare! It is because our ancestors were spontaneous and too creative in teaching their children, from using an object that is for cleaning the altar to “whatever is convenient” for punishment. So in addition to cleaning, the chicken feather duster became an object used to discipline and scare children in the family.

Explaining the title “Thật Hư”, designer Linh Trịnh said, this was a question that has been posed multiple times since the pair started working on the project. The two artists explained that “Thật Hư” was both a wordplay and a contrast to the shape, design and especially the idea that “misbehaving leads to punishment”. “Thật Hư” is also truth (sự thật) and nothingness (hư vô). In this work, the pair wanted no boundaries in terms of use, demonstrating multitasking and multiple different uses depending on different cases.

Apart from the genuine footage recording the process and challenges they encountered, the two artists also answered questions from the audience about how the project would be developed in the future. On how to upgrade “Thật Hư”, the creative pair said that they were inspired by the idea of ​​creating items with softness and allowing excellent touch sensations.

Answer an audience’s question on “What creates creativity?”, material artist Trần Thảo Miên said, “Creativity is making something new and constantly questioning whether the new is better than the old.” Designer Linh Trịnh took a step further, saying, “Creativity is a flow, a rotation. When the artist practices creativity and asks questions, their spiritual power and creative energy will soar.”

“Wrapping up” the conversation, VFCD audiences were brought back in time by designer Linh Trịnh and found the way back to their own childhood memories, where there was always a child who needed to be hugged after the scoldings and the beatings from parents and grandparents. The pair of artists wished that, with “Thật Hư” feather duster, one can also sympathise with their loved ones, because inside, each of them also has a child who experienced domestic violence and is desperately in need of pampering.

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Minh Hằng