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Thật Hư – Removing The Prejudice Against Domestic Violence By “Reimagining” The Feather Duster

In Creativity Challenge 2022, the pair of Trần Thảo Miên and Linh Trịnh presents a concept that will evolve Thật Hư series of installations inspired by the feather duster. 

The feather duster has been a familiar item to cleaning out dust and spiderwebs in Vietnamese families for hundreds of years. However, with the reason “Spare the rod and spoil the child”, this cleaning tool is given a new function as a cane to spank bad-behaving children, rather than for cleaning. This age-old lifestyle has made the tool unofficially a symbol of domestic violence covered by soft feathers. 

With Thật Hư (Naughty duster), the artists reimagine the original design as a slender and beautiful object worthy of display and contemplation, thus removing the negative connotation with a positive and graceful one. Replacing the stiff traditional feather duster with a slender, elaborately carved handle, the artwork is almost a reminder for parents in the way they teach their children, to be light as a feather yet graceful and steady as a silver-lined lacquer. The slender, elastic staff also serves as a reminder for the flexible yet determined way of conduct in the family. 

The slender, elastic staff also serves as a reminder for the flexible yet determined way of conduct in the family

Material for the project is primarily sourced from traditional craft villages, such as Triều Khúc Village (famous for feather dusters), Hạ Thái Village (lacquering) and Đại Bái Village (bronze carving finish), which shows the team’s desire for a sustainable creative future for local culture, regenerating traditional techniques with modern design. 

On the other hand, Thật Hư embodies the humble yet powerful Vietnamese woman, directing everything big and small in the house, rather than the satirical images of a hot-tempered woman holding a duster shouting at her husband and children, or “cussing noodles” and “scolding porridge” in popular culture. Thật Hư duster will be a part of Góc Tĩnh Tại (Stillness Corner, First prize and Audience choice of Vietnam Design Week 2020) which represents the Vietnamese modern living space. In Stillness Corner, a Vietnamese woman relaxes on the rattan mat, gracefully holds Thật Hư duster in her hand and directs the family business large and small. This makes the perfect counterpart to the well-worn image of the man being the pillar of the family, tough as wood. The matriarch of Sonson is charming behind the thin curtains with a light, soft yet powerful feather duster. This elegant object is a reminder of the dignified way of being – not through violence but with empathy. This embodies the flexible and harmonious Taoist philosophy that is ingrained in the Vietnamese way of living.

Artist Trần Thảo Miên & Designer Linh Trịnh working with traditional artisanal materials

The artists plans to produce a series of prototypes, each will be a combination of at least two traditional handicraft techniques. Thật Hư is both revealing and subtle, witty with many layers of meanings about behaviours in a family and the role of women in the modern society. By adding new values to a fading traditional everyday object, they hope to initiate a sustainable cycle in designing our future tradition and enriching the appreciation for art and design in the community. 

Thật Hư is both revealing and subtle, witty with many layers of meanings about behaviours in a family and the role of women in the modern society.

The pair is perfecting their concept and expecting to start the production process in early September.

Artist Trần Thảo Miên

Year of birth: 1991

Fields of operation: Visual art, Design

Trần Thảo Miên studied Surface Textiles at London College of Fashion. Since her graduation in 2013, she has been working in the fashion industry in UK and in Hanoi until 2017. Most of her works are created from materials discarded during fashion production. As of current, she is the co-founder of Sonson Collective, an artists’ collective who wants to create sustainable living spaces. 

In arts, Miên explores the role of individual creatures on Earth with the age-old belief of the Vietnamese “everything has a soul”. Her works are “as clear as my sincerity towards nature, soft and gentle, aiming for smoothness and freedom, like water”.

Designer Linh Trịnh

Year of birth: 1990 

Fields of operation: Visual art, Design

Linh Trịnh graduated from Lasalle College of the Arts Singapore and The Open University UK in 2012, Her works focus on sustainability and the harmony between people – community – nature. Inspired by the local culture and knowledge of ethnic groups in the mountainous areas, Linh studies manual print making and natural fabric dyeing, and convey these messages through the works of Collective Sonson.

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02 / 09 / 2022

WRITER
Bi Xu