This artistic event by itself contains all possibilities of powerful reactions. Because even though the Temple of Literature is the place of the worship of Confucius and especially the place where Chinese tourists could witness the glory of their country’s culture of expansion, but the National University, founded under the times of Lí Đạo Thành for the purpose of training future mandarins with Chinese classical texts, was at the same time the precursor of the modern Vietnamese universities of today and the place where the people of Vietnam show their respects before the achievements of the national culture.
The “desacralization” of the Temple of literature, as well as the cut-off its holy radius and the open search for another interpretation, is at any time considered as an act against the cult of cultural idols – the phrase “against the cult of idols” is perhaps not felicitous, because it reminds people of the fact that the Orthodox Church of Christianity forbade the artistic representation within the sanctuary since the middle of the eighth century, whereas there are here only the race of art against the statues of Confucius, Mencius, and so on… and the call for other steps into this museum-park.
The above action renders ineffective the place occupied by the Temple of Literature in national history, demanding the spectators another view and their much more valiant effort to approach the work of art. At first we only see a meaningless chaos because the meaning could only be obtained by the viewers – the viewers create the meaning, it could not be given by the Temple of Literature – and the viewers feel confused because they are forced to participate to a completely new dialogue. And thus the two artists have broken the system of ideas ruled by the state, because the state has the monopoly in the determination of the Temple of Literature’s meaning.
(Patrick Raszelenberg was a researcher at the Institute of Asian Studies in Berlin. There he worked at the German Academic Exchange Agency in Hanoi.)