Hic Domus Est Dei, by Le Phi Long
Hic Domus Est Dei by the Vietnamese artist Le Phi Long studies the impact of French colonial history on Vietnamese identities through different sculptural and immersive installations.
A political approach
Le Phi Long studied architecture at the art school in Hué, the town where he was born. He graduated in 2012, and took up a residency in Hanoi at the eNAME Art Center, then the San Art independent art space in Ho Chi Minh and the Bamboo Curtain Studio in Taiwan in 2015. In 2017, the artist founded his art centre in Da Lat, MOI land.
Immersed in Buddhist philosophy, Le Phi Longendeavours to respect nature and considers how culture, politics and human behaviour bear on world harmony.
He has a varied and committed practice : painting – as can be seen in the series of 45 works on paper, created between 2017 and 2019, with the title San ban nhu mot an du chinh tri –, drawings, photography… The artist also creates installations and performances conceived in situ, as can be seen for the project How to fly, performed in 2018 in front of the former Labour Party building in Korea.
A religious work
The installation takes the shape of the bell tower of the Saint-Nicolas cathedral in Da Lat. Made up of the beams of old houses and tree trunks the artist has collected, the bell toweris decorated with stripsof yellow silk alluding to Bao Dai, the last emperor of Vietnam and supporter of independence. This Latin inscription, which normally features at the entrance of churches, can be read on the ground in limescale and chalk, and gave the work its name: « Hic Domus Est Dei », « This is God’s House ». Scents are diffused and music on the theme of Hallelujah complete the installation.
By re-sanctifying wood in his own way and engineering a ritual void of any form of coloniality, but conversely deeply rooted in nature, the artist seeks to defy the colonial idea of an exclusively Christian religion.
In four chapters
The Catholic Saint-Nicolas cathedral, built by French missionaries in Da Lat in 1931-32, formed one of the starting points for Hic Domus Est Dei.
The work came together in four successive installations: the first in 2018 in the heart of the Vietnamese forest, near Lake Tuyen Lam, then in Hanoi and Da Lat, and finally, in Paris, in the Bois de Vincennes park, in 2020.
The artist thus renews the view of patrimonial and religious works built using columns, and found in different areas of the former French Indochinese territory – in Saigon, Da Lat, Hanoi… As such it questions colonial presence and its influence on how Vietnamese identity is constructed.
From Paris to Vietnam
Le Phi Long was in residency at the Cité internationale des arts at the start of 2020, and studied Parisian religious structures, and particularly Notre-Dame-de-Paris, before presenting his installation in the Bois de Vincennes park near what was the colonial trial garden in the past, which has since become the Garden of Tropical Agronomy.
The artist willingly recognises the romantic impact of Paris on his imagination, influenced as much by colonial history as by culture in general.
This latest stage of his work Hic Domus Est Dei reveals persisting connections between the young generation and the former homeland.
Winner of the Institut français' residency program at the Cité internationale des arts, Le Phi Long completed his residency in Paris in early 2020.