BANH CHUNG

by Chi Vu

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BANH CHUNG

by Chi Vu

Banh Chung is an installation-performance that confronts the legacy of colonialism, war and mass migration. Banh Chung draws on traditional culinary practices, mythical legends and historical events associated with Tet. It invites visitors to experience three narrative strands that are carried via headphones as a series of sound plays.

Audience members are welcomed to the space at timed intervals by a performer who’s preparing the banh chung cake. Through audio instructions they’re invited to move, sit or stand in different areas within the space. The work is a meditation on impermanence where the audience are themselves prepared and transformed.

The narratives all occur around the Lunar New Year, but in different circumstances. The three main narrative strands are:

Tet in Ancient Vietnam
Drawing on a Vietnamese legend, this is a comic retelling of the invention of the banh chung cake by an impoverished Prince. Its ingredients symbolise the interrelationship between heaven, community and the individual. The narrative climaxes with a “Bamboo Chef”-style cooking-competition that sees the Prince defeat his decadent brothers to reign over mythical Vietnam.

Tet ‘68
A mother and her 14 year old son are trapped in their home during the Tet Offensive of 1968 in the Imperial City of Hue. During the night, two soldiers come knocking on their door in search of able-bodied men for a grisly task, which forces the mother to make an impossible choice.

Tet in Australia/ Diaspora
On New Year’s Eve, two lovers reunite after a long separation due to war and migration. The two are allegorical characters, Time and the Lover, who reminisce about what could have been and explore what may be to come. The dialogue is sparse and elliptical, in the tradition of Theatre of the Absurd, to expose the existential condition of those living between two cultures.