Co-organised by RMIT Vietnam and the Australia Vietnam Young Leadership Dialogue (AVYLD), the discourse event “Vietnam 2030: Towards a Sustainable Future” took place on 24 October and featured artist UuDam Tran Nguyen and curator Zoe Butt. Moderated by Rimi Khan (lecturer, RMIT Vietnam), the two discussed the connections between creativity, design, and sustainability in the modern context of Vietnam.
The conversation started with the definition and purpose of sustainability. While UuDam Tran Nguyen shared that sustainability could begin right with the creative process and its byproduct waste, Zoe Butt viewed the matter through a more metaphysical lens. From her perspective, “sustainability” is akin to understanding respect, something that applies to each individual and to the society as a whole. In a materialist world glorifying immediate reality and hedonism, the connection between the tangible (objects) and the intangible (respect, sustainability) becomes more important than ever. Only when realising the impact of the decisions of each individual will we have the awareness of and respect to ourselves, and thus be able to develop our surroundings, Zoe shared.
On Vietnam’s environmental matters, both speakers expressed their lack of satisfaction towards the shortcomings in the process of sustainable development and the protection of the country’s environment. Still, Zoe holds positive opinions on the solidarity of the Vietnamese in turbulent times, especially with regard to current sustainable development projects aiming to alleviate the severe flooding in the Central region. Something else that both pointed out was in relation to the overfocus on “recycling” rather than “reducing”. The fact that many products are branded as “recyclable” or “reusable nylon bags” makes us even more unaware and ignorant in the way we consume and why we do.
UuDam and Zoe both agreed that what truly matters is focusing on changing ourselves and our communities. As the latter put it, when society cares about the role of cultural balance with an emphasis on the variety of classes, a world with respect and sustainability would take shape.
Towards that vision, UuDam had developed a number of artistic projects aiming to raise community awareness, such as “Rong Ran Len” and “Eco-Di” – both expressing the artist’s viewpoints and his hope for a sustainable Vietnam. These works also integrate cultural images close to the heart of Vietnamese people – Thanh Giong, the slippers, amongst others. His bigger wish, he shared, was to create small changes that will gradually make impact – rather than sudden or forceful changes.
Sharing the same opinion, Zoe believed that we need to diversify the cultural activities in Vietnam. An ecosystem is needed for individuals, organisations and people from a broad spectrum of society to learn, discuss and work together towards sustainability. For our two speakers, visual art – the most vibrant, expressive form of creativity – is the way to go.
The talk ended with a Q&A session with interesting questions from the audience – “How can Vietnamese people reduce the use of nylon bags?”, or “How to get more people to use green products?”. Opinions were offered in an objective, cordial manner.