Dr Jane Gavan, Senior Lecturer in Visual Art at Sydney College of the Arts, The University of Sydney, has developed a series of artist-in-residence placements within a range of manufacturing communities in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.
By curating in-country collaborations between creative practitioners and organisations, Gavan's research seeks to offer opportunities for sustainable, innovative ways of raising productivity and valuing Vietnamese creativity.
This highly productive research project has culminated in an exhibition, Manufacturing Creativity, currently showing at Ho Chi Minh City Museum. The exhibition features design and artworks that use clean waste, factory materials and processes in new and unexpected ways.
Manufacturing Creativity aims to tell the story of how artists and designers have more opportunities to practise, boost potential innovation for firms and reduce waste in factories.
“People said it was impossible to get creatives into the factories but they underestimated how open companies are these days to innovation support,” said project leader, Dr Jane Gavan.
“Before UNESCO [the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization] took on supporting our research project in Vietnam, only a few artists had collaborated in factories. We showed them how to get in and get on effectively together.
“Manufacturing Creativity aims to tell the story of how artists and designers have more opportunities to practise, increase potential innovation for firms and reduce waste in factories. This is a triple bottom line result for them.”
Creative business partnerships have been formed between a wide range of manufacturers around Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and Bien Hoa. Companies involved include the Lap Phuong Shoe Company, Hami Plastics, Noi Pallet Furniture, Fulin Plastic, Naturecraft Ceramic and Rattan, Gao Nam Binh Rice, and Triac Composites. Phong Phu, the top textile company in Vietnam, is also involved, offering leadership and guidance on Vietnamese manufacturing.
The artists and designers in the project come from a wide range of backgrounds from Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, and include sculptors Lê Giang, Richard Streitmatter-Tran and Lai Dieu Ha; industrial designers Ngô Thị Thu, Khiết Giang, Nguyễn Huy; fashion designer Lương Thị Minh Hoa; and photographer Đào Hà.
“I love getting in there with the workers,” said artist Richard Strietmatter-Tran, of working with Triac Composites in Ho Chi Minh City. “After a while they started coming up with new ideas and suggestions. I could see it was very stimulating and enjoyable for them having me around. Using waste that was usually thrown away was also very satisfying for both of us.”
Dr Gavan, an expert on creative innovation in manufacturing, focuses on breaking down barriers between creatives and business people.
In 2016 she led the pilot program, Factories as Studios, a project that used factory waste from six partner manufacturers to make new design works in partnership with the University of Architecture Ho Chi Minh City. Now in partnership with UNESCO, activity is focused inside the factories for the first time.
The project is also gathering interest across Vietnam, especially in small and medium-size enterprises that often don’t have the resources to run innovation or research and development programs. The exhibition will show the public and stakeholders such as business groups, artists and designers how easy it is to connect for low-cost/no-cost, locally based, creative community collaborations. Creative works include furniture, ceramic and rattan wares, clothing, sculpture, installations and photographs.
“I had no idea how much we had in common – artists love solving problems just like we do,” said Mr Dang, of Hami Plastic Hanoi. “We both enjoy materials and processes. [Sculptor] Le Giang offered her skills like experimentation, fresh perspectives, creativity experience and communication skills.”
UNESCO Vietnam leads programs on preserving and developing broader engagement in culture and creativity in Vietnam. The University of Sydney, one of the top 50 Universities in the world, is a key destination for Vietnamese international students and collaborates in leading-edge research, including Creative Arts and Organisations led by Sydney College of the Arts. Dr Jane Gavan is the Sydney South East Asia Centre's Academic Representative at the University.