top of page




How could ZOOM be done?

How could a performance be seen?

How could a ZOOM performance be read?

What could human connection through the digital medium be seen in this new normalcy?


1936 - my latest work during ARTEFACT #2 - is an invitation to encounters through ZOOM space.


During the research and development process of ‘1936’, I have learnt that: no matter where we are, prison only exists in our minds. There’s no prison that can control our imagination. Only if our minds are free, will freedom appear. There, our loneliness is transformed.


We talked, discussed and constructed the texts based on multi dialogues. We then ‘milled’ the texts through the act of typing, body movement and voices. Deconstructing then milling the texts, again and again. Reconstructing. Deconstructing. Constructing. Deconstructing. Building. That’s how this work was formed.


1936 ‘borrowed’ the stories of an ex-prisoner as one of the starting points of discovering a new language and researching a new approach to read a performance that contains the connection between human and human, human and medium. The core of this connection might be seen in the chaos of different languages such as: the movements of body, texts, sounds and voices that are limited due to Zoom’s  borderlines.


The spectator might acknowledge the intention of the neutral white space, half open, half closed, limited yet infinite, isolated yet accessible at the same time. There’s no personal mark in this space. You are in the middle of your imagination.


In 1936, I see ZOOM as a middle point that allows the encounters of different space dimensions and time ‘zones’. Despite many challenges, I found the right moments to combine these encounters with existing functions/effects in ZOOM. The operation in advance required to be done by the spectators before attending this special ZOOM space is counted as a part of the performance. The act of turning dp1936’s camera on and off all of a sudden, the constant intertwines of the spectators’ own views with two channels (the typist and dp1936) are considered ZOOM’s organic movements. 


The appearance of ‘movements’ are also seen in the layering of different spaces and times, of words and voices of the typist and dp1936 that were honestly extracted from ex-prisoner Tran Diem Phuong’s memories being told and my own imagination puffed out in the cabin fever I experience during multi Covid-19 waves in Hoi An, center of Vietnam. I lost my sense of the present and the future. I held on to the past. The words, the visuals, the sounds, the body in 1936, no matter whether they were layered, crossed or laid side by side nonsense, are all ‘installed’ with full intention to be able to unveil the self-reflection in different spaces. The connection between the cubes and the texts, between the body and the sounds, between the sounds and the shapes that help build up the dialogues of the characters (including the spectators), of past and present, is to bring out a question for the future. 


We didn’t manage to transform the texts, as well as the movements of dp1936 and the typist into a way too abstract thing that goes beyond reality. In fact, the body movements were all extracted from muscle memories, daily activities archived in the body, from the act of doing exercise to the act of knitting, grinding, connecting, tearing plastic bags into threads,....Except for one fact that, everything was happening in the prison. That’s where the obsession of normal gestures came from: the standing gesture while talking with other inmates, the forced sitting gesture while having an attendance call as well as the other acts that displayed the surveillance and invasion towards the body. 


Beside the movement language of body and ZOOM, I also explored the movement of sounds in the most simplistic way. Once you hear the typing sounds, the sound of water pouring, keychain tinkling, plastic bag rustling, can feel, without seeing, the movements of the fingers, and all the movements that you might imagine. The movements here are invisible.


1936 is the second chapter of my long-term project ‘Through the door then…’. This whole project has flighted me to a completely new land that opens up my understanding of movement languages, especially in its encounter with a new medium. Tra Nguyen, an experimental theater practitioner pointed out in my work that: “1936 is a performance of the medium, a dance of medium-as-a-space”. And to read a performance where the words are removed from the body, the ‘reader’ needs to focus on the kinetic and proximal signs. Moreover, the ‘reader’ needs to read all these signs in a dialogue - a dialogue of signs where ZOOM is the medium. Tra’s point is actually equivalent to the question of: “How could a dance happen in this theater/stage?” This question, perhaps, is my constant question while living in this project.


Hoi An, 6 November, 2021

Ngo Thanh Phuong


{Below are screenshots from the performance I’d love to use for FUSE, including description of each image}



(1) The typist movement



(2) The discovery of the act of walking, doing exercises





(3) Diem Phuong sat on the floor improvising movements based on the act of grinding, rolling, pulling, knitting,

threading.  When she was an inmate, she had to tear plastic bags into threads and spent hours grinding her

own knitting tools. to do knitting.

(4) In this screenshot, Diem Phuong was drawing on the camera. This movement was inspired by Diem

Phuong’s memories when she was an inmate confronting her family’s visits. She found out that she could

write down her thoughts on the papers and her family could take photos of them and read her words

after they left.






(5) This way of sitting is obsessive to Diem Phuong since she was forced to sit this way in the prison. When

she left that place, she avoided sitting this way. In 1936, dp1936 chose to sit this way to confront her past,

perhaps, her spectators and herself.





(6) The words are layered on one another to create different meanings when they stand on their own.

(7) In 1936, once dp1936’s camera was off, the screen of the spectator would appear. This ‘effect’ resulted

from Zoom’s modes of “Hide non-video participants” and “Side-by-side: Gallery” that the organizers had

requested the spectators to follow in advance.


(8) You might see the dialogues happening between two screens (we called them ‘two channels’) when

dp1936 stood still, moved forward or backward and ‘the typist’ (người đánh máy) pulled  out then in then

out different rectangles as if they were reacting to dp1936’s movements before their rebel happened

when dp1936 spoke out: “What do I want?” (Em muốn gì)

(9) Only if the white words were put in grey boxes, could the spectators acknowledge their appearance.

This situation resonated with Vietnam’s context since such words as “Freedom”, “prison’, ‘truth’,... are

considered ‘sensitive’ and highly censored to be spoken.

(10) ‘What do I want?’ (Em muốn gì?) appeared frequently throughout Diem Phuong’s diary. Sometimes,

this ‘question’ appeared when dp1936’s camera was on. Sometime, this ‘question’ appeared when

dp1936’s camera was off and replaced by the spectator’s view. Perhaps dp1936 was talking to herself or

the spectators. Perhaps the spectators were talking to themselves or to the sky or the other world.


bottom of page