514 West 24th Street
New York, NY 10011
September 5 – October 12
Galerie Richard is presenting the “Halong Series” by Dionisio González. The artist takes on the role of both photographer and architect by digitally urbanizing the free waters surrounding the Vietnamese islands in Halong Bay. The result is a surreal marine city featuring a mix of ordinary boathouses with modernist architecture.
The series emphasizes the possible transformations because of mass tourism on the picturesque Vietnamese locale. By inserting marine slums made up of intricately designed boats, González places the inhabitants in the optimal position to enjoy their own landscape. The new modernist constructions suggest a foreign influence without completely disrupting the original cultural element unique to Vietnam. The manipulations offer a renewed identity to Halong, not one marked by isolation as a protected untouched destination but rather as an active place connected with the rest of the world. Each house is attributed with a distinctive identity reflective of the occupants. This particularity along with the diverse architectures defies the usual idea of urban development. The way of life depicted in these photographs is merely witnessed from a voyeuristic perspective, thus the viewer is relegated to the role of a foreigner. While the lack of familiarity prevents the full empathization with this culture, it reveals a sense of wonder through the process of discovery. The suggestion of cross-cultural fusion does not generate a feeling of home, rather a longing to get closer.
Michel Foucault considered a boat to be the prime example of a Heterotopia. Defined as a physical localization of the Utopia, a Heterotopia is a concrete space that inhabits the imaginary. Dionisio González, like Le Corbusier with his unrealized drawings projects, proposes a visualization of this concept. The particular response to overpopulation, by proposing a socially diverse marine city complete with beautiful views shared by all, derives from a utopian perspective. Each house is a private paradise island with the ability to move freely within the society as well as beyond. The inhabitants of these slum houses and foreign modernistic architectures can be considered as whole populations outside of society. The desire to evolve and stay current with technological advances remains and is evident in the inhabitants’ homes that feature rendered architectural outbursts. Manifested through the organic forms of the structural interpolations are the residents’ aspirations for change and continuous growth. In these images, the juxtaposition of the two architectures suggests a rupture in time. A heterotopia can open or close itself, which makes it both accessible and isolated. The Heterotopias fill a function in relation with other spaces of societies as spaces of illusion or of perfection. González respectfully crafts and integrates alternative survival strategies into the modest amphibian living conditions. The solutions envisioned in the manipulations expose an anarchic potential that is equally imposing and enticing.