Be selective and careful with the people you choose to work with. The world needs artists to get involved but they are sensitive beings and not everyone knows how to approach life with the gentleness needed. Show people what is possible when they act with care.
As a part of our series about “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I First Became An Artist” I had the pleasure of interviewing Mr. Bambii.
Mr.Bambii (Chinese — Vietnamese b.1993) is a multimedia artist and poet based in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Originally a poet and a performance artist, he soon turned to sculpting with wax as a way to fully realize his emotive poetry. Besides being a poet, performer, and sculptor, he founded and ran the contemporary underground art space 289e in 2019–2021, and started the Ao Hõi Fine Art Museum in 2022.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
To be honest, I’d consider myself as still growing up at age 30. Like a lot of artists, I had my own childhood traumas to overcome, and it’s something I’m still working on. Discovering performance as a way for me to live out my poetry and meeting my partner have both been big turning points in my life. I didn’t go to art school, but rather my practice has evolved naturally with me. As I’ve grown up I’ve also grown as an artist and love where I am working with wax now.
Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?
I often say I think this career chose me. It couldn’t have been otherwise. Perhaps I could have become something else other than an artist, but I didn’t. As I say, I was born an artist, as I was born a gay man. There’s no other way for me to be.
Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
I love seeing people starstruck at my work. I’ve been sculpting for three years now, and I’m proud to say I’m a sold-out sculptor. It’s been fun to enjoy the freshness of these times, but in life, things do change and I’m a different person than I was three years ago. I think my work tells the story of me and reflects that.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
Right now I am excited about the future of my personal practice, and my latest institutional venture. In 2022, I founded what I believe to be the first private art museum in Saigon: The Ao Hõi Fine Art Museum, open to the public by appointment. The museum, located in District 7, includes a range of historical and contemporary art objects for viewing.
In the past, as a performance artist, I have performed at multi-disciplinary events with other performers and dancers, such as the one at CAB in Hoi An two years ago. It was a memorable collaboration and an example of what I would like to pursue more of in the future.
Who are some of the most interesting people you have interacted with? What was that like? Do you have any stories?
I feel lucky for all the sweethearts and amazingly talented friends I find myself lucky to be around. The artworld here in Vietnam is built on friendship so I have lots of interesting people in my life.
Where do you draw inspiration from? Can you share a story about that?
I have been a poet for as long as I can remember. Then, it was two of my artist friends that pushed me into having a reading at a gallery and started following the performance art scene. My art inspired my other art in this case as I was driven to find new ways to showcase my poetry. It’s the story of how I started the never-ending process of sculpture-making.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I think my role as an arts organizer is where I have been most successful at bringing goodness to the world. With the independent contemporary art space and bar, 289e, we had huge success from 2019–2022 before the pandemic caused the space to close. During those years we were even featured in an article from The New York Times and helped the careers of more than 100 artists of all mediums.
It’s important to adapt to what is needed and what is possible at the time though. So rather than try to restart 289e after covid I came up with The Ao Hõi Fine Art Museum, I like to be fun and inventive when it comes to space so the museum is actually part of my current home residence, and visitors can make a booking with me online. The museum collection features many contemporary artists so it’s a great way for people to connect and discover more about the art scene here in Vietnam.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- You have to value and protect your work at all costs before anyone else even can.
- You are going to be an artist until you are no longer living, so don’t rush yourself with your work.
- Be selective and careful with the people you choose to work with. The world needs artists to get involved but they are sensitive beings and not everyone knows how to approach life with the gentleness needed. Show people what is possible when they act with care.
- Don’t be afraid to explore yourself and experiment with your work.
- Don’t limit yourself to one form when you can take many. You don’t have to fit in just one box.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I would want to inspire a culture of asking your date to meet up at museums and art galleries to make life a more colorful experience. And I also suggest you buy art for your family and close friends. Art makes the best gift.
We have been blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she just might see this.
Yoko Ono, I have lots of questions for her — the icon who survived it all.
What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?
You can find all my socials on my website mrbambii.website or follow @mrb.ambii on Instagram.
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!
Mr Bambii: 5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I First Became An Artist was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.