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Special Exit Interview: ABN Chats with Trong

June 21, 2010

Trong explains his project on episode 2. (c)Bravo

“Work of Art” contestant Trong Nguyen wasn’t surprised when he was eliminated after episode two, but in a conversation with ABN, he shares his worries about the show and if is accurately reflects the art world, as well as what he really thought of Miles’ comment during the critique session.

Trong, originally from Vietnam, currently lives and works as an artist, curator and writer in Brooklyn, N.Y. Trong has exhibited his work at galleries around the world, including solo shows at the Fruit & Flower Deli in New York and Galerie Quynh in Vietnam.  He has also participated in group exhibitions at the Freies Museum in Berlin and many more. Currently, he is working on his “art-as-business” project, Humanitarians as Heroes, which creates one product a year designed for mass distribution and consumption.

—Interview by Catherine Klene, ABN Contributor

ABN: What was going through your mind when during your critique and when you heard the judges’ decision?

Trong: During the actual critique, which was that part that you saw on TV, I felt that it was a little strange because we had an extra judge on the episode.  We had five judges, and I thought the critique of my work was so one-sided that it just felt really odd to me.

I felt that five people, with very strong opinions about everything, there’s no way that they could think so unanimously. I thought that was a little strange. In terms of being eliminated, I was not surprised after what was said.  I don’t agree with what they said about the work and what it was about and all those things.

ABN: How has your experience on the show influenced you as an artist and from business perspective?

Trong: All those things are such long-term things, and I think that’s the difficult part about doing a show about the art world because it really is a lifelong endeavor, and there’s nothing fast about it. I’m not really doing anything different from what I normally do as an artist, you know? I mean, I went into Manhattan this morning and had lunch with a friend, that kind of thing, and nothing’s changed in that regard. I’m here stuck in my studio and I’ve gotten quickly back my routine.

There’s definitely been more dialogue and more people wanting to be friends on Facebook, that kind of thing, but in terms of business, I don’t think I’ve noticed anything since the show came out that’s been directly related to the show.

ABN: A lot of our readers are artists, and they wanted to know how do you promote yourself as an artist?

Trong: There are certain things that you can do that prepare you for when opportunity happens, such as always having your artist’s statement, resume, images of work and having all those things updated and ready to go. Whether your entering a competition or auditioning for a reality show, it’s really important to always have those things in order for when the opportunity arises. I’m pretty involved with shows, not all the time, but there are certain instances where they require material ASAP, and you always have to be prepared for that because its an opportunity that could be lost if your not prepared.  And then the rest, you let it happen kind of organically.

"What Would Tom Friedman Do?" by Trong (c) Bravo

ABN: Hindsight is 20/20.  Looking back at your piece from episode two, would you have done anything differently with that piece? Were you satisfied with it?

Trong: I thought the piece had substance to it, and if someone didn’t like it, I can’t control that. If I made the piece over, it would be a completely different piece, but in terms of the piece I chose to make, there’s nothing about it I would change.

ABN: What about the Tom Friedman inside joke? There were comments made during the critique session that it was too insular. Are you still happy with that decision as well?

Trong: Completely. I feel like everybody there is an insider, so it was just like “(You) all pretend that you’re not?” I wasn’t put on this show so I can appeal to a mass audience, you know? I’m there to make work, and I’m there to make work that relates to what I’m interested in, and I know that these people ultimately would get these references, and there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s like doing a show about dentistry or something. It’s not going to be as interesting to a real dentist because it’s not serious stuff.

ABN: I was shocked when Miles made a comment during your judging session. What was your reaction to that? Do you think it affected the judges’ decision at all?

Trong: I don’t know that it affected all the judges’ decision or not because I felt like it was such a harsh critique already, and Miles said that during the critique and I thought it was such a strange reaction because in all my years in school as a lecturer and as an artist I’d never seen an artist behave like that. The first thing that actually went through my mind was, “Is this guy an actor?” I thought, “Why would someone say that?” because they had went through it already, and it just didn’t add anything constructive to a critique that was already completely unconstructive. I didn’t feel like that critique was constructive at all. I felt like I brought up a lot of points that the critics didn’t really address.

ABN: I know ABN readers were sad to see you go.  We really enjoyed your work. Is there anything else you’d like to add?


Trong: We’ve only had two episodes so far, and I think just watching it from home I feel like it’s a bit distorting of what the art world actually is. I’m hoping that that gets swiveled at some point because I feel like there are so many good things that the art world has to say and all these great personalities on the show who hopefully will be a part of that world if they’re not already … I’m not convinced that’s going to happen, but I’m hopeful.

ABN: I know that was a big question when the show came out was how are you going to make a reality competition show with art because art is so diverse, especially the artists on the show. Are you worried about that, and do you think the right artist will come out on top in the end?

Trong: I am worried about that actually because I feel like there are very glaring works that were produced already in the two episodes that I felt really deserved the bottom three that were not in it. I am a little bit worried about that for the show.

ABN: Thank you so much for taking the time, Trong, and we wish you all the best and look for to seeing more from you.

Trong: Thanks to everyone for watching, and come to New York and see some real art shows.

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