Judson-Morrissey 2022 Fellow: Bao Nguyen

Bao Nguyen (they/them) is an interdisciplinary artist, experimental vocalist and curator based in Baltimore,
Maryland and born in Vietnam. Their practice encompasses multimedia performance, sound art, vocal
improvisation, 3-d modeling and public art proposals. Driven by curiosity, they synthesize research on
communication practices such as whale echolocation, Vietnamese lullabies and prayer to contemplate and
reimagine Vietnamese history of nationalism, national trauma and sacred experiences.

Bao is a BFA candidate at the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore, Maryland. They co-curated “The End is Semipermeable,” an interactive, virtual exhibition and “A Quiet Transition,” a multi-day virtual program series. As a former member of the youth leadership program Teen Creative Agency at the Museum of Contemporary of Art Chicago, they co-organized 21-Minus, an annual festival of live arts created by Chicago youth artists. Bao has released “Vọng,” an EP of ambient, vocal music reflecting on ambiguous loss embedded in Vietnamese lullabies. Their forthcoming album “Rising,” is set to release in fall 2022.

Bao was a recipient of a 2022 Judson-Morrissey Excellence in New Media Award.

Tell us a little about your background and your trajectory as an artist and/or scholar.

I am currently studying at Maryland Institute College of Art with a major in interactive arts and a minor in
sound art. Through the program, I have a broad experience of basic coding, creating 3-D environment in
Unity, and music production. I am also a self-taught singer, focusing on vocal improvisation and the voice’s multifaceted potentials. I learn through researching, interviewing my family and synthesizing information while walking. For the future, I hope to create interactive, immersive experience that does not depend so much on using computer technology or using technology in a way that feels subtle, integrated and organic. My dream is to able to maintain an active practice balancing between different interests of being an experimental vocalist, immersive experience designer and curator.

What are some of your main influences?

Even though I don’t agree or enjoy Marina Abramovic’s work that’s much anymore. She is still the first
performance artist that opens my mind on how to work with human energy, human interaction and how to create art that is urgent and speak to the heart of the matter. Amina Ross is another artist that I deeply
admire. I am especially influenced by the way they weave together poetics, politics and technology together. Every time I see their work, I always find fresh insights about the world we live in. One last influence, Buddhism, especially taught by Zen teacher Thich Nhat Hanh, opens my worldview a lot. Specifically, Buddhist practice prompts me to see reality beyond binary and manufactured constructs. To see reality for what it is truly is.

New Media is …….

New media is innovation in how to communicate messages through communication technology.

What are you working on now?

I am devising a performance for an audience of one. The performance is an oracle in the form of a guided
walk in the wood that prompts the audience to consider how to find answer to a question they have through looking for clues and wisdom in nature. It combines conversation, dance movement, sound and vocalization to awaken our sense of wonder and openness to the unknown. Besides, I am maintaining a daily practice of recording myself singing in nature. These raw recordings will be combined into a concept album/artist box/artist book, together with graphic notations and artifacts. I am also working on another album “Arising” combing ambient, drone, field recording and extended vocal techniques. The album is a series of prayers. For the future, I am dreaming up a participatory concert in which I will perform the track from “Arising”. This concert will include a series of score that prompt audience to sing with me.

Do you have a collaborative idea that you want to get off the ground?

The concert! I am based in Baltimore and looking for venue to host the concert and co-dreamers to devise
the direction of the concert together. I also look for record label to release the concept album/artist
box/artist book. And I would love to talk to other experience designer, we can co-devise a performance

What is the most recent thing you’ve learned?

This Buddhist prayer “discourse on the absolute truth” is profound.