“Đèn Kéo Quân” project is an experimental program on moving image by APD – Center for Art Patronage and Development. The program is joined by a number of students and young artists who together have participated directly and thoroughly in the process of creating an experimental video: from developing an idea/concept, finding materials to discussing, analyzing, making the artwork; and installing and presenting the work in a specific space.

Starting point

Inspired by a fascinating folk game that has evolved through the course of time until very recently. Đèn kéo quân (magic lantern) is a traditional toy made of paper, bamboo, wood, or peanut oil lamps, which was very popular from the countryside to the cities (there is a tale). The lantern is usually hung during the Mid-Autumn Festival. There are also other kinds made of wood, inlaid with elaborated patterns, which are quite popular living room decorations hung in middle / upper-class feudal families.

Because of its visual appeal and interesting story, not only do people buy it but they also try to make their own lanterns with limited materials. Many come up with their own story and design.

The lantern tells a story with imagery in the form of shadow puppetry. The groups of glowing people and animals inside the lantern, enlarged through colored lights run around, imprinting shimmering movement on the walls. The stories usually are about epic historical events of war, dragon dance, lion dance. Later they added more, such as: four dancing spirits, farmer with plough, and even Vietnamese soldiers chasing the French army, etc. Đèn Kéo Quân and Rối bóng (shadow puppet) can be seen as the precursors of film.


Đèn kéo quân has become a folklore item, being improvised and developed over time, it shows the possibility in recreating new versions of today’s society. The image of ride-hailing drivers “running like a magic lantern” in the context of today’s society gradually adjusting to the market economy, is reinforced by technological development and the economic downturn stimulated by the coronavirus pandemic. A shipper’s fate and future are indeed uncertain. The story of these transportation service workers makes sense to create a contemporary version of đèn kéo quân.

About the work

After almost 8 months (from July 2021 to February 2022), a group of 6 young artists had gone through stages: discussing their interests, choosing a working medium and constructing a body structure; selecting subjects and locations; documenting, peer reviewing, discussing and critics; editing video and audio; writing text and building structure for auxiliary factors.

The final video installation consists of 4 screens adjacent to each other forming a rectangular prism with 4 groups of shippers with distinct appearance, function and component. The main characters of the city landscape during Covid-19 are always in the center of the frame with the goods they have to deliver.

Everything in this video work is in motion: the shippers, the goods, the background and of course, the cameraperson! However, with planned speed and distance, it seems like the shipper and the goods “park” right in front of the viewer. It feels like sitting in a slow-moving train and looking out of the window at vehicles passing at the same speed. The artists have given us an opportunity to ‘gaze’ at the workers who are all too familiar, but little have we noticed and much have we known about them. The wind keeps hissing, the pandemic and potential accidents are always lurking around the corner. Worse things have happened:  temporary travel ban and loss of jobs.

Above all – what  Kéo quân still inherits from the traditional đèn kéo quân – is showing an aesthetic indigenous image of the working class, regardless of their difficult circumstances, shining through a distinctive point of evolution. Color harmonization and image shaping are not only typical of the working class but also reflecting on the overall perspective of contemporary pop culture.

Gratitude towards the art and the artists for looking out for them with attentiveness. Pretty sure each of us will see ourselves somewhere in between the lines.

What are the anonymous “hero” shippers thinking? Worrying about? for?

And where to go?

Kéo quân 

2021 – 2022

4-channel video installation, loop, HD, color, sound 

Artists: Lê Tú Anh, Hoàng Thảo, Nguyễn Thị Diệp, Trần Mạnh Hiệp, Nguyễn Minh Thành, Lê Thu Minh


Installation images