Kicking off our Mark Your Wall #CONNECT Series is David Kaye the Branding and Marketing Director for Wink Hotels and a prominent figure in Saigon's thriving arts scene. He has been busy creating out-of-this-world events and collaborating with some of the biggest artists in Vietnam. And today we chat with him to find out what he’s been up to, what art means to him and listen to his curated music playlist that was inspired by the color palette of Mark Your Wall’s Wall #204.
What have you been up to these days David?
I recently joined Happiness Saigon as Chief Influence Officer. And with award-winning restaurateur Vinh Q. Le and design legend Tuan Le from The Lab Saigon, launched the guerilla media company 70K (named in tribute to the Saigon postcode) back in April.
We began the Wink journey with a brand launch in Hanoi featuring My Anh, Levi Oi, Monotape and Annam – it’s really important that the brand is rooted in community and culture which is why we chose those artists. Then we opened the first of twenty Wink Hotels at 75 Nguyen Binh Khiem with a pajama party. Over 100 people rolled through in their sleepwear. I’m obsessed with details. For this event I wanted to create a warm, nonthreatening vibe – really important considering the dress code. That meant everyone had to follow the rules, and I even dressed up our video crew in dinosaur pajamas so they didn’t feel intrusive. The result was beautiful: people dancing, doing the conga, smiles everywhere, well after we were supposed to finish.
With 70K our outlandish ideas led me to think we came from the future. So the theme of the launch party, in the cool Hoa Tay Space in the old apartment building on Ky Con, was 70K CAME FROM OUTER SPACE. Again, everyone had to follow the code, dressing as aliens, astronauts, or androids. The Gerdnang and Hustlang rap crews threw down. Nodey, Tri Minh and UncleBOO played crazy sets, and when the police finally closed us down – it was pretty loud – it all felt part of the show and no one seemed to mind.
COVID hit, and the magazine side of 70K had a stalled launch. Seeing this city we love, and that we’re named after, traumatized by COVID, on 1st October we did a Livestream: 70K LIVE FROM THE CONVENIENCE STORE. In total, 17 artists and DJs recorded sets that we streamed from 19:00 to 00:00. Partners Paradise4Saigon created fake TV ads that we showed in the breaks between artists. And Crazy Monkey created this virtual store, Circle 70K. We’re preparing some more eccentric events right now.
With Happiness, our first project was for Tuborg. We called it ‘The Love Rap Challenge’. We kicked off with an event featuring Tao and VSoul. Then we got rappers to create raps inspired by the hidden messages under Tuborg bottle caps. We smashed the campaign KPIs, thanks to videos posted by Blacka, Lil'Wuyn, Rapital crew, and many more. Somehow we completed the project at the height of COVID, and finished with a Livestream by BCTM’s Dick and Kho Me.
That Sounds exciting! In your opinion, what is it that Art/Colors could express what words cannot?
Literacy is a learned system. And a relatively recent one, maybe it’s been around since the Sumerians in 3000 or 4000 BC. In August, there was a story that the markings in a cave in Spain were made by humans over 60,000 years ago (which is) far earlier. So our need to create art and our reaction to it both precede the written word. I guess the schism between conceptual and figurative art alienates people. I’ve heard many exclaim while looking at an abstract artwork, “But what does it mean?!” Then, unthinkingly, they’ll continue to explain how the picture makes them feel, what impact the colors have on them and what meaning the shapes represent to them. And that’s the point. We relate to art in a personal way.
I always think of that quote attributed to performance artist Laurie Anderson, “talking about music is like dancing about architecture.” Trying to define art in words is destined to fail, and maybe missing the point. I had these transcendent moments watching Noh Theatre when I lived in Japan. It’s a highly codified theatrical performance with costumes and masks and it’s sung with these otherworldly voices usually in a dramatic location – the last one I saw was performed at a ruined castle under a full moon. Even Japanese people don’t understand a lot of the language. And it doesn’t matter?
You've curated a Spotify playlist for us inspired by the color palette from Wall #204. Tell us what thoughts or feelings you had when picking those tracks.
The colors reminded me of this austere era in early Grime so I wanted to capture some of those bare, metallic sounds from artists like Ruff Squad. There was also a warmth to the colors, so I wanted to include vocals, so you have a remix of Dizzee Rascal’s ‘I Luv U’ and Trim’s ‘Before I Lied’. I think Trim’s one of the most underrated MCs and his originality and weirdness inspires me: “They said the flow seems as weird as f**k, and I need to pretend to be someone else to get this money.” Lots of the tracks combine Grime influences with Asian strings and other elements, like Fatima Al Qadiri’s ‘Szechuan’.
The textures in the image of wall 204 also reminded me of caves. So I wanted to capture the ecstatic vibe of emerging from the darkness, like the tracks by Darkstar and Mount Kimbie. I wanted to connect to my personal journey too here. So there’s Japanese drill from Hideyoshi, and Anh Phan’s ‘Phú Quý Bò Viên’, a clear sign that Vietnamese hip hop is evolving.
In the end, we wind down with Alice Coltrane’s spiritual jazz classic, as we head back to the cave after a long day.
Thank you David!