Crystal Clouds Over Vietnam

Those fortunate enough to have ever visited Crystal Worlds in Wattens, Austria, will have been mesmerized by the sparkling clouds floating low in the sky over a lake beneath. This isn’t a miracle of nature peculiar to Swarovski HQ—Crystal Cloud is a monumental outdoor installation by artists Andy Cao and Xavier Perrot. From the moment they completed the Wattens project in 2015 they dreamed of creating another haze of shimmering clouds in Cao’s home country, Vietnam. A chance encounter with architect Pham Duong made their dream a reality: Travelling Crystal Cloud was set to fly across the world.
Swarovski Crystals Shine in Public Art by CAO PERROT
Doi Mam Xoi is a high plateau in the “valley of a thousand steps” in La Pan Tan Mu Cang Chai. A National Heritage Site, it’s already one of the most photographed places in Vietnam’s Northern Highlands. But from May 19 to May 31st during Mùa Nước Đỗ (irrigating rice paddies), it will be featuring in thousands more Instagram feeds, as CAO PERROT’s Travelling Crystal Cloud (La Pán Tẩn) fills the sky above step upon step of rice terraces. The award-winning artists are known for their hands-on approach, one that blurs the line between art and landscape. So, after observing the Hmong farmers tending the paddy fields, they were convinced that their ephemeral new public artwork should be a close collaboration with the local community. This temporary installation of hand-sculpted crystal-filled clouds—the first of its kind in Vietnam—would continue the ancient tradition of sculpting the land and highlight the beauty of all things handmade.

To make the crystal clouds, they flooded clusters of wire mesh with nearly 60,000 Swarovski crystals. These were perched atop a forest of randomly placed posts made from gleaming galvanized steel. Opened on May 19 to mark the 128thbirthday of President Hồ Chí Minh. The intention is that visitors will be able to see the twinkling light from the crystals light reflected in the ponds before locals plant their seedlings. Once May is over, the terraces are a brilliant green until the ripening rice turns them yellow in early September.

For Cao and Perrot, “the ultimate luxury is to be immersed in the presence of light and silence.” It’s thanks to their vision that so many more people can enjoy such luxury.

CAO PERROT Traveling Crystal Cloud was made possible by generous contributions from Sao Thai Duong and Swarovski, Lê Vit Hà (ASHUI), Phm Thành Dương (Architects Association of Yên Bái City), AA Corporation, Hoà Bình Corporation, Trn Văn Tn, Trn Văn Châu (Kelly – Moore Vietnam), Nguyn Sanh Đính, Nhà Dân Architects, Q Bar Saigon, Tôn Đông Á, HAWA, CARA Lighting, Casa Bella; the People’s Committee of Yen Bai Province; the People’s Committee of Mu Cang Chai district; the Hmong Commune of La Pan Tan; and the support of many friends and volunteers.


Photography: Cao Perrot