Tiffany Chung (Vietnam/USA) is noted for her cartographic drawings, sculptures, videos, photographs, and theater performances that examine conflict, migration, displacement, urban progress and transformation in relation to history and cultural memory. Based in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Vietnam, she is one of the region’s most respected and internationally active contemporary artists. Her work was recently featured in the Venice Biennale, in the exhibition All the World’s Futures in the Arsenale, with an installation of 40 map-based drawings relating to the ongoing crisis in Syria. The works’ richly detailed surfaces, with jewel-like tones rendered in ink and paint stick on translucent vellum, belie their somber thematic content charting the country’s ever expanding cycles of violence and refugee displacement.
Chung’s interest in imposed political borders and their traumatic impacts on different groups of human populations has underpinned her commitment to conducting an ongoing comparative study of forced migration – through both the current Syrian humanitarian crisis and the post-1975 mass exodus of Vietnamese refugees, of which she herself was a part. At Art Basel Hong Kong 2016, she presented the international debut of the first part of The Vietnam Exodus project, with an installation of new works focusing on the experiences of Hong Kong’s Vietnamese refugee community. Cartographic drawings – addressing such issues as the international flows of refugees, demographic statistics, and the network of detention centers and refugee camps in Hong Kong – are shown alongside a multi-media wall installation incorporating images, written inscriptions, videos, and electronic texts. By unpacking the Vietnamese refugees’ experiences and tackling the asylum policies applied towards them in the past, the project aims to give insights into the impact of constant shifts in asylum policy-making on already traumatized and distressed people, particularly those from the current global refugee crisis.
Chung’s work studies the geographical shifts in countries that were traumatized by war, human destruction, or natural disaster. Her map drawings layer different periods in the history of devastated topographies, reflecting the impossibility of accurately creating cartographic representations of most places. Transgressing space and time, these works unveil the connection between imperialist ideologies and visions of modernity. Her maps interweave historical and geologic events – and spatial and sociopolitical changes – with future predictions, revealing cartography as a discipline that draws on the realms of perception and fantasy as much as geography. Exploring world geopolitics by integrating international treaties with local histories, Chung’s work re-maps memories that were denied in official records. Based on meticulous ethnographic research and archival documents, her work excavates layers of history, re-writes chronicles of places, and creates interventions into the spatial narratives produced through statecraft.
In 2016, Chung’s work featured in eleven museum exhibitions and biennials on four continents, including: Insecurities: Tracing Displacement and Shelter, Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY; EVA International – Ireland’s Biennial; Illumination, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebæk, Denmark; Demarcate: Territorial Shift in Personal and Societal Mapping, San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art, San Jose, California; The XIII Bienal de Cuenca, Ecuador. She was awarded the 2013 Sharjah Biennial Prize honoring her exceptional contribution to the biennial. In the United States, she has presented four solo shows at Tyler Rollins Fine Art (2008, 2010, 2012, 2015) and has appeared in such museum exhibitions as: My Voice Would Reach You, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (2014); California Pacific Triennial, Orange County Museum of Art (2013); and Six Lines of Flight, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (2012). Chung is a co-founder of Sàn Art, an independent, artist-initiated, non-profit gallery space & reading room in Ho Chi Minh City.