An archaeological process applied to the concepts of urban planning and the production of space is the main focus of Thủ Thiêm: an archaeological project for future remembrance, Tiffany Chung’s exhibition at Lumiar Cité, her first in Portugal.
The exhibition, curated by Maumaus artistic director Jürgen Bock in cooperation with Johann Jacobs Museum Zurich, also marks Maumaus’ first showing of an Asian artist at its exhibition space in Lumiar. As an independent organisation founded in 1992 with financial support from the Ministerió da Cultura/Direção-General des Artes, it also runs a ‘think-tank’ independent study programme for artists keen to add an academic component to their oeuvres.
Image 1. Tiffany Chung, erasure begins from the will to knowledge, 2013. Recovered windows from demolished houses. Installation view.
Image 1a. Tiffany Chung, erasure begins from the will to knowledge, 2013. Recovered windows from demolished houses. Installation view.
None of Chung’s works exhibited here is new. The majority were in fact shown in her similarly-titled exhibition at Galerie Quynh, Ho Chi Minh City, in 2013, such as her recovered windows from demolished houses entitled erasure begins from the will to knowledge, 2013 (Images 1 and 1a) and the three-channel video work (Image 2) showing the process of excavation that recovered not just the concrete slab with ceramic tiles entitled10°45’39’’ N 106°43’23’’ E, 2013, another work also exhibited here in the style of a museum artefact, but also assorted ceramic tiles and domestic objects Chung has aptly named remnants of history: French colonial tile technology, pieces of home foundations and traces of lived lives, 2016 (Image 3). This latter work depicts in a glance the invisible psychic undertow and negative impact of urban development.
|Image 2. Tiffany Chung, an archaeology project for future remembrance, 2013 3-channel video, HD, color, audio, 6’26’’. Installation view.|
|Image 3. Tiffany Chung, remnants of history: French colonial tile technology, pieces of home foundations and traces of lived lives, 2016. Retrieved pieces of cement tile, ceramic tile and domestic objects. Exhibition detail.|
However, within the industrial space of Lumiar Cité with its exposed brickwork still bearing the name of the factory where the bricks had been manufactured, the exhibition of Chung’s works grafts on localised significance and new meaning. Her recovered windows offer a metaphoric, even critical, view onto the surrounding neighbourhood in this north Lisbon area called Lumiar, about 7 km from the city centre.
Lumiar boasts one of the largest public green spaces or urban parks in Lisbon; a quick purview reveals economical and efficient public and private housing developments for a more varied demographic segment in terms of class and race. Such housing exists side-by-side with the area’s older vernacular architecture and aristocratic landmarks, such as palaces that had been there for centuries. Lumiar is situated directly southwest of the Lisbon International Airport. Regeneration and urban planning of this neighbourhood impacted plans for the expansion of Portugal’s current airport capacity to a sufficient degree that the government decided early this year to build its new airport in an area much further north of Lisbon. Indeed, Bock informs me that a new shopping complex is being planned for a land area around the corner from the gallery.
Chung’s signature layering of fungal-like dots and circles onto official maps within the Vietnamese post-colonial context of the development of Thủ Thiêm offers a comparative commentary on urban development, demographic change and the transformations wrought on a city’s landscape (Portugal’s history as a colonising nation adding irony here). Chung’s maps may come across as neutral or opaque, but Chung reinserts the human element via a display of recovered shoes (Cover Image and Image 4).
|Image 4. Tiffany Chung. location: Cây Bàng Street, Thủ Thiêm – a shoe paved road, 2016. Assorted retrieved shoes. Installation view.|
Her water-stained maps in landscapes of a people yet to come – HCMC ICA plans for New Thủ Thiêm Urban Area, 2013 (Image 5) incorporate a suggestion of environmental impact or even degradation that follows zealous urban planning.
The exhibition’s thrust to provide a reflective moment on how we live and breathe urban spaces is certainly welcome, emphasised by Cité’s relative isolation from the centre, but its draw appears to be mainly to neighbourhood residents, and even those appear sparse.
NB: All images are provided courtesy of the artist and Lumiar Cité.