Sung Tieu

Sung Tieu, <i>Sonic weapon disrupts diplomatic relations</i>, 2020.Courtesy of the artist and Emalin, London. Photo: Plastiques
Sung Tieu, Sonic weapon disrupts diplomatic relations, 2020.Courtesy of the artist and Emalin, London. Photo: Plastiques

Sung Tieu (1987, Hai Duong, Vietnam) uses a wide range of media, including installation, sound, video, sculpture, photography and performance. Not engrossed in creating a recognizable style or in maintaining a practice that can be easily catalogued and circumscribed, she accumulates, superimposes and contaminates factual, fictional, plausible and possible narrative layers until they become inseparable from one another. Her research departs from issues of migration and displacement to explore the political interests that regulate these movements; in recent works, exemplified by the so-called “Havana Syndrome” and its lasting impact on the geopolitical tensions between the United States and Cuba (In Cold Print, 2020) and her analysis of the bureaucratic state apparatus through a bureaucrat's life and workplace (Zugzwang, 2020). In In Cold Print, Tieu investigates a series of sonic attacks targeting the United State’s embassy staff based in Havana in 2016, which have never been officially proven or confirmed. Within this installation, including sound, texts, sculptures and architectural interventions, Tieu presents two conflicting sets of information of the same incident, highlighting the impossibility of reconstructing if or what happened. By blurring the line between evidence, counter-evidence, science and conspiracy, she explores how the dissemination of ideas can affect perception.

In other works, Tieu deepens the psychological and spiritual dimensions of collective trauma within situations of conflict. Her video work No Gods, No Masters (2017) investigates the military operation Wandering Soul, carried out by the Psychological Operations of the US army in Vietnam in the 1960s and the United State’s creation of a psychological sound weapon, titled “Ghost Tape No. 10”, in which the spirit of a dead Vietnamese soldier urges his companions to desertion. Tieu juxtaposes this sound recording, which was broadcast via military helicopters flying over the jungle at night, with images filmed in her family home in Hai Duong, in the north of the country. The footage enigmatically documents a ritual, which equally summons spirits of the dead. Throughout the video, the artist suspends any judgment, delegating the responsibility of forming an opinion onto the viewer. In a different mode of address, her series of text-based works, titled Newspapers 1969 – ongoing, which are integrated in several of her installations, contribute further to the reading of her works as being less unequivocal. Instead, her practice emphasizes the nonexistence of a single, universal truth.

  1. Caroline A. Jones, Eyesight Alone: Clement Greenberg’s Modernism and the Bureaucratization of the Senses (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005).
  2. Greenberg’s Modernism and the Bureaucratization of the Senses (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005).
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