Tiffany Chung’s (ACC 2015) solo exhibition, the unwanted population, was presented at Tyler Rollins Gallery in New York from September 7 to October 21. Lauded by The New York Times as one of the city’s must-see fall exhibitions, the unwanted population features recent works from three of Tiffany's ongoing projects: The Vietnam Exodus Project, The Syria Project, and The Global Refugee Migration Project.
Tiffany, herself part of the post-1975 exodus of Vietnamese refugees, traces paths of internal displacement and forced migration through multi-media installations of video, photographs, drawings, and paintings. Her trademark, however, is her cartographic drawings—maps of colorful ink, acrylic, and oil on vellum. Sometimes described as a "trap," these deceptively beautiful images on closer examination yield a darker history of landscapes transformed by conflict, destruction, and migration.
Tiffany Chung’s reconstructing an exodus history: boat trajectories in Asia, 2017
In 2015, Tiffany Chung received a grant from ACC to conduct research on former Vietnamese refugee camps in Hong Kong and Southeast Asia. Her work, an ongoing comparative study of forced migration, is sourced from ethnographic and archival research. Alongside data analysis and statistics, personal refugee narratives are integral to Tiffany’s work, forming a more comprehensive understanding of history. Her grant allowed her to conduct in-person interviews and travel to Hong Kong’s outermost islands, where some of Hong Kong’s largest refugee detention centers were located, the last of which closed in 2000.
Amid today’s refugee crisis, Tiffany's artistic focus could not be more relevant. Currently, the UNHCR reports refugees as 22.5 million of the unprecedented 65.6 million forcibly displaced people worldwide. At such a level of displacement and migration, she remarked in a 2015 talk at Asia Society Hong Kong Center, "confusion is created not by a lack of knowledge, but by a barrage of knowledge". From this flood of information, she "remaps" histories and memories missing from official narratives. The resulting body of work has not gone unnoticed by international audiences. Tiffany has participated in over 100 exhibitions worldwide and debuted The Syria Project in the 2015 Venice Biennale’s main exhibition, All the World’s Futures.
As part of her practice, Tiffany Chung fosters dialogue on both an international and local level. She conducts map-making workshops with refugees, as well as mentors young Vietnamese artists through Sàn Art (ACC 2008, 2010), an independent, non-profit gallery and reading room she co-founded in Ho Chi Minh City. For The Vietnam Exodus Project, Tiffany commissioned these young artists to paint watercolors based on her photo-collages of the refugee experience. As a result, the young artists began to discuss the photographs’ historical context, a history still not addressed in Vietnam’s history books or public discourse.
At ACC, we believe that investing in artists’ ability to move across borders produces significant understanding between peoples and builds respect and empathy across difference. Artists have the power to communicate complex and necessary ideas beyond words. In a moment when polarized political rhetoric delivers less clarity and more questions, artists such as Tiffany Chung proves the power of art to produce understanding.