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Sung Tieu, Untitled
Sung Tieu

Civic Floor

Sung Tieu (b. 1987, Hai Duong, Vietnam) works in a range of media producing exhibitions that draw upon extensive research. Her works of sculpture, drawing, text and sound consider questions of governance, civic responsibility and justice, analysing mechanisms of state control. Making reference to art history, and in particular to minimalism and the deployment of the grid, they highlight the translation of ideologies within industrial design and architecture and the prevalence of abstraction as an organising force.

Civic Floor comprises a series of steel and plaster works, which are accompanied by engraved plaques (displayed in the lower ground floor) and sound. This new body of work considers questions of space and volume, both in terms of their fundamental role in art-making as well as in the design of carceral spaces and bureaucratic systems.

Seven steel sculptures filled with earth and elevated on steel tables refer to four types of prison architecture; the so-called ‘radial’ prison which originated in Britain in the 1840s, the ‘courtyard’ prison designs that superseded it in the late 20th century and the ‘galleried’ layout and the ‘newgeneration’ of prisons that emerged in the 1990s. Tieu invites us to peer inside these hard-edged, oblique forms to view the organisation of space within. Three of the works abstract and enlarge a detail from these interiors. The addition of locallysourced earth implies a connection to land. This ubiquitous, organic matter also serves as a discrete reference to the presence of national borders.

These sculptures are surrounded by a second series of plaster works that refer to various documents employed in assessing eligibility for immigration. Three forms which are respectively used to apply for asylum, appeal against deportation or for refugees to apply for a ‘waiver of grounds of inadmissibility’, are the basis for the wall-based works. Devoid of textual content and reduced to their lines and boxes, they reproduce only the parts of the form that applicants are invited to complete. The works draw attention to the grid-based design of the documents and the allocation of space on the page, abstracting their compositional elements within a scheme of linear, square and rectangular forms. Milled upon the smooth plaster surface the marks appear to be inscrutable forms of notation. These works allude to the ancient clay and stone tablets that exemplify some of the earliest forms of inscription and which describe the administrative and practical requirements of ancient societies. On the lower ground floor, Tieu provides a textual analysis of these plaster works, analysing the division of space and quantifying it in numerical form.

The exhibition is accompanied by a soundscape that is also available to listen to via Mudam’s website. The texts displayed on the lower ground floor are also available as a handout from Mudam’s ticket desk.

Biography
Sung Tieu has held solo exhibitions at Kunstmuseum Bonn; Galerie für Zeitgenössische Kunst, Leipzig (2021); Nottingham Contemporary; and Haus der Kunst, Munich (2020). Her work was included in the 34th Bienal de São Paulo and has been exhibited at Museion, Bolzano; Kunsthalle Basel (2021); Museum Angewandte Kunst, Frankfurt; GAMeC Museum, Bergamo; and Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin (2020). Forthcoming solo exhibitions include presentations at Amant Foundation, MIT List Visual Arts Center and Kunstmuseum Winterthur (all 2023). Tieu is the recipient of the Frieze Artist Award 2021 and the 2021 ars viva Prize. She also received the audience award for the 2021 Preis der Nationalgalerie, Berlin. She lives and works in Berlin.

Credits

Location:
Mudam Henry J. and Erna D. Leir Pavilion
Curator:
  • Michelle Cotton, assisted by Clémentine Proby

Image:
  • Sung Tieu, Untitled, 2022 | Digital Drawing © Sung Tieu

Civic Floor is produced in partnership with MIT List Visual Arts Center, Cambridge, Massachusetts (USA) and the Southern Alberta Art Gallery, Maansiksikaitsitapiitsinikssin, Lethbridge (Canada).