With Civic Floor, the MIT List Visual Arts Center will present the US debut of recently co-commissioned works by German-Vietnamese artist Sung Tieu. Tieu employs sculpture, drawing, sound, video, and installation to examine a wide range of subjects in which social or political power is articulated through sensory and psychological realms. Perception is a key node in Tieu’s work as she elaborates the often alienating effects of sound, architecture, design, and language. Working across various media, Tieu crafts a spatial narrative in each of her exhibitions that reflects her research into bureaucratic systems and their affective spaces as well as her lived experience with them.
Many of the artist’s architectural interventions serve as evocative reconstructions of sites of control, surveillance, or administration. Recent works have performed a distorted Wagnerian opera as an administrative “orchestra” of office sounds [Zugzwang 2020], reconstructed the acoustic attack alleged to have caused “Havana Syndrome,” capturing its effect on the artist via brain scans [In Cold Print, 2020], and drawn on US military Psychological Operations (PSYOPS) audio recordings that were designed to destabilize the Vietnamese National Liberation Front [No Gods, No Masters, 2017].
At the List Center, Tieu’s exhibition Civic Floor will present a suite of abstract steel sculptures imposing in substance and weight, which reference spaces designed for detention and require the viewer’s aerial perspective. A new series of tablet-like plaster reliefs, derived from asylum petitions, relate the activities of administration and the raw material of architecture (i.e. plaster walls) while making clear, in bounded square millimeters, the narrow parameters within which an asylum-seeker’s persuasive story might exist. With these objects, as well as in a new ambient sound piece, Tieu invites viewers to consider space and its allowances – in formal, sculptural terms that entreat the histories of Minimalism, and in socio-political terms that echo to the title’s invocation of citizenship and the rights it confers.