TIFFANY CHUNG: For me, I respect history. I know that it is hard to say what would be the most accurate version of it. My work is a way to counterbalance the grand narrative that’s put forward.
The paintings in the installation at M+ are based on archival photographs of the Vietnamese refugees in Hong Kong back in the day. And because my project [involves] working with the young artists in Vietnam to give them access to this history, I asked them to render those photographs into paintings. So a lot of questions came up during our periodic critiques to monitor the progress, and the questions were like:
‘Why do these people look so sad?’
‘Who are these people?’
‘Were they our people?’
There are a lot of little nuances and details that we did not know, I did not know about before. So it was a very important process for them to actually know as much as they can about this history.
I have to make sure that this is not a fiction. People don’t see it as a fiction, or as a work of art. It is real. And it was real lived experience. And the history, however painful it is, still needs to be reconstructed; needs to be revealed.
Also to think about how you can use the lessons learned from this history for the current refugees from the Middle East; from Africa. I want to bring this conversation to hopefully a higher level, starting by talking with human-rights lawyers to learn about their work—to learn from them, and also to strategise with them.
Of course I feel the burden of history, and I feel that, why I have to take on this burden? At times, it can get really depressing, but then you just kind of move on. Somebody’s got to deal with it. So I have gone this far. Let’s continue.
Tiffany Chung’s installation, flotsam and jetsam, is the first work in her series entitled ‘the unwanted population: The Vietnam Exodus—Hong Kong chapter (1975–2000)’. This work is based on Chung's research at the UNHCR archives into the settlement of the largest group of refugees of the second half of the twentieth century, known as the Vietnamese boat people, in Hong Kong. This work was based on photographic documentation of the refugee camps in Hong Kong, and made in collaboration with a young Vietnamese artists in Ho Chi Minh City.
Chung's methodology involved the younger artists in a process of transcribing these photographs into watercolour paintings. Through the close examination, and interrogation of the scenes that the artists were painstakingly depicting, this process has been instrumental in their recovery of a painful episode in Vietnam's history that continues to resonate worldwide today.
This video was originally published on M+ Stories.
- Produced by
- Curatorial Research
Chloe Chow, Tina Pang
- M+ Video Production
Kenji Wong Wai Kin, Chris Sullivan
- Special Thanks
Tiffany Chung, Natalie Harding, Christel Pesme, Spring Workshop