Sung Tieu: Civic Floor

Black and white digital drawing with a graphite texture. The image is of a three dimensional structure resembling a building support system with dark shading in between each column. There is some white space in the upper right corner.

Sung Tieu, Untitled (Civic Floor III), 2022. Digital drawing. Courtesy the artist

Hayden Gallery
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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.

Sung Tieu: Civic Floor is organized by Natalie Bell, Curator.

Civic Floor is produced in partnership with Mudam Luxembourg - Musée d’Art Moderne Grand-Duc Jean and Southern Alberta Art Gallery Maansiksikaitsitapiitsinikssin (SAAG). Civic Floor at MIT List Visual Arts Center will be presented concurrently with Liability Infrastructure at Amant, Brooklyn (March 30–August 27, 2023). Marking a larger collaboration, as well as their respective exhibitions, MIT List Visual Arts Center, Amant, Mudam Luxembourg, and SAAG will coedit an artist-led reader focused on critical research in architecture, labor, politics, and infrastructure that has informed Tieu’s practice in recent years.

Sung Tieu (b. 1987, Hai Duong, Vietnam) lives and works in Berlin. She has held recent 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, the 2021 Kyiv Biennial and was exhibited in group survey exhibitions at Museion, Bolzano; Kunsthalle Basel (2021); Museum Angewandte Kunst, Frankfurt; GAMeC Museum, Bergamo; Hamburger Bahnhof – Museum für Gegenwart, Berlin (2020) and Kunsthaus Hamburg (2019). She received the 2021 Frieze Artist Award and the 2021 Ars Viva award and the audience award of the 2021 Preis der Nationalgalerie, Hamburger Bahnhof – Museum für Gegenwart, Berlin.


Exhibitions at the List Center are made possible with the support of Fotene & Tom Coté, Audrey & James Foster, Idee German Schoenheimer, Joyce Linde, Cynthia & John Reed, and Sara-Ann & Robert Sanders. This exhibition is also supported by generous donors to the 2020 McDermott Award Gala, hosted by the Council for the Arts at MIT. 

General operating support is provided by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; the Council for the Arts at MIT; Philip S. Khoury, Associate Provost at MIT; the MIT School of Architecture + Planning; the Mass Cultural Council; and many generous individual donors. In-kind media sponsorship provided by 90.9 WBUR. The Advisory Committee Members of the List Visual Arts Center are gratefully acknowledged.