Sung Tieu

No Gods, No Masters (2017) and Newspaper 1969-2017 (2017)

HD video projection on metal structure, separately synchronized 4-channel sound, 19 min 13 sec

Image courtesy of the artist

Newspaper 1969-2017 (2017)
Print on newspaper stock
Fictional newspaper articles based on research:
Ghosts Of The American Psyche, Let The Serpent In, 2017
Troops Employ Phantasic New Tools In Nam, 2017
Life Plods Along In The Mekong, 2017
Destination: Black Virgin Mountain, 2017

Consisting of a series of newspaper articles, a sound and video installation, this body of work presents Sung Tieu’s research on a lesser known artefact of one of America’s strategic operations during the Vietnam war – “Ghost Tape No. 10.”

“Ghost Tape No. 10.” is a recording made at the end of the 1960s as part of “Operation Wandering Soul,” a military operation which saw the US army develop propaganda in the form of a sound recording of a fallen Viet Cong soldier wandering through purgatory, intended to dissuade his comrades from fighting. The sound piece was broadcasted from helicopters and the backpacks of American GIs on the battlefield. American GIs proudly reported that it was an effective tool in confusing the Viet Cong to expose their position, making them easier to be killed.

Tieu’s installation and research begins with the sound tape and expands to question the cultural ramifications and heritage of this form of psychological warfare across the region in which the tape was broadcasted. The newspaper includes three articles written with journalist Vincent Bevins, a Southeast Asia correspondent for the Washington Post. Laid out to emulate the Vietnamese newspaper “Thanh Nien,” they are based on the artist’s field research.

The first televised war, which brought the battlefront into the living rooms of Americans, the war in Vietnam was a turning point in history. It changed the dynamics of war and is often valorised as a golden age of media, wherein the media was able to cover the war with relative freedom and autonomy. As Tieu’s work makes apparent, there were nonetheless lacunas in its reportage. Beyond articulating the evolution of spirituality in Vietnam, from being employed as a weapon in warfare to a commodity as part of global tourism, her work also questions our faith in the mediums that we use to represent reliable history and to frame what we ‘learn’ as news. No Gods, No Masters (2017) and Newspaper 1969-2017 were first presented as part of the exhibition Remote Viewing at Nha San Collective in Hanoi in 2017.

Sung Tieu (b.1987, Hai Duong, Vietnam) lives and works in London, UK. Tieu’s practice which crosses a range of media, predominantly installation, sculpture, photography and film, assembles and brings together a rich vocabulary from journalism, popular culture, archival research and art into nuanced and layered exhibitions and moments of display. Writing as research process and as medium is a recurrent thread in her practice. Tieu’s work is an abstraction of her research, wherein she contemplates the interdependent historical and contemporary constructs of power that define culture and its consumption today.  

Her recent exhibitions and performances include Manggha Museum (Krakow/Poland), Nha San Collective (Hanoi/Vietnam), Art Basel Statements (Art Basel Art fair /Switzerland), Royal Academy of Arts (London/UK), Kunstverein Tiergarten (Berlin/Germany), Kunstverein in Hamburg with Christian Nạujoks (Hamburg/Germany),  47 Canal, (NYC/USA), Sfeir-Semler Gallery (Hamburg/Beirut) and Micky Schubert Gallery (Berlin/Germany).

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