Elaine K. Ng:
Fingerprints of Place – Taiwan

On view: September 24, 2021 – January 30, 2022
Location: Spotlight Gallery (Floor 1M)

A fingerprint is a unique human identifier. When we touch something, we leave behind a trace of our presence – proof that we engaged with our surroundings.

In Fingerprints of Place – Taiwan, Elaine Ng explores the evidence of human engagement, considering how materials, patterns and landscapes reflect the identity of a place and its people. This exhibition evolved from research Ng did while in Taiwan as a Fulbright Grant recipient in 2017-2018. See a blend of works including photographs, construction remnants, found objects and new creations that function as three-dimensional “fingerprints” of Taiwan as seen from Ng’s perspective.

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Taiwan’s urban landscapes are composed of numerous layers of material culture stacked one upon the other. The island’s tropical environment accelerates deterioration, exposing the underlying layers of the past in an archaeological record of cultural history. While materials such as brick, concrete, wood and tile are universal, the way they are crafted and combined becomes a unique marker of place. By altering their original context, Ng creates a personal interpretation that is rooted in place but transcendent of a singular linguistic or cultural understanding.

“Taiwan is my mother’s homeland, and my relationship with it is an evolving one. As a child, it was a parallel universe where there existed Asian equivalents of my Western upbringing, and as a teenager it felt like an amusement park we visited as tourists. In adulthood, the island has become a place where I can comfortably blend in as part of the majority culture, something impossible for me in the U.S. And yet, I am keenly aware that I do not belong there either. I am a ‘quasi-foreigner’ in Taiwan: I look like a local, but I am not; I speak Chinese, but have an accent that reveals my nationality. People are often unsure of how to interact with me, and I with them.

“At the root of these investigations are questions about origin and belonging – what, or who, belongs where, and who decides? Materials and objects carry stories that reveal our relationships to place through both personal experiences and collective knowledge – they reflect the complex and dynamic nature of how humans shape and are shaped by place.”

-Elaine K. Ng

Artist Biography

Elaine K. Ng is an artist whose multidisciplinary practice uses material investigation, writing, and research to examine our relationships to place. Informed by her upbringing in a bilingual, immigrant family, her work explores the physical and psychological structures of site, microhistories carried through objects, and meanings imbued in material and pattern. She is the recipient of a U.S. Fulbright Fellowship for research in Taiwan, and she has been a resident at the Djerassi Resident Artist Program and fellow at Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library. She exhibits internationally, and has lectured and held visiting positions at NSCAD University, Tainan National University of the Arts, and the China Academy of Art. She holds a BA from the University of California, Davis, an MBA/MA from Southern Methodist University, and an MFA from Cranbrook Academy of Art.


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