New Cartographies

A review of New Cartographies, an exhibition of works by Tiffany Chung, Allan deSouza, Sohei Nishino, and Li Songsong at Asia Society Texas

Artists Tiffany Chung and Allan deSouza both deal with the worst of what borders have thrown at our many societies. deSouza’s series, collectively titled Through the Black Country, parodies the old stories of exploration and inverts them as he shares the tales and recounting of one Hafeed Sidi Mubarak – a fictional descendent of Sidi Mubarak Bombay, an African guide who participated in numerous 19th century British explorations into East Africa. This 21st century Mubarak scours England in search of the source of the Thames. He writes, “Strong, tattooed lads come in with great cases of stone-washed denim, striped and flannel fabrics, neckties and baseball caps…” Tied to these narratives are gorgeous prints, some framed, others draped off of hooks. Mzungu I and II seem both human and architecture, perhaps a mixture of the spaces encountered along Mubarak’s way through the city of London.

Chung’s space offers perhaps the most beautiful and devastating works in the exhibition. In scratching the walls of memory,  a small desk sits facing a corner of the room. Strewn across the walls its pointed towards are a mix of small bags and chalkboards. Written on the boards and sewn into the bags are stories of immigrants, refugees, whose lives have been shaped by tragedy. One set of bags is a participants’ recollections of his mother’s stories of waiting for a lover who will never return. Others share harrowing experiences of just barely escaping a country being bombarded and assaulted.