In Song Notes For Factories, Tieu sketches a factory from the ground up using soundbites gathered during field visits. The sounds have been cleaned-up, manipulated, and distorted before being arranged into a soundscape that mimics movement around an imaginary factory space. As linear time progresses, the clinking and clanking undergoes changes in rhythm, volume, and intensity, resulting in a symphony orchestrated by the sounds of automated production.
Like An Architect, The Artist Constructs a Space Around Us
Song Notes For Factories was inspired by Tieu’s ongoing research into North Vietnamese migrant factory workers in Eastern Germany. In an agreement signed in 1980, the Socialist Republic of Vietnam agreed to send thousands of contract workers to the German Democratic Republic, where they worked in state-owned factories. Through a number of different exhibitions, Tieu has explored the state control and bureaucracy involved in the recruitment agreement, as well as the physical and psychological labor and living conditions endured by the workers.
And while one might imagine they could recognize the clattering of chains and rolling of conveyor belts in Song Notes For Factories, the sounds themselves remain largely ambiguous, having been severed from their original locations. This lack of visual and physical context emphasizes the invisibility of such labor and at the same time leaves interpretation and association largely open to the listener, activating a unique medley of associations, assumptions, and memories for reflection. In so doing, Tieu’s work seems to ferry us beyond the contemplative walls of the museum and into a place in which monotonous repetition and automation reign. Like an architect, the artist constructs a space around us, using sound as her only building blocks.
However, there is a suggestion of movement in the work too, both physically and emotionally. With the changes in volume and intensity, and the alternation between foreground and background in the composition, Tieu evokes movement through this imaginary space. As the narrative in the soundscape progresses through the rhythmic, at times almost melodically layered sounds, the sound waves reverberate through our bodies and psyche. The affective resonance of sound, and how we as individuals respond to it, are of interest to Tieu, whose practice explores the psychology of sound. How is sound related to space and memory? How does it influence our imagination, our emotions, and our physical selves?