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