[ISEA2011] Paper: Christina Nguyen Hung – Peripatetic Visualizations


In Mapping the Empire v.1, four HD video cameras are strapped to my wrists and ankles as I traverse a rock formation. A “map” of the terrain emerges from the process that suggests a mode of perception that is distributed, and polyvalent. This work is inspired in part by Umberto Eco’s essay, On the Impossibility of Drawing a Map of the Empire on a Scale of 1 to 1 and the “map” I create nonsensical — more accurate as a record of motion defined by the logic of living flesh, rather than a systematic grid-like construction of space and time.

The project also includes an installation of multiple video projections, creating a semi-immersive environment that requires viewers to use peripheral vision and maintain an awareness of projections that are beyond their field of vision in order to fully experience the piece. At different times, moments of visual and aural correspondence between projections allow the viewer to see/understand that the video streams must be understood through their relation to a body and its movements (my body), rather than through traditional visual composition.

This project must be understood within the context of my work with scientific imaging processes, and microscopy in particular. For example, in my work with chick embryo neurons, hundreds of photographs are shot through a microscope and stitched together to represent the in-vitro environments that house live specimens. In another work, A Bad Hand (Acer palmatum, fall 2010), the leaf of a maple tree is cut into .5cm squares. Each square is photographed at 4x magnification through a microscope. The process of photographing the samples is time consuming, the samples decay over time. All the images are then compiled and the maple segments “reassembled” in the computer. The final work is a large format image of the cut leaf segments spaced evenly into a grid.

Taken as a whole, my work functions as a critical intervention into contemporary mapping and scientific imaging practices and viewing interfaces like the Visible Human projects of the 1980s-90s, Google Earth and Gigapan.

  • Christina Nguyen Hung is an interdisciplinary artist who works with electronic and biological media. Her work has been presented internationally at numerous venues including the exhibition “A Knock at the Door” in New York; the “Wats:on? Interdisciplinary Festival” at Carnegie Mellon University; ISEA2008 and ISEA2011 and the National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts (NTMoFA) in Taichung, Taiwan. in the late 90’s Christina co-founded subRosa, a cyberfeminist art and research collective. As a member of subRosa she created “participatory Information Theater” artworks such as “Sex and Gender in the Biotech Century” a sex-ed class designed to help people learn about their options for retooling in the biotech century, and “Expo Emmagenics,” a biotech trade show designed to help “familiarize women with new Advanced Reproductive Technologies or ART.” Hung is currently at Clemson University where she is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Art and the Ph.D program for Rhetorics, Communication and Information Design (RCID)

Full text (PDF) p. 1251-1253