Seoul Museum of Taiwan


2023.03.11. - 2023.03.26.

Artist. Salty Xi Jie Ng

Exhibition design & Installation. Minsu Oh

Media equipment. all-media

Graphic design. Yubin Park

Korean-English translator. Jieon Lee, Gyeongtak Lee

Korean-Mandarin translator. Chinghan Hsu

Hosted by Philosopher's Stone

Supported by Arts Council Korea

The museum built with spoken words


We are looking at displays of daily objects.

What does an exhibition say when it presents a drink can labeled with unfamiliar Mandarin words, a keyring, a refrigerator magnet and an eco-friendly metal straw? Does this exhibition glorify everyday life while resisting spectacle? The work is not ultimately aiming to re-challenge “defamiliarization”, which has been attempted multiple times by others. If we say the scenes in this gallery are trivial, the word ‘trivial’ is an antonym of ‘minute’, rather than ‘dazzling’. The exhibition delves into conceptions and perceptions of the Sinosphere.

Artist Salty Xi Jie Ng has stayed for about two weeks in the Yeonhui area to visit Taiwanese-run restaurants and a school. She interviewed Taiwanese-identifying people who currently live in Seoul to understand Taiwanese identity and what it means in Korean society. Furthermore, she invited them to share an object of significance to them as Taiwanese, which could serve as an answer to her primary question around identity, belonging, and lineage.

The items on the red and blue coloured shelves are these donations. Through them we encounter their contributors — self-identified Taiwanese living in Seoul, such as: a musician who studied Korean classical music, the art teacher of the largest overseas Chinese school in Korea, who was a reporter of overseas Chinese affairs for a Taiwanese TV station; a Taiwanese woman married to a Chinese-Korean man who helped her daughter open a restaurant featuring her traditional recipes — (hi)stories that are at times mundane, at times harsh. Listening to their stories carefully is significant. However, we do not hunt for sentimentality or severe hardship. The temperature of those stories keeps moving along like ocean currents affected by multiple boundaries. Salty could be one of the waves as a third-generation member of the global Chinese diaspora. From there she received perspectives which reached Singapore and South China region, her family land. She majorly speaks English as her mother tongue, even though she can speak ‘Mandarin Chinese’, usually known as the North Chinese language, and ‘Hokkien’, described as a dialect of Fujian province in South China and Taiwan. Her interest in the family’s cultural identity moves towards the similarity of hereditary transmission; during this transition she discovered that Taiwan could be the place that connects both Singapore and China, informing her ancestral investigation. Incidentally, many Taiwanese in Korea are living around Yeonhui-dong where the exhibition is sited, and where the artist anchors her research in the overseas-Chinese community.

As mentioned above, the temperature of the collected stories’ circulation is like that of ocean currents, from a warm current to a cold one. The gaze moves around from the Straits of Singapore to the South China Sea, to Shandong Province’s water, to Incheon and Yeonhui-dong, provoking questions and answers that crossed our boundaries even before the conversation with the interviewees. Here are some questions: Why does a Singaporean artist aim to meet Taiwanese living in Seoul? If we set the desired interviewee demographic as ‘Taiwanese’, is this defined by birthplace or nationality? Is it possible to include overseas Chinese like Taiwanese from Shandong Province who were granted Taiwanese citizenship by the Korean government since the establishment of the Communist Party regime? Who can be called overseas Chinese? Can Korean Chinese also be defined as Korean? Are people who speak Chinese languages Chinese?

The objects and stories in this tiny museum keep whispering about Taiwan. A nation that gains rapid attention from a television travel show, sometimes confused with Thailand or regarded as China due to its language, or randomly categorized as South-East Asian on the webpage of the travel agency. The number of misunderstandings about Taiwan in Korea amounts to much more than the objects in this exhibition space. Whenever these stories float to the surface, we think of the complex ways that Taiwan, as well as China, are perceived. At the end of floating, China as a proper noun and China as an appellative get tangled. Therefore, these tiny display stands eventually become a temporal museum composed of the objects collected by Salty like beach-farming.

Text by Moon-seok Yi

Artist Bio

Salty Xi Jie Ng is an artist from the tropical metropolis of Singapore, who subverts or amplifies the effects of the social network through video, performance, installation and other mediums. She has worked with many communities and through theatrical scenes, she creates semi-fictional paradigms. Salty explores the meaning of intimacy in the lives of elder women and collected the cultural identities of Chinese Singaporeans based on the rituals of overseas Chinese society. Furthermore, she has reflected on the non-material values which set the society by questioning the system of the artistic world with galleries and art museums. While preparing the exhibition, she examined how China and East Asia are connected to Korean society, and looked up how Mandarin is interpreted within the current network. Salty has an MFA in Art & Social Practice from Portland State University. Her projects include collaborative performance and written work Not Grey: Intimacy, Ageing & Being (2016), workshops like Residency with Ban Kah Hiang (2022) at 'Arts-Business x Business-Arts Residency', and research project as well as lecture-performance Dear Singapore Art Museum Acquisition Committee (2022).

Interviewee. Chia Chun LU, Chih Jui CHEN, Chinghan HSU, Chun HUANG, Eun-ja JANG, Min Chi LEE, Shu Ping CHEN, Si Yun BANG, Tiffany CHENG, Vicky FANG, Yi LIN, Yun Pei HSU

Photo : Seungwook Yang

미학관 美學館 Philosopher's Stone