In Heirloom Facsimile (2013), Petrina Ng intricately cross-stitches enlargements of a notice, originally published by the Hong Kong government, which provided information on how to cure cancer from the perspective of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Ng received the document as a low-resolution scan from her father, who had himself received it as a fax from his mother-in-law, Ng’s grandmother. Throughout this process of sharing information the text degraded, and accumulated the digital noise that Ng represents in her rendering of each pixel as a cross-stitch. The work is as much a grieving process as it is a meditation on the ways that both dominant and alternative medical information is communicated cross-culturally and inter-generationally. There is a looming sense of ambivalence around the status of the information: Is this medical knowledge that we should take seriously? Or, better, how seriously should we take any medical knowledge? What determines the seriousness of medical information? Do we trust our General Practitioner? Our Naturopath? Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner? Osteopath? Psychic? Family friend? Websites like Web MD? Heirloom Facsimile resides in a liminal place that complicates the usual recourse to binaries such as Western medicine versus Eastern/alternative medicine.
Excerpt from Lauren Fournier's exhibition text: The Sustenance Rite: Rituals of Catharsis, Healing, and Care in Contemporary Feminist Practice, Blackwood Gallery, 2017. Photo: Toni Hafkenscheid.