Petrina Ng co-ordinates an interest in familial lineage, archives and artefacts, with the pursuit of human’s inclination to monumentalize or aggrandize these objects. Her materials and modes of production explore the mortality of art objects by revealing the failure of any one medium to remain physically intact and culturally relevant. Heirloom Facsimile, a trifecta of tapestry works, materializes a three page document issued by an apparently governmental body called the Hong Kong Administrative Unit. The content of the document, which begins in Chinese but almost immediately reverts to English, regards the nature of cancer and advises on preventative measures largely based in Eastern Medicine. Though the intention of the document was likely one of social welfare, the language used reads much like the chain-letter vernacular when translated by the North American eye. "Please pass this on to anyone you care about" is not dissimilar from "Pass this letter on to ten people before the end of the day". HF enables viewers not only to consider the way the East approaches physiological homeostasis but also the way more remote societies choose to disseminate information in comparison to Western medical/governmental/social communities. HF therefore involves a translation of sorts, or a reframing of what we are encountering to fit within the confines our own terms.
The document was faxed and then scanned before it reached the artist, this process giving the pages a significant amount of visual noise. The mode of information transfer here mimics the transformation through which the subject-object relationship goes as the audience experiences HF. Ng quadrupled the size of each page in order to create a template for the tapestries, the result of which further accentuates the pixilation and pocked surface plain. Each pixel naturally translates into a single cross- stitch and this equation moves the ideology behind the work from 2-D to 3-D. From code to body. From possible propaganda to palpable monument. The form of the work assumes a physical metaphor for the way in which we must translate the work’s content in order to understand it. In this sense Ng has translated a sociologically opaque foreign document into a keepsake and legacy artefact. A Fac-simile, not a Fact but a Fax (a slant rhyme) and a simile, which is a "like" or "as" but not an "is". The word play here, calling into question the veridical identity of the document, also gestures towards the ultimate impossibility to archive something legitimately. HF pronounces the ultimate failure of the archive.
Text by Rachel Anne Farquharson. Image: installation view at O'Born Contemporary, 2013.