Homing: A Sensory Exploration of the City

by Grace Hwang Lynch

Whether symbolic of war or peace, our trajectories are shaped by our senses and the world around us.

A migrating bird may not seem to have anything in common with a ballistic missile, but they both play a role in inspiring an exhibit at the Chinese Cultural Center in San Francisco that aims to challenge the way we think about the concept of home, both leaving it and returning to it. Whether symbolic of war or peace, our trajectories are shaped by our senses and the world around us. That is one of the ideas behind “Homing”, an installation by Taiwanese artist Hung Tzu-Ni, a work of sound and light inspired by San Francisco Chinatown and its surrounding neighborhoods.

Hung is a Taipei-based artist, known for her experimental sound installations and performance art in Asia and Australia. She graduated with a degree in architecture from Shih Chien University in Taiwan, but soon realized she didn’t want to design buildings. Instead, she pursued a Master’s in New Media Arts from Taipei National University of the Arts. Not surprisingly, the 30-year old takes inspiration from the built environment. In creating “Homing”, Hung spent a week in San Francisco, walking around Chinatown and surrounding environs, such as the Financial District and Union Square. “I don't like to keep searching for a specific spot when I go observing stuff,” says Hung. “I don't set a clear destination.” Instead, she explored the streets, soaking in the reverberations, tempos, and chatter of the various neighborhoods. “When you're near BART, it's like the car and human sound. It's more gathering together and a mechanical machine frequency,” she reflects. “When you keep walking, the buildings’ height become lower. And the city soundscape is changing.” When Hung visited San Francisco last fall, it was only her second time visiting the city by the bay. She notes that major urban centers—in Asia or America—are becoming increasingly similar, something she attributes to the rise of global capitalism.

Hoi Leung, who took over as curator for the Chinese Culture Center in 2019, hopes that the exhibit will help local residents see their city from a different perspective. “Ultimately we want to trust the artists to reveal something that we ourselves don't know,” explains Leung. “We always see ourselves as kind of a connector. San Francisco is a metaphor and provides a lot of ground for different contemporary issues.”

The Chinese Culture Center was founded in 1965 by San Francisco Chinatown leaders. For its first four decades, the center focused on history and traditional culture and artwork, such as painting and calligraphy, as well as works created by local residents. The organization is not affiliated with the People’s Republic of China or any other foreign governments. Under the leadership of Abby Chen from 2006 to 2018, the organization shifted towards featuring more contemporary art and global artists. “Homing” is CCC’s first sound exhibit, commissioned by the organization specifically for this space. The four bays at the Kearny Street gallery—located under the Hilton hotel across the street from the pigeons and chess players of Chinatown’s iconic Portsmouth Square—will present Hung’s interpretation of that flow of time and sound in the city. Rounding out the experience will be interplay with visuals, including responsive projections and light-bending lenses and prisms.

When asked what she hopes the visitors will take away from experiencing “Homing”, Hung doesn’t have a specific agenda. Just like she enjoys wandering around a city without an itinerary, she isn’t trying to make a particular statement through her show. “I don't think art piece or art works should change people,” says Hung. Instead, she hopes her installation will encourage people to reflect within themselves, describing it as “more private, somehow, just like creating a peaceful place to make people enjoy this space.”

The installation will be accompanied by a series of live sound performances produced by 23Five, a San Francisco sound arts non-profit organization which is co-presenting “Homing”.


February 7- May 7, 2020

Chinese Culture Center of San Francisco

750 Kearny St., 3rd Floor

San Francisco, CA 94108

Gallery Hours: 10am-4pm, Tuesday-Saturday

Free Admission

Interpretation available in Cantonese and Mandarin Chinese