Haegue Yang: Voice Over Three
August 21 – October 24, 2010
Art Sonje Center
Haegue Yang: Voice Over Three
Art Sonje Center is pleased to present Haegue Yang’s first institutional solo exhibition in Korea Haegue Yang: Voice Over Three. It will feature more than 10 works, among both her major and recent works and including some new works created specifically for Art Sonje Center.
Questions about relations between individuals regarding the notion of community are often Yang’s motivations for her own abstract visual language. Based on personal experiences, memories and historical figures or events, most of her recent work engage different media such as photography, video, sculpture and installation, where she mobilizes customized venetian blinds combined with sensory devices including lighting, infrared heaters and electric fans. This multisensory yet abstract installation not only engages viewers’ perceptive range to the maximum, but is destined to stimulate viewers’ extensive associations with the relevant socio-political backdrops of each project. Having lived and worked actively both in Berlin and Seoul since 1994, Yang has already gained recognition in the international art scene. In 2009, Yang’s solo exhibition Condensation was presented at the Korean Pavilion of the Venice Biennale, where her work was also featured in the Making Worlds group show in the Arsenale. She has shown at other prominent international institutions such as Portikus (Frankfurt), REDCAT (Los Angeles) and the Walker Art Center (Minneapolis) in recent years, and in 2011, her solo exhibition will be held at Kunsthaus Bregenz, Modern Art Oxford and the Aspen Art Museum.
Haegue Yang: Voice Over Three explores the sense of ‘community’ that develops when its members become a minimal yet dynamic constellation of three: subject, other and another. Here, the ‘voice’ works as a medium which connects speaker and listener more directly than any other method of communication, though interpretations may vary depending on modes of conveyance. Yang has always been fascinated by otherness as well as intimacy and, in viewing them as inverses, appropriates them into her own abstract language.
Alongside Yang’s extant video essays, graphics, collages and photography, newly commissioned light sculptures, titled Seoul Guts (2010), will be presented on the first floor, reflecting the artist’s own understanding of ‘on-site’ production. Next to this sculptural piece, various works will be displayed on triangular walls that reconfigure the gallery’s floorplan to divert our movement through the space. DIN A4 Whatever Being (2007), a series of fiberboard pieces in industrially standardized scales, reflects light in a grayscale spectrum and simultaneously acts as part of the wall itself while creating a texture upon the otherwise even wall surface. In this way, DIN A4 Whatever Being captures light using different angles, highlights the dichotomy of light/shadow, positive/negative as a ‘pair’ or ‘couple’ to invite viewers to examine that which is hardly noticeable, yet noticeably exists around us. This is juxtaposed with another piece with dimensions of A4, Certificate (2010), which documents the endowment of one of her passwords to the work’s hypothetical buyer. The aesthetic theme continues with the paper collage Trustworthies (2010), made out of a so-called ‘security pattern’ completing a community of ‘three’. In contrast to these illuminated pieces installed on one side of the gallery’s triangular walls, Yang will present several projections—such as video essays and projection pieces—on the ‘dark’ sides of the walls. Dehors (2006) is a slide projection loop consisting of 162 cutouts of real estate advertisements from Korean newspapers which take on new meaning being photographed while lit from behind to reveal the printed articles on their other sides. These images explore the hidden layers between media and advertisement, fact and fiction, truth and manipulation, and reality and idyllic worlds. The cinematic panorama of these exaggerated images of not-yet-built structures standing against ghosty and dramatic backdrops is saturated with the artist’s main concern that appears in her different projects—“a sense of homelessness.” Three video essays (often called the Video Trilogy)—Unfolding Places, Restrained Courage and Squandering Negative Spaces (2004-2006)—and the recent audio-visual work Doubles and Halves― Events with Nameless Neighbors (2009) convey Yang’s thoughts on place, relationship, and community. Doubles and Halves, which premiered at the Venice Biennale last year and will be shown to the Korean public for the first time, features non-synchronized configuration between video and audio tracks, enabling differing levels of perception corresponding to independence or inter-relation between imagery and narration. This non-relation is often referred to by Yang as ‘unconditional’ or ‘blind,’ and is also reflected in the rest of her installation work.
The entire second floor of Art Sonje is dedicated to Series of Vulnerable Arrangements―Shadowless Voice over Three (2008), the representative piece of Yang’s installation work. Mobilizing aluminum Venetian blinds, moving spotlights, mirror, infrared heater, fan, sound system and scent emitters, this sophisticated assemblage of sensory devices has three zones, each articulated by distinctive atmospheres. The controlled environment of each zone, achieved by programming moving spotlights and other effects, is destroyed whenever viewers speak into an open microphone installed in a corner of the space. While the original choreography of the spotlights is ordered, the movement and colors of the spotlight, triggered by stimuli provided by visitors, are unpredictable. Here, the ‘voice’ is intended as an individual entity which is incorporated as an element to interrupt the choreography: through the ‘voice’ of the Other the artist wishes to ‘unlearn’ what she already examined. This attitude of Yang distinguishes her practice from other participatory art works, promoting a confrontational yet boldly intimate relationship between the viewers’ voice and the artist’s choreography of lights; an antagonistic relationship is established instead of a populist gesture of negotiation. This contingent correlation invokes both anonymity and intimacy between the self and others that has been a constant preoccupation of the artist.
The meaning of ‘voice’ is even more relevant in The Malady of Death, Yang’s staging project adapted from Marguerite Duras’s (1914-1996) eponymous novella. The same goes for the screening program entitled Voice, which will feature the films of the author. Through these kinds of linking projects the artist attempts to accentuate the expansion of the definition of art practice as being in constant flux of different genres while experimenting with the potential interpretations that the ‘voice’ implies as an artistic medium. Indeed, each is an autonomous project woven into Yang’s governing conceptual context. In conjunction with her solo show, the Korean translation of Duras’s The Malady of Death will be published, upon which Yang based her adaptation for the staging project. Meanwhile, the Voice program re-discovers Duras as filmmaker presenting five of her films.
One year before this exhibition, SAMUSO: and Hyunsilmunwha co-published Haegue Yang’s first monograph in the Korean language, Melancholy is a Longing for the Absoluteness. This publication blurs classical distinctions of an artist’s catalogue and a book, allowing the artist to reflect upon the roles of artist as well as publisher. SAMUSO: is planning for another brochure, paired with Melancholy is a Longing for the Absoluteness and introducing the exhibition Voice Over Three.
In presenting Voice Over Three, SAMUSO: introduces Haegue Yang’s works to the Korean public, aiming for a greater understanding her practices in general. By experiencing this multi-sensory space where heat and wind, scent and voice confront each other, viewers will be able to rediscover the individuals who have stayed invisible yet have been struggling for their integral existence in society.