Kukje Gallery is pleased to announce Haegue Yang's presentation Latent Dwelling, on view from 30 August to 8 October 2023. Greeting visitors at the gallery's Hanok, a traditional Korean house, the presentation actively engages with its current 'latent' state, a transitional stage frozen before its renovation into a full-fledged exhibition space.
In August 2006, Yang presented Sadong 30, her first solo exhibition in Korea, in a private residence. The place was, in fact, an abandoned house in Sa-dong, a neighbourhood next to the western coastal pier of Incheon, a satellite city of Seoul. Sadong 30 continues to be a topic of conversation among art professionals.
The artist herself encapsulates the fundamental preparations that had to be undertaken for Sadong 30, a showcase of works that were scarcely considered conforming to the body of works, into two primary actions: 'cleaning' and 'connecting electricity.' The house, uninhabited for years, was brimming with waist-high trash from the neighbourhood and had lost access to electricity and water for a long while. As the issues were being resolved, the artist started to bring in devices emblematic of the 'ghostly' life into the space.
Mundane items, such as broken mirror pieces, light fixtures, IV stands, wall clocks, origami objects, and fluorescent paint, made their appearance. Although there was no laundry to be washed, a cloth-wrapped drying rack found its place in the master bedroom, and a vintage ventilator placed in front of a stroboscope appeared to slowly rotate. In place of storage vessels, a lookout station was constructed, where visitors could rest and also freely take a bottle of water from a cooler to drink or to sprinkle on the garden balsams and chrysanthemums planted in an unused old-fashioned outdoor wash basin without running water. Introduced for the first time in Sadong 30, the drying racks and IV stands later became Yang's signature materiality representing her oeuvre; however, such display of non-traditional art materials and unfamiliar objects throughout the space was not only unconventional, but completely alienating. It was the feeble old house that brought all these disparate elements together.
In contrast to the loose composition of fragmented elements in Sadong 30, Latent Dwelling presents a defined body of work in a relatively set environment. Nevertheless, the reliance on daylight or handheld flashlights at night instead of proper ceiling lights is somewhat reminiscent of the condition of Sadong 30. This sense of place, coupled with the inherent temporality of the under-construction Hanok, establishes an impression of an eternal transitional status intertwined with the ever-accumulating layers of time.
Yang's methodology for this presentation revolves around the sensation of latent energy during hibernation. Upon entering the presentation, the first sensory experience is the herbal scent of Chinese medicine and the flickering lights of electric candles dispersed throughout the space. In one corner of the Hanok, sculptures are simply lying on the floor, while in another corner, sculptures occupy the space as storage jars or straw sacks used in a granary. The works, densely displayed in the modestly scaled interior of the Hanok, vary in their series as well as their years of production.
Turning right past Totem Robots (2010), a work from Yang's light sculpture series showcased behind the glass front, visitors encounter The Intermediate – Five-Legged Frosty Fecund Imoogi (2020), a work from The Intermediates (2015–) series, primarily interwoven with artificial straw. With the head of this lifelike creature lifted above the ground, it remains uncertain whether the positioning suggests its recent ascent from or descent to the floor. One arm extends over a distant crossbeam, while bell seedpods drape beneath its tentacles. Moving past this enigmatic being, which evokes an image of the legendary Imoogi on the cusp of becoming a dragon, visitors are introduced to one of the artist's most recent works, Sonic Planet Pockets – Iridescent Botanic Map (2023). This captivating creature, reminiscent of a colossal beehive or fruit, comprises a body covered with iridescent bells and pockets containing artificial plants symbolising various regions such as the ocean floor, desert, and tropics, integrating the artificial and the natural at once. Moving past the wall-mounted reflective black sculpture Obscure Rotating Reflective Running Black Cube-Handle Faucets – Scaly Squircles #17 (2023), visitors enter a relatively dark, compact rear space filled with large sculptural pieces from the The Intermediates series. Among them are Sonic Rotating Whatever Running on Hemisphere #22 (2022), a recent work that features a hemisphere covered with metal bells and faucets, and sculptures from the ongoing Sonic Clotheshorse – Dressage series (2020–), which explores all possible configurations that can be formed by wrapping a drying rack with bells. The richly populated space emanates an atmosphere that seems to store time itself. Continuing, the audience's gaze passes through the window located on one side of the space and encounters The Intermediate – Seven-Legged Carbonous Male Imoogi (2023), wrapped around trees in the Hanok's backyard.
On the other side of the entrance is a relatively well-organised space, previously used as a showroom. In addition to sculptures, the space features mono-prints that the artist has been creating for over a decade; works from her Lacquer Paintings (1994–) series that capture impressions of the environment—raindrops, dust, pollen, and insects—that have accidentally settled on top of the intended composition; and the Carsick Drawing (2006–) series that abstractly and non-literally record the terrain and movement of bumpy roads that the artist vividly perceived while traveling by car in the border region between China and Vietnam. Alongside these works are the sculpture Biped Chalky of Innate Black (2015), which demonstrates the artist's long-standing interest in folklore and handicrafts, and Mesmerizing Two-Leaf Folding Screen – Glossolalia-Powered Spring-Summer Flagbearers #3 (2022), a wooden folding screen that draws its essence from the Mesmerizing Mesh (2021–) series inspired by sacred paper objects employed in shamanistic rituals. Hanging under the eaves of the Hanok's courtyard are three pieces from the Mesmerizing Mesh series, inspired by the shamanic tradition of Sacred Paper Cutting, which involves folding and cutting paper to create sacred paper objects. Also draping down from the rafters beneath the eaves is Sonic Rope (2023), an installation inspired by the Korean folktale Sister Sun and Brother Moon and taking the form of a rope that symbolises an escape from the hardships of reality.
Instead of envisioning the Hanok solely as a neatly organised, neutral setting for displaying artworks, Yang aims to transform the given space into a context where artworks, distributed throughout, possess their own distinctive sense of time and space. Additionally, Yang hopes that Latent Dwelling will present an opportunity for her works to greet visitors in a more 'natural state,' reminiscent of how sceneries look during the offseason or how actors appear offstage.
* Latent Dwelling will remain open until 8 pm during Frieze Week (4–9 September 2023) and until midnight on Thursday 7 September 2023 in celebration of Samcheong Night.
Press release courtesy Kukje Gallery.
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5 – 15 August 2023