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Exhibition view: Haegue Yang, When The Year 2000 Comes, Kukje Gallery, Seoul (3 September–17 November 2019). Courtesy Kukje Gallery. Photo: Chunho An.
They say art is abstract. But wait until they see the works of Haegue Yang. Even this broad term doesn't fully encapsulate the creations of the Korean artist, who is taking abstractionism to a whole new level.
Kukje Gallery is pleased to present When The Year 2000 Comes, a solo exhibition by Haegue Yang, an internationally recognized artist based in Seoul and Berlin. This is the artist's first exhibition at Kukje and fourth solo exhibition in Korea since her last presentation at Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art in 2015. Yang is known for her experimental interpretation of tracing the paths of seemingly unrelated historical figures and events. In this ongoing investigation, the artist develops a pluralistic and personal approach to the concepts of subjectivity, culture, and time. This exhibition transforms the gallery space into a field of imagination and solidarity in which multisensory elements evoked by a series of sonic and mobile sculptures generate an engaging platform for the audience.
The exhibition's title, When The Year 2000 Comes, derives from Korean singer Hae-kyung Min's 'AD 2000,' a song released back in 1982. The song, which wistfully dreams of the future, welcomes visitors on the way to the exhibition. Situated in a future far beyond the one described in the lyrics, the audience is reminded of the bygone hopes of the distant past. In other words, the temporality of the year 2000 embodies both the past and future; we are able to traverse the sentiments of time frozen in the song and perceive its complexities.
Treasure Ship (c. 1977), first revealed and circulated as a promotional image for this exhibition, was painted by Yang and her two brothers when they were children. This crayon and watercolor work playfully blends imaginary creatures such as monsters and archaeopteryxes, synthesizing an imaginary time-space with ancient and mythological elements.
These two audiovisual signifiers—sound and image—awaken the viewers' array of senses, which are intertwined with time and place, guiding them toward moments in the past to rekindle ambiguous memories and nostalgic feelings as well.
Inside, When The Year 2000 Comes consists of wallpaper covering all the walls, sculptures suggesting possible movement and transformation, and catalytic elements that stimulate the senses. Incubation and Exhaustion (2018), a wallpaper work made in collaboration with German graphic designer Manuel Raeder, was first presented in a solo exhibition last year at La Panacée-MO.CO., Montpellier. Based on initial research on the traces of pagan culture, thriving educational institutions, and the current economic development of tech industries in Occitania, a region in the South of France, the wallpaper unpredictably arranges an eclectic array of elements, from onions and garlic, rainbows and lightning, to surgical robots, straw and bells. Incubation and Exhaustion blends and juxtaposes past and present, technology and culture, and nature and civilization beyond local boundaries, transforming the space to possess an organic three-dimensionality that strongly demonstrates Yang's perspective against the established taxonomy of culture and folklore.
Referencing the grid of the Korean chessboard, nine horizontal and ten vertical lines sprawl across the floor and crawl up the wall. The board is torn off in the middle, acquiring a 'limbo,' which is covered by perforated holographic vinyl that reflects light. As the fog lifts, this grid reveals itself and then unveils the exact placement of the sculptures at its intersections. Scented gym balls, which visitors are invited to interact with freely or sit on, are also on the grid.
Viewers engage with the Sol LeWitt Vehicles (2018ongoing) and add movement such that multiple dimensions emerge in the space. Located in the middle of the space are two vehicles, which are part of a new body of sculptures created by adding dynamic mobile elements to Yang's existing blind series. The artist began to work with sensorial elements such as wind, light, and heat in the mid-2000s. Around the same time, she also began to actively incorporate venetian blinds, a spatial demarcator that ambivalently denotes both openness and opaqueness. Sol LeWitt Vehicles are hybrids of two previous work cycles: Dress Vehicles (2011–ongoing) and Sol LeWitt Upside Down (2015–ongoing). While the former sculptures invite people to 'wear' and maneuver them, the latter ones physically and conceptually expand the cube structures of Sol LeWitt (1928–2007), the pioneer of Minimalism. Whereas the Sol LeWitt Upside Down sculptures are made by reversing LeWitt's modular structures and suspending them upside down, based on a length of 70 cm on each side of the cube, Sol LeWitt Vehicles demonstrate a formal evolution by their vertical stacking of the modular structures. While conceptually aligned with her two earlier bodies of work, these new sculptures are designed to be controlled from the outside rather than the inside and require ideally more than two people to coordinate movement.
Four Sonic Gym (2019) sculptures are suspended from the ceiling in two diagonally opposite corners of the space. This series derives from Sonic Sculptures (2013–ongoing), a body of work made of bells. Incorporating new elements, such as handles or artificial straw, the Sonic Gym sculptures generate unique visual patterns and acoustics when rotated manually. The very act of shaking or tapping a hollow medium to elicit the transition from a state of silence and immobility to one of resonance and summoning is reminiscent of ritualistic acts across different cultures and societies. The medium also simultaneously connotes the transition from nature to culture, and from craft to mass production, resulting in a marriage of culture and industry. Bells, a medium of both functional and ceremonial purpose and equally found in various civilizations, from tribal societies to the modern era, add a layer of ritualistic memory to the work and mystic resonance to the space.
Moreover, the birdsong emitted from the two suspended speakers adds an acoustic dimension. This 30 minute-long sound clip was extracted from the broadcast of the Inter-Korean Summit held in April of 2018. The footage captures the leaders of the two Koreas sitting together at the end of a footpath speaking privately at a distance, but only contains audio elements of birds chirping, and the footsteps and faint shutter sounds of journalists from all over the world. This seemingly banal ambient noise reveals the fissure that exists in this highly charged demilitarized zone, where societal narratives and political implications are interwoven with nature, a site dehors the Anthropocene.
Amidst the space infiltrated by scents of the earth, sound, fog, and light is another non-visual piece, A Chronology of Conflated Dispersion - Duras and Yun (2018). This text is a cross section of the biographies of the French author Marguerite Duras (1914–1996) and Korean composer Isang Yun (1917–1995), subjectively edited by Yang. These two contemporaries lived through social and political upheavals of the time and have been referenced either directly or indirectly in Yang's work. The chronology unfolds contextually with few historical facts of the two figures. As their lives unfurl through colonialism, the Cold War, and ensuing social transformations and political conflicts, their suffering and alienation emerge in an alluring drama encapsulated within the chronology.
The exhibition will be accompanied by a program of performances of Isang Yun's Images (1968), the flying of drone soccer balls, and lectures by two authors of the essays in the exhibition publication (Sungwon Kim and Jinshil Lee). Yun's Images was inspired by Sasindo (four deities), the mural of the Great Tomb of Gangseo, which he encountered during his visit to North Korea in 1963. It is composed as a quartet that musically embodies the lines and colors of the four Taoist guardian deities depicted on the four walls of the burial chamber: the Black Tortoise (flute), Azure Dragon (oboe), Vermilion Bird (violin), and White Tiger (cello). This performance will be held three times, once a month during the exhibition, in collaboration with the Tongyeong International Music Foundation (TIMF). Further, the actual drones used in drone soccer games will fly through the exhibition space at scheduled times, adding subtle vibrations and vivid scenery.
The exhibition When The Year 2000 Comes offers a glimpse into Yang's unique artistic language that references a wide array of histories and cultures by reinterpreting everyday vocabulary through the means of repetition, overlap, and hybridization. In this process Yang recalls easily relatable personal memories or questions a collective consciousness that has been conventionally classified or deliberately overlooked. When The Year 2000 Comes re-examines the value of handicraft, nature, and speculative areas undermined in the name of scientific rationality and capitalism; folk culture; and the sociopolitical figures and spaces that have been marginalized in the hegemonic system.
Haegue Yang was born in 1971 in Seoul, South Korea and currently lives and works between Berlin and Seoul. One of the leading and most significant artists of her generation, Yang moved to Germany in 1994 to study at the renowned art school Städelschule, where she received a Meisterschüler. She is currently Professor of Fine Art at her alma mater. In 2018, she became the first-ever Asian female artist to receive the prestigious Wolfgang Hahn Prize and received the Republic of Korea Culture and Arts Award (Presidential Citation) in the visual arts category. Yang has held solo exhibitions in numerous museums across the globe, including South London Gallery, London (2019), La Panacée-MO.CO., Montpellier (2018); Museum Ludwig, Cologne (2018); KINDL - Centre for Contemporary Art, Berlin (2017); Centre Pompidou, Paris (2016); Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing (2015); Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art, Seoul (2015); Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Strasbourg (2013); Haus der Kunst, Munich (2012); Aspen Art Museum, Aspen (2011); and Walker Art Center, Minneapolis (2009). Yang represented Korea at the 53rd Venice Biennale in 2009 and has continued to participate in major international exhibitions, such as the 21st Biennale of Sydney and Liverpool Biennial (2018), the 12th Sharjah Biennial (2015), the 9th Taipei Biennial (2014), dOCUMENTA (13) in Kassel (2012), and the Gwangju Biennale (2010). Yang's large-scale installation work Handles will debut at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) on October 21 for the reopening of the museum, followed by her solo exhibition In the Cone of Uncertainty at The Bass Museum of Art, Miami on November 2, 2019. In spring 2020, Yang will present two solo shows, at the Art Gallery of Ontario and TateSt Ives. Her works are in the collections of major international institutions, including the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York; the Guggenheim Museum, New York; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; Tate Modern, London; and the Centre Pompidou, Paris.
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