“Ability vs Invisibility”: Korean artist Chung Seoyoung at Tina Kim Gallery, New York
Korean contemporary artist Chung Seoyoung develops a sculptural approach to appreciate less visible features in the world around us.
Installation of Chung Seoyoung, “Ability vs Invisibility”, 2 March – 15 April 2017, Tina Kim Gallery, New York.
All images courtesy the artist and Tina Kim Gallery.
From 2 March to 15 April 2017, New York’s Tina Kim Gallery will present their first solo exhibition of South Korean artist Chung Seoyoung. Entitled “Ability vs. Invisibility”, the show features sculpture, installation and video work from the 2000s to the present.
Chung Seoyoung (b. 1964), who has lived in Germany for many years, is a post-Dansaekhwa conceptual artist and a key figure in the next generation of Korean artists. Her work explores the arbitrary and rootless nature of things. She often uses elements of the absurd in order to create a dialogue between material objects and a sense of ambiguity.
‘Curb’, 2013, cast aluminium, 118.11 x 3.94 x 11.81 inches 300 x 10 x 30 cm.
Looking for the invisible
Chung uses cheap, Korean-made construction materials to create her sculptures and installations, exploring perceptions of space and time. As she explains,
Space and time are requisite conditions for comprehending the problems of reality, body, and objects more broadly. In other words, through the abstractness provided by space and time, the conditions for understanding the world can infinitely expand and be intensely challenged.
Chung’s work has expanded beyond the visual vernacular traditions of modern abstract painting and the populist Minjung art movement, which were prevalent in the Korean art scene when Chung was studying sculpture. In her years working in Germany, she developed a sculptural practice that moved beyond cultural narratives. She explored ideas of industrialism and environments through paired down representations. By turning the viewer’s attention away from the visual narrative, Chung throws into relief the non-visible aspects, such as time
In one piece in the exhibition, Nobody Notices, the visitor can sit on “a vaguely anthropomorphic sculpture made of rough concrete” while listening to the piece’s sounds through headphones. The sounds come from the Swiss composer Mandred Werder’s 2005/1, sounds recorded in Zurich’s central train station every day at 10am. Chung describes:
As Werder once mentioned in an interview, these sounds enable simple listening and concentration on what is going on in the world. It might be preposterous to gaze at the cement piece while listening to the sounds, or to experience sculpture in a state that is not formal/customary. Sculpture in general sense indicates something physical and tangible. I go beyond this limitation of general notion of sculpture and think of both sounds and texts as immaterial or nonmaterial sculpture. Thus, the experience of listening, at least for me, can be described as a “sculptural experience”, because the energy exerted in using our auditory senses to interpret the world around us creates some kind of intangible substance, which becomes the sculpture. Nobody Notices It is derived from my desire to approach everything that constructs the world with what I call “sculptural approach”.
Objects as social evidence
The exhibition “Ability vs. Invisibility” is part of a text project called The Ways. Chung explains the sense of opposition she creates in the title of the exhibition
This imaginary confrontational composition cannot be comprehended as simple competition or opposition between the two, and choosing one over the other becomes almost ridiculous. The effect of such confrontation can be achieved only by discovering a new dimension within that confrontational composition. This is deeply related to my interest in objects as social evidence, and my effort to recognise the unexpected moment when a sculpture arises.
‘East West South North’, 2007, steel, wheels, 196.85 x 236.22 x 24.8 in, 500 x 600 x 63 cm.
In the large-scale sculpture East West North South (2007), bright still fences fill the gallery space, creating a marked out yet empty space. The title, with the emphasis on directions, is at opposition to its location in space, and the viewer does not actually know from the work what its orientation is in the gallery. The piece serves to disorientate and question markers of direction.
‘The Adventure of Mr. Kim and Mr. Lee’, 2010-2012, three-channel video installation, approximately 17.72 x 27.56 in, 45 x 70 x 2.5 cm.
Another work that looks at how objects become social is the three-channel video The Adventure of Mr. Kim and Mr. Lee (2010-2012). In this performance, nine performers and a dog are situated throughout the stage, the dressing room and the hallways of LIG Art Hall, Seoul. They are all moving apart from a man smoking and walking the dog. Their clothes challenge the assumed identity of each character; the child is dressed like an old woman, the woman has a mustache and a man has a monster’s ear. Clothes that should provide signs for understanding the context have been abstracted and altered, provoking the viewer to question unnoticed assumptions. In addition, because the performers are silent and the identities of Mr. Kim and Mr. Lee are not revealed, the viewer becomes a dynamic participant of the piece, creating a narrative to put on the mute characters
Chung has also incorporated language into her work, such as in A tiger only in half, a palm tree upside down, FAST! (2012) and excerpts from her drawing series Monster Map 15 Min. (2008). Chung explains in the exhibition text:
the titles I choose are another type of work in themselves, using language to shape the lineaments of a piece, or gesture beyond the boundaries of that piece to where it might lead.
‘Table’, 2007, wood, 47.24 x 28.94 x 35.43 in, 120 x 73.5 x 90 cm.
In some of her artwork titles, she uses language to refer to what is not seen, such as the geographic orientations in East West North South or the half-missing Table (2007). Another example is Curb (2013), which is cast in the shape of a curb on the street but which is removed from its natural context and placed in the gallery environment. The relationship between the object and its nature, or function, has been rendered unusual.
‘Fist vs. Finger’, 2015, pencil drawings on paper
In other instances, Chung’s titles add another layer to the meaning of the work by providing another lens through which to see an object or a situation. The Adventure of Mr. Kim and Mr. Lee is an example of this, where the space between the title of the work and its context allows viewers room to add their own meaning and narrative. The strangeness between the title and the objects encourages interpretation and leaps of the imagination. This space of strangeness, open to multiple understandings, is present throughout Chung’s oeuvre, whether it is in her videos, sculptures or installations.