Features / Review

Haegue Yang - The field of Layered Senses

posted 28 Oct 2019

Time does not flow linearly. In fact, it varies by when, who, and where. As such, a clear and accurate definition of time is highly desirable before, and fundamental to not only discussion of psychological response or cultural metaphors, but even revelation of scientific and physical facts. Theoretical physicist Carlo Rovelli states, "...the key to understanding time is to realize that our common concept of 'time' is multi-layered... Now we understand that many properties we attribute to time come from approximations and simplifications." September 2019, as I stood in the midst of the exhibition 《When the Year 2000 Comes》, I finally came to understand Rovelli's statement. I also felt a strong urge to replace the word time with the phrase Yang Haegue's art works.

When The Year 2000 Comes installation view Image provided by Kukje Gallery

When The Year 2000 Comes installation view Image provided by Kukje Gallery

First solo exhibition in Korea since 《Shooting the Elephant 象Thinking the Elephant》 which opened in Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art 4 years ago in 2015, 《When the Year 2000 Comes》 is marked by elements not present in the last exhibition. Most notable is the song from the past acts as a segue into the main body of the exhibition and also primes the senses, alongside the childhood paintings on a sketchbook that Yang drew with her younger siblings. Entering the exhibition, the audience is immediately greeted by the optimistic lyrics of AD 2000 by Min Haekyeong, a Korean pop singer in the 1980s. Even before the audience can take a moment to pay attention to the song, much less the lyrics, they encounter Treasure Ship, drawn in watercolor and crayons. The nascent naivety of the painting removes any sense of expectation or even predictability going into Yang's latest exhibition. This confoundment owes to the song and childish drawings, but no for their novelty; they are an unexpected breakaway away from Yang's more established and understood sculptural vernacular. Asked why, the artist answers and asks in kind, "There was no question if these elements can be included. They may not mesh with the perception of who Yang Haegue is, but is that important? Which is paramount, that, or inspiring the audience?" Nonetheless certain aspects of the exhibition need greater explanation than nostalgic sentiments. Under the Christmas tree of cherished memories, the exhibition has wrapped gifts of verb tense and perspective, time and temporality as the core messages of the exhibition.

Jump into the metaphorical labyrinth with the loose end of the artist's long-spun ball of yarn and come out the other end after a tour of the prehistoric to the modern, having witnessed a millennia’s worth of scents, sounds, and light. There are only a limited number of individual works in the exhibition, but every space is fully populated. The exhibition layout provides no distinguishable section boundaries, free-standing walls, or columns. To the visitor walking through the all-over layout, time and space seems to pour out mercilessly unto the floor. Combined with the drone flights on fixed dates and times, the exhibition is veritably Dionysian. There are no bacchanalian dances or bustle of inebriated bravado, but the air is intoxicating with all the floating, reflection, and vibration. As the audience begins questioning their state of sobriety, the sprawling gym balls give off the musky scent of the earth; smoke of unknown origin diffuses across the hall, and the motionless works begin moving with the help of the facilitators. It is a scene of the whole, simultaneously an aggregate of splintered moments. For a moment, pause the struggle to identify and place the references and overarching ideas of history, culture, and cultural phenomena. Pause and take a moment to observe with the senses. Let each anachronistic fragment be a time-traveling device that draws you to any single point of the overlapping spacetime represented within the exhibition.

※ This content was first published in the October, 2019 release of Public Art Magazine and has been re-published on TheARTRO.kr after a negotiation was reached between Korea Arts Management Service and Public Art Magazine.

Lee Gajin

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