Nikos Papadimitriou at SLOW, Chungju, South Korea

φωτογραφίαLast spring I had the good fortune to see excellent examples of works, while graceful, meaningfully represent the distances one faces being a stranger in a strange land. These images were neither self-portraits, nor personal in the sense of depicting lived experience, but rather addressed such distances through the visuals of traditional culture and pictorial composition. Last May the printing plates and watercolors of Greek artist Nikos Papadimitriou were exhibited of at the cafe SLOW, in Chungju, where he lived and worked until June. He has since return to Greece after a year and half teaching in the art department at Konkuk’s Chungju campus. These works are so to the point about being here and there while being here. The small, carefully, but blurrily painted female figures dressed in hanbok juxtaposed to the larger and perhaps cruder, but more detailed plates of women in traditional Greek garb, offer up a dialog about intimacy and distance. The small, elegant Korean figures show the out-of-reach quality of other cultures, while the prints of Greek women reveal a familiarity, even a certain disregard we may all have for our own cultures. Papadimitriou’s treatment of culture here shows sensitivities to, both cultural fluency, and illiteracy, desire and longing for sometimes, being far from home inclines one to feel cut off from either end. While the crudeness of his print plates belies a need and urgency, the watercolors evoke all the exotic impressions of the foreign. This also reveals the manner in which desire also operates. The familiar is less compelling while that which is out of reach may drive us to grasp. Although these works may appear to lack any obvious criticality, by attempting to represent the problematic of inhabiting another culture they offer a gentle entry into a discourse on the same. Papadimitriou’s sensitive depiction of this knot makes the distances between home and away all the more acute.

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Review: Ambivalent Synthesis: Artist as Mediator, or Modulator

– A note on the exhibition We Are Just Bits

Gallery view: We Are Just Bits courtesy of Lee KyungMin

Gallery view: We Are Just Bits

This past winter in the duplex structure of One and J. Gallery three artists working in different media, including easel and mural painting, photography and video installation, were brought together by curator Kyung Min Lee. Due to the differences in media, form and subject, few things seemed to connect their works at the first glance; however, the

Lee, Eun Sun, [left] Trumpet lily, 2013, digital c-print, 130x130 cm left and [right] Tulip, digital c-print, 130x130 cm (2013)courtesy of Lee KyungMin

Lee, Eun Sun, [left] Trumpet lily, 2013, digital c-print, 130×130 cm left and [right] Tulip, digital c-print, 130×130 cm (2013)

exhibition title: We are Just Bits, suggested a shared theme: art concerning perception of the visual and signs of the digitalized multimedia era. In turn, as one moves through the exhibit, these concerns can be read in each artist’s works. Eunsun Lee’s mural painting and digital photographic prints seemed to invoke the “bits” of painting as the formal structures involved in illusion and materiality, while Kyungwoo Han directed the audience’s attention toward

Han, Kyung Woo, Point of Recognition, multi channel video, loop (2013) courtesy of Lee Kyung Min

Han, Kyung Woo, Point of Recognition, multi channel video, loop (2013)

dematerialization in the digital era. The imagery of “bits,” however, is simultaneously actualized and abstracted in Taeyoon Kim’s video tableaus. Kim’s works have special significance because they succeed in grasping contemporary art’s perennial concerns with the immanent issues of material and form. Kim’s work implies that art practices needs to be concern with both intrinsic forms and expanded concepts. This combination can sometimes go beyond a mixture to a synthesis. Abstractly, when forms are interpreted as visual signs the signification of works of art operates on both internal and external features in a structural system, which still holds ambivalence in its synthesis.

So, however painterly Taeyoon Kim’s video installation Six Points Evolution (2012) may appear they are formalist; strongly based in a confined set of visual structures and compositional rules. Lines, colors, patterns, directions, rotations, and overlap, are all under the strict control of the artist’s detailed and meticulous timing of the coordinating configurations he has set in his vector values. However much these screen saver-like video installations give the impression of being merely abstract modulations in an animated scene, their formalist and modernist features are only one side of their content. The other side is their semiotic implications. The sources of Kim’s digits are directly transcoded from archival web material, and thus his “bits,” modulated in the video, are actually representations of collective and discursive practices emerging at the micro-level of social structures in everyday linguistic exchange. This two-fold direction contains critical contemporary feature that reject the author’s sole creative subjectivity on one hand, and diminishes the possibility of sliding into an empty cynicism of language-based art.

Six Points Evolution, Six Kim Taeyoon, Points Evolution, custom software, variable size (2012)

Kim Taeyoon, Six Points Evolution, custom software, variable size (2012)

Whether or not Kim considered formal elements simply as sources of visual pleasure, these elements reflect the sign systems embedded in social representation. In actuality, it is exemplified in his treatment of visual forms, such as the repetitive series of slashes and seemingly random patterns controlled by 0s or 1s in Spaced Oddity (2013), which mutually overlap and separate. In considering the structure of the display, the falling bits constantly collapsing and receding into the bottom edge always move vertically, preventing the audience from viewing what is depicted as merely or only painterly. Because the “image” moves to the bottom, as in the calligraphic tradition, the audience also then “reads” the work due to this directional cue.

Kim Taeyoon, Spaced Oddity, video loops, variable size (2013)

Kim Taeyoon, Spaced Oddity, video loops, variable size (2013)

Going back to the matter of the immanent form, it is generally thought that for abstract painting, the dialectic of the surface and space depends on achieving a tension that defeats its static condition; while video relies on tension achieved by taming its superfluous elements, such as such as flicker and the facile movement given off by the media’s temporal characteristics that overcome its kinetic nature. From this point of view, Kim’s video successfully integrates the static and contemplative tensions, especially in that Kim’s palimpsest of a web archive is a carefully composed work of confined elements achieving a vibrant effect.

The motivation of an art practice can be derived from several places, such as formal, socio-cultural, and theoretical positions. If Kim’s work solely focused on one of these interests, his work could simply be a display of the capabilities of media technology, or a boring societal poll using a bunch of tweets; however, by not omitting any of these positions the quality and interest in Kim’s work are obviously augmented. That seemingly opposite features can be embraced in a subtle and ambivalent manner, which is of concern in the contemporary interest in unifying diachronic axes of form, art history, and immanent issues of art with synchronic axes of societal interest, the sense of contemporaneity, and materialist recognition. Meaning that fervent activism should go with critical reason. Still, its potential might yet be grasped in what once were thought not reconcilable: visual representation, linguistic textuality, and the politics of representation. The intersection of these in Kim’s work defies their easy appearances and weighs heavily within its structure.

Oh Hyeong Jin, M.F.A. candidate Seoul National University

All Images Courtesy of Lee Kyungmin

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Review: Lee Chang Won

Other Selves

Gallery Loop 9.26-10.24.12

Lee Chang Won’s clever works on exhibit at Gallery Loop could seem a bit thin at first glance, but then the tricky nature of the work takes on more depth as you become entranced but what it can do. It is lucky that the artist chose to put his most complex apparatus on the first floor which prepare you for what is far more simple almost flatfooted in the lower gallery. Regardless of its simplicity in the lower gallery the work is just as enchanting as the cave paintings they reference. Using simple means—LED lights and mirrors with silhouettes cut out—to make his images Lee focuses our attention on the reflected shapes. However, especially in the work Parallel World_Hands Across Time (2012), akin to Plato’s cave, Lee transmits two possible messages, but we perhaps receive only one. The sillouetetes are cut from images of popular culture and appear to be chosen for their specific gestures and stances. However, clean Lee’s works appear they posses a surprising patina of antique mystery. Particularly captivating Babi’s Mirror_Apparition (2012) is comprised of a turning mirror like ballerina in a music box and the reflection of a face. Of late many artists it seems are using reflections and spotlighting in the dark to focus viewers’ attention. At this point in history work like Lee’s that utilize the metaphor of the cave seems appropriate. Are we hiding or searching, in wonder and awe, or fear and dread. Is this a metaphor or a reality? Always there is a small bit of light—something to reach for, to aspire to. But is it more than a search? Are we finding ourselves once again in a dark age of opaque leadership, even as we unearth, make transparent every aspect of our lives? Or is it even more sinister? Are we thrown back, living in the dark because there is little or no hope? However elementary these works may appear, that glimmer at the end of the tunnel may just be a Mack truck on a crash course with humanity.

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Review: Media City 2012: Spell on You

Seoul Museum of Art, 9.11-11.4.12

The exhibit Media City: Spell on You housed in the Seoul Museum of Art is chock full of good work, more than good, great works of media art. However, the unbearable installation of each and nearly every work makes one ask: what where the organizers thinking? Not only can you not hear the work you are looking at you can barely hear yourself think for all the interference from all the sound spilling over and around partitions. I would have loved to sit and listen to Jung Yeondoo’s Six Points (2010), but I couldn’t hear it because the work in the next space was blaring away, and visa versa. Works housed in their own rooms were drowned out by those in the next so a work like David Claerbout’s The Algiers’ Sections of a Happy Moment (2008), which needs quiet and contemplation, was just miserably overwhelmed by all the noise from the other works. Media City is typically a good show and as it is a recurrent media exhibit one would think there would be some sensitivity to the installation of such works and a need to respect the sound thresholds of each work by not allowing any to drown out another. This is basic to media exhibition: how to find a balance between works that have competing interests? But here all that was forgotten. So a potentially amazing exhibit is shattered by the lacking skill of the preparators? The curator? The museum? Unable to really concentrate on works by artists, such as Seiko Mikami, Koo Donghee and Dennis Feser I left the exhibit quickly. In the end the worst part is how the artists are hurt here, how their ideas and efforts are buried under the weight of bad curating and exhibition design. What a travesty!

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Review: Out of the Yushin State – Body

Yangachi and Kim Jung-heun

Pool, 8.28-9.26.12

This two person show was premised on the1972 “self-coup” of Park Chung-hee. Part of this overthrow included the disappearance and supposedly accidental death of an opposition candidate for the office of the president. The work in the show is interesting, if only for what it metaphorically expresses. As well, the forms may be familiar, but A Night of Burning Bone and Skin, an engaging flashlight lit video by Yangachi. Certainly the video is a forward-moving-search and a rewinding-back-tracking retracing of the steps of the dead man, but is it more? A search for a way forward? The way back? A history that makes the present more sensible? The projection screen seemingly made of recycled wood gives the video the feeling of a search a more palpable presence in that it feels like a door or a fence, a blockage, not just something to overcome, but representative of an impasse. Still the relationship between the works is one of distance and respect rather than dialog. While there are problems with the exhibition, especially in the other works included by Yangachi, the exhibit has a neat sense of continuity between works. At least three of Kim Jung-heun’s paintings make clear the context in which Yangachi conducts his investigation. However, what was obvious and poetic in the video become superfluous in the flag and photograph of the flag. Moreover the hanging of Jung’s work felt tricky—in a bad way—affect used for the sole purpose of creating interest where there is no need for more. Kim’s paintings made between 2001 and 2004 are skilled and simple, directly reflecting the place from which the show wishes to speak. This critique of that era, the military junta of Park Chung-hee is timely, in that his daughter also seeks the power of the presidency. However the question is: are these investigations’ revelations audible?

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Review: Gwangju Biennale: Roundtable

9.7-11.11.12

The word on the street was that this year’s installment of the Gwangju Biennale wasn’t very good. Viewing the co-directed Roundtable with already low expectations, the most obvious flaw of this biennale is that it is not well organized, which despite stating that this its premise is the organization of an open and non-hierarchical endeavor. For even the most egalitarian of exhibits can have a sense of unity or even design. So it is all well and good to intend this and also stand in opposition to the last Gwangju Biennale in order to mess with order. But the last biennale was in comparison a far more comprehensive and coherent statement of its guiding thesis. Roundtable, on the other hand, is plagued by confusing, vague and has an overwhelming amount of signage that often has typos and omits key information like video duration. One area that did excel was the off-site exhibit at Mugaksa, a Buddhist temple. The works shown there were both engaging and enjoyable. Conversely, the works shown in the Daein Market felt haphazard, in a bad way, but not because it was in a market, but because the market is dirty and gross, not inviting in any way. The lack of attention to this area by the organizers or the city was an obvious misstep of the organizers. More importantly what that site added to these works I do not know. For if the site was supposed to inform the works I could see no connection as to why good works by like Kim Beom and Chosil Kil had to be stuffed there and suffer from crap accommodations. In the main halls the show went on too long, meaning the first gallery had a lot of work of interest, even if some felt derivative or familiar, but as one moved through the spaces it became a chore to keep up with the amount of listening and video and reading that had to been done to take in the whole thing. By the last floor in the second building fatigue had set in caused by unevenly juxtaposed works demanding unwarranted attention.

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Review: dOCUMENTA(13) curated by Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev

Kassel, Germany June 9- September 16

After attending documenta three times (1997 for Catherine David’s documentaX and in 2002 for Okwui Enwezor’s documenta11) the most obvious assessment is that each incarnation is the expression of its curator. Undeniably dOCUMENTA(13) has the imprint of its organizer, Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, which can be defined as socio-politically comprehensive and relevant in scope. Because each documenta is a statement about the moment, while also being something of a timekeeper, each reflects the past, present and future as a continuum that shifts in time and space. Still, the sheer complexity and easy accessibility Christov-Bakargiev brings to bear on issues of political and social import surely makes it a standout among others. If Enwezor’s documenta11 was political and didactic, Christov-Bakargiev’s is ethically illuminating and edifying. dOCUMENTA(13) moves between worlds: nature and science; east and west; war and peace; cruelty and compassion; giving and receiving, and yet the spaces it occupies in Kassel are not fission with tension, but magic and a sense of depth without condescension. To continue the comparison, if David’s was too representative of the establishment and rewrote the history of art in the 20th century, Christov-Bakargiev’s brings together known and new models of contemporary art and includes many less renowned artists from all over the world, as well as the work of people from different disciplines. Moreover, this documenta palpably transcends the opening week as it spreads continuously over its 100 days with events and projects throughout the small hamlet of Kassel and beyond to other parts of this Hessen capital, as well as shifting its location from Kassel to Cairo to Kabul to Banff.

Roman Ondák, Observations, 1995/2011, 120 cuttings from a book, grouped in 72 frames Each cutting between 4,9 x 5,2 cm and 7,7 x 12,6 cm Photo: Anders Sune Berg

Without going into the difficulty, too much, of taking in an exhibit of this scale in its entirety I will say that it was, more than any previous I attended, sprawling and beyond all human capacity to take in, even a fraction of its contents without unlimited time and the ability to move through time. This is not a detraction, in fact it is one of the many things that makes dOCUMENTA(13) special. With its focus on not so much on the intransigence, but reliable fluctuations between oppositions like east and west, notions of history and the place of the artist in the exchange of goods and services objects and ideas, Christov-Bakargiev managed to bring into being an exhibit that made room for as many ways of working as can be imagined without producing any feeling of competing interests. In this way the show points to how undeniably linked we are in our differences. The focus and organization throughout give respectful space to each and every, with perhaps one exception on the right hand side of the second floor the Neue Gallerie, which felt more like an MFA exhibit than a site at the most exceptional of exhibits. However there are tremendous moments there with the likes of Wael Shawky’s Cabaret Crusades; and Roman Ondak’s Observations.

Wael Shawky, Cabaret Crusades: The Path to Cairo, 2012 Video, color, sound 58 min. Photo: Anders Sune Bergs

The most important location in Kassel is perhaps the first floor of Fridericianum, where the exhibition begins. Quickly dispensing with all expectations the entrance gives the viewer little or nothing to hang onto in terms of art or direction with Ryan Gander’s I Need Some Meaning I Can Memorise[sic] (The Invisible Pull), (2012), which is little more than a breeze wafting through these wide open spaces. In effect Gander’s piece clears the mind, allowing the exhibit to take hold. As you ascend the floors of this building, it gets fuller, so by the time you get to the top of the building, where Kader Attia’s The Repair from Occident to Extra-Occidental Cultures, (2012) and Miriam Ghani’s A Brief History of Collapses are situated, the experience is extensive and overwhelming. Still, the core of this exhibition, called The Brain, is located at the back of the building’s first floor in the rotunda, like a hippocampus storing a collective sensibility, where Christov-Bakargiev has gathered numerous objects, like Georgio Morandi’s still life objects to Sam Durant’s pillow, and the 3000-year-old Batrician Princesses, revealing a poetic wellspring of the exhibit, pulsing with ideas. However, the weight of this exhibit is in the overall sense that the works represent something specific to the artist, the place and the exhibit. Most works are not solely semantic, but represent philosophies and sciences, crafts and forms, with each work set down, shown, revealed in its complexity and density, that in turn reflect Christov-Bakargiev’s reputation for being an artists curator, as well as her ideas about commitment to ideas and practices.

Various artists, The Brain, Photo: Roman März

The effect of these elements increases as the viewing accumulates. With the incorporation of science and other biological elements, the body is not divorced from thought, rather it is shown to be one in the same or at least party to each other. The pastoral tone of documenta helps put you in touch with both the undertones of the past as well as the possible and impossible. In an exhaustive yet excellent manner, as a viewer you are sent far afield to see and feel and think as you move through space, especially in the Karlsaue where Christov-Bakargiev made beautiful use of the landscape—reviving it as a place of contemplation and discovery. Importantly, it is in the Karlsaue, which is landscaped according to an alignment of the planets, that one begins to recognize the way bodies, both material and human, relate in space.

Tue Greenfort, The Worldly House, 2012, An Archive Inspired by Donna Haraway’s Writings on Multispecies’ Co-Evolution, Compiled and Presented by Tue Greenfort, Commissioned and produced by dOCUMENTA (13) Photo: Nils Klinger

From the amazing Janet Cardiff and George Bures’s for a thousand years placed in the woods; to Massimo Bartolini’s simple but hypnotic Untitled (Wave); to Huyghe’s beautiful danger called Untilled; to Anna Marie Maiolino’s crazy and physical Being, Making, Thinking: Encounters in Art as Life; to The Worldly House… “News from Nowhere” with its fantastic setting and storehouse of ideas; to AND AND AND’s overall presence and permutations in the Karlsaue, all these and more bring together the topographical connections embedded or emplaced, as Christov-Bakargiev calls it, in the breadth of the exhibit.

Gunnar Richter, Dealing with the Era of National Socialism—A Regional Study of a Crime in the Final Phase of World War II. Methods of Researching, 1981/2012, Audio slide show, 100 slides, 35 min. Photo: Nils Klinger

One work that struck me as basic to the exhibit was Gunnar Richter’s audio slide show Dealing with the Era of National Socialism (1981),which shows how easily the horrors of war can be elided, and the necessary diligence it takes to reveal them, through systematic research, evidence about how the twelfth century Breitenau Monastery in Guxhausen was transformed over the centuries from a place of worship for Benedictine monks into a concentration camp during World War II and how all traces of its existence were scrubbed from both the public record and the local memory. Moreover, works such as Richter’s in the exhibit as a totality are not discrete. A specific link can be seen between Richter’s work and the three-channel film installation Muster (Rushes) (2012) by Clemens von Wedemeyer, housed in the Hauptbahnhof, where in fact Jews and degenerates were carted off to Breitenau. But that is not the main connection here. The films show three narrative perspectives of what Breitenau was and is: just after the German’s surrendered and the Allied forces arrived on the scene; its days as a reformatory for school girls in the 1970s; and today, as a group of disaffected youth are given a tour of its atrocities. While the intersections between these two works are obvious, there are just as many who are connected on similar terms that are not so clear. Clemens von Wedemeyer, Muster (Rushes), 2012, 3-channel synchronized HD film installation, color, sound, 3 screens: 280 x 500 cm, 3 x 27 min., Photo: Henrik StrombergBut, more than any other works these showed Christov-Bakargiev‘s investment in critically investigating the institution’s history and meaning without abandoning it as something useless and only contemptuous. Through works like Richter’s and von Wedemeyer’s documenta as an institution is shown to be larger than the exhibit, adding to the idea that investigation is useful, knowledge is power and that history and the future are linked.

The Book of Books, the supporting text of dOCUMENTA(13), is introduced by Christov-Bakargiev with a story about a proposed project to move a meteor from Argentina to Kassel. The point of this anecdote is to illustrate that things as well as people have perspectives and places. This idea is essential to dOCUMENTA(13), as is the fact that each work in the exhibit is site-specific to one degree or another. My sense, moving about, was of being a flâneur, seeing my reflection and refraction in everything I observed and likewise being defined by that which I considered. This was the first time I attended when I wasn’t in a group or on duty, so it was to be an art vacation, which was at times nicely reaffirmed by the small houses scattered throughout the park, like resort town by a lake. But a vacation it was not. However enriching an experience like documenta is, it is in a sense a trauma to consider so much at such an intense pace. I begin to think it is that strain, the sense of being pulled apart by ideas and images, balanced by wonder, that in the end is the point of this incarnation of documenta. But really when all is said and done if there is a way to summarize documenta it escapes me. I do know that as it was each time I’ve gone it’s given me a lot to think about and consider, not only about the work I saw, but about my own taste and proclivities; likes and dislikes, standards and sensibilities. The most impressive aspect of the show is the amount of transparency the curator provided into her thoughts and planning for the exhibit. Actually seeing her schematics was inspiring in and of itself, showing that something like this, so grand and comprehensive, is no less mysterious or magical because we get to see into the process.

Julia Marsh

 

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five short reviews from dOCUMENTA(13)

Miriam Ghani, A Brief History of Collapses (2011-12) 2-channel HD video installation, color, 6.1-channel sound, 22 min., Dimensions variable

Miriam Ghani, A Brief History of Collapses (2011-12) A Brief History of Collapses, 2011–2012, , 2-channel HD video installation, color, 6.1-channel sound, 22 min., Dimensions variable, Photo: Roman März

The video A Brief History of Collapses by Miriam Ghani in many ways embodies the thesis of dOCUMENTA(13). If The Brain of the exhibition its on the ground floor then Ghani’s work is like the cerebral cortex situated on the top floor of the Fredricianum. The video is a tour de force, not because it is grand, in fact it is rather simple—a split screen shows a camera moving through each buildings perhaps following a woman—but because Ghani tackles fundamental questions about perception, experience, history and the meeting of differences. What makes the video enrapturing and surprising at each turn, is how Ghani subtly weaves together the two stories of two places: Dar ul-Aman Palace in Kabul and the Fredricianum in Kassel. These places that are similar yet different, in the telling of their stories; shifting in time between their building, destruction, and current states runs deep and cuts to core issues about the lies and truths we tell ourselves about our histories and our circumstances. Ghani’s work encapsulates Christov-Bakargiev’s project by showing the interconnectivity and distinctions that inform and move rather than divide and determine.

Korbinian Aigner Apples, 1912-1960s, 396 Drawings, 10×15 cm, gouache and pencil or watercolour and colored pencil on cardboard

Korbinian Aigner Apples, 1912-1960s, 396 Drawings, 10x15 cm, gouache and pencil or watercolour and colored pencil on cardboard, Photo: Roman MärzAnyone who has been to art school has been given the assignment to do or draw or make something over and over in order to explore both the object and the method of making as well as the perception of the maker. Which is what make the repetition and care of Aigner’s project all the more stunning, because visually very little changed over the 48 years. Aigner was not some art student wasting time in art school, he was a priest who opposed the Nazi’s and was intern at Dachau where he was given the task of working in the gardens. There he survived and made meaning of that existence by developing new strains of apples. One can only image the focus of mind to continue in the face of Nazi brutality, but he did. From this perspective do Aigner’s works represent hope or denial? Disassociated activity is not necessarily separate from the will to live or survive, rather can be a means of persistence, even resilience.

Susan Hiller, Die Gedanken sind frei: 100 songs for the 100 days of dOCUMENTA (13), 2011–12 Interactive audio sculpture dispersed on 5 sites, jukeboxes, CDs, Dimensions variable

Susan Hiller, Die Gedanken sind frei: 100 songs for the 100 days of dOCUMENTA (13), 2011–12 Interactive audio sculpture dispersed on 5 sites, jukeboxes, CDs, Dimensions variable, Photo: Anders Sune Berg

When I first “saw” Susan Hiller’s work 100 songs for the 100 days of dOCUMENTA (13) in the Neue Gallerie it left me cold. A jukebox in a room, lit like a department store, with the text of each song screened onto the walls and some seating… I dismissed it as poorly placed and uncomfortable, and so I moved on. But then I heard this piece in two other contexts and saw others interacting with it in places like the café at the Hauptbahnhof and the restaurant in the Karlsaue. In these places the work came to life. 100 songs for the 100 days of dOCUMENTA (13) doesn’t act as a sound track for life because its intentions are always obvious in the listening, meaning the listening is active, not passive. Each selected track: peace songs from around the world, creates an instant relationship between listeners in the act of choosing. In all, with Hiller’s publication Book of Songs, which includes the lyrics of all 100 songs, it is one of the best take-aways from the show.

Susan Philipsz, Study for Strings, (2012), 24 channel sound installation, Duration: 13 minutes, Kassel Hauptbahnhof

Aerial view of Kassel central train station and Henschel & Sohn Mittelfeld factors. Source: Stadtmuseum Kassel.

Susan Philipsz sound installation Study for Strings, in the Hauptbahnhof, is one of those rare works that by its nature defies easy description. It is both emotional and historically resonant and therefore merits careful assessment. Based on a composition of Pavel Haas, who wrote the piece at Theresienstadt concentration camp in 1943, Philipsz’s draws apart his score, isolating the discrete parts of the piece. The work’s core effect is all the more remarkable, because Philipsz has utilized the space and layout of the train station as a staff for scoring and organizing the work like a train timetable. This concretization allows the work to slip in an out of the viewer’s consciousness, repeatedly beckoning us to follow something impossible to follow. Its broken and dispersed sounds are a siren’s call over the exhibit, haunting its consciousness of the exhibit. This work reflects the heart of the exhibit because it directly addresses Kassel and German history directly without softening the anguish of that history.

MOON Kyungwon & JEON Joonho, News from Nowhere. El Fin del Mundo, 2012, 2-channel HD film, 13:35 min.

MOON Kyungwon & JEON Joonho, News from Nowhere. El Fin del Mundo, 2012, 2-channel HD film, 13:35 min. Photo: Anders Sune Berg

Moon Kyungwon and Jeon Joonho’s two-screen video News from Nowhere. El Fin del Mundo (2012) is a non-linear narrative about time, making and discovery. In two worlds, set apart by time, two people, a man and a woman make and alter, suggest and redefine materials leaving behind a sense that even in the end wonder does not die. The man set in the “now,” or rather the past, slowly recognizing the game is over, as the world as we know it has come to pass. While the woman set in the “future” shows the restart of what might be called civilization. In the showing we see the first dying out and disappearing, as the second engages in a rule bound world making a kind of archeology accounting of this other past. When considering this work from the perspective of science fiction the question arises what does the future tell us about the present? The materiality in each alludes to a sense that no matter how technological we become we are still in need of contact. Simultaneously the feeling or the need to make something out of nothing proposes that progress is a futile pursuit. That the past and future are one and the same like two rooms on the same floor; it’s only how we look at it.

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Review: Dongchun Yoon

2012 Henkle InnoArt Project “Bond the Moment”

March 29 – May 24, 2012

Although this was a group show I have little to say about Sulki & Min, or Sungmin Hong’s work, as they were nearly as compelling or interesting to me the night I happened to find myself in Gallery Loop. Because my presence there was a fluke, I was not focused on the whole show and just followed my eyes to what was attractive in that moment. I was drawn to Dongchun Yoon’s graphic, fun but very serious works. Yoon’s Donald Sultan-like graphics, maps and dot patterns in eye popping colors and vibrating arrangements, play with light and perception, quickly got me thinking about how he make his images. After a brief inspection it was, however, clear that what was reflecting back at me was more that formal, but rather a critique of the conditions in the relationship between South Korea and United States as they pertain to Jeju Island. In particular, “Gurumbi-43 Holes” (2012) is so formal, fantastic and frightening as its content slowly unfolds as scatter shot. The impact of Yoon’s work is made possible by his simple and surprising mastery of his mediums and his delicacy of composition. This is obvious in the “Junction 2” (2012), which shows Korea to be a paper cutout peeling away from a blue field. Both poetic and precise the metaphor is palpable, yet inviting. Another good example, “Junction 1” (2012), speaks to the direct and perhaps ridiculous nature of conflict, which depicts five pairs of guns, shown in profile, pointed nose to nose, in halftone with a red screen on the left and blue on the right. This image, like his other works, induces us with eye-popping visuals that are followed closely with a solid punch. Making good art from political strife is not an easy task. That Yoon’s works demonstrate this with such seeming ease and engaging manner is the mark of both a skilled artist and consummate works.

Julia Marsh

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Review: Joongho Yum

The Taste of Others

One and J. Gallery May 3 -23, 2012

When I walked into One and J. Gallery I was pleasantly surprised by the lovely assemblages by Joongho Yum. It immediately struck me that each arrangement reflected different artists: Raymond Petition, Bernd and Hilla Becher, Luc Tuymans, Jasper Johns, even Jimmie Durham, as though each arranged were a homage to earlier, better times of art making. This was just my idea, which the show’s title and in fact the concept of Yum’s work makes clear I am free to conjure. However, as my idea above shows taste garners bias. This show purports to be the result of a conversation of tastes and choices. The works were subjected to a selection process that started with Yum, but ends with five other artists responding to his images in their own way. However, by giving his work over and accepting the results, the artist looks to frame this making as the subject, so rather than in each object or image, the choosing of others is the locus of his intentions and therefore the art, much like a curator who controls an exhibition outcome. In this game each participant brought to bear their own formal, poetic and perhaps political positions that occupy the spaces that exist between aesthetics and concepts, objects and reflections. Although the word taste is used here in the play between Yum and the other artists, a better word might be style, in that what results is a stylistic interpretation, one that reflects preference, not knowledge. Because taste is the domain of the aficionado or appraiser, the informed, the use of the word here is ambiguous in the outcome. What is important here is how choice belies intent. But intent cannot be supplanted by choice alone. However nice looking or even interesting, in Yum’s work intent, the cornerstone of art making, goes off course, becoming tangled in the inclinations of others.

Julia Marsh

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