Magazine article Artforum International

Home in the World: The Art of Do-Ho Suh

Magazine article Artforum International

Home in the World: The Art of Do-Ho Suh

Article excerpt

A voluminous canopy in translucent celadon silk is suspended from the gallery ceiling like a dream or a ghost of a house. Responsive to light and air currents and open at the bottom as if it could drift down to enclose a viewer standing below, the tentlike structure is nevertheless exactingly detailed, a diaphanous confection whose specific architectural character asserts itself gradually. If you crane your neck, adjusting your sight line on this fragile room-within-a-room, it takes a moment to orient your ground-bound body to the implied space above. Articulated with stitched seams, the fabric renders at full size the latticed woodwork, tile, windows, and door frames of a one-room dwelling. The shape is familiar, in that it is clearly domestic; uncanny, in that its physicality has been thinned to near disappearance. Do-Ho Suh's Seoul Home/L.A. Home/New York Home/Baltimore Home, 1999, is a portrait of the traditional Korean house in which the artist grew up, a fact that is both crucial and not. Premised in au tobiography yet dematerialized to a lyrical husk, Seoul Home... appears as a scrim Onto which anybody may project his or her reveries about any absent home.

"I experience space through, and as, the movement of displacement," Suh has written, and this consolidation of fluid motion into manifest form defines his art. Like his other sculptural installations, Seoul Home... memorializes a cultural and personal attachment but in such a pared-down, emblematic way that private narrative disperses. In this equilibrium between individuality and indeterminacy, the work's material presence holds sway. Suh's vision of "intrinsically transportable and translatable space" takes for granted a world in which the peregrination of an artist who commutes between Seoul and New York while preparing for exhibitions in Venice and LA makes perfect sense. But if theories of nomadism and globalization have matured to the status of received truths, their formal enactment becomes proportionally more important: It's hard to deny that concepts like subjectivity and nationality are fragmentary, rhizomatic, virtual, but it's also hard to create for them concise visual figures as such. Seoul Hom e... does this, and its psychosocial eloquence perhaps explains why the piece has been something of an icon over the last few years, when it was exhibited at the Korean Cultural Center in Los Angeles, in "Greater New York" at P.S. I in Queens, and in "BodySpace" at the Baltimore Museum of Art.

A bastion of stability--the childhood home-- reimagined to fold into a suitcase, Seoul Home... is typical of Suh's work in that it both physicalizes and undercuts nostalgia; it's an antimonument that calls attention to its own immaterial foundations, its construction as wish. The absurd run-on title, as weighty as the object is flimsy, indexes the relentless travel of the international citizen (or art star). Each time the piece is shown, its link to an original or fixed location is further diluted, and the virgules that punctuate its title multiply until permanence dissolves into its own shadow, or in Suh's words, until "site-specificity becomes portable." Memory and fantasy collapse into a kind of post-Proustian impossibility: the perfectly private yet perfectly shared locale. And this no-place abode is still evolving. A second house piece, made of smoky nylon rather than jade-green silk, is currently titled 348 W. 22nd St., Apt. A, New York, NY I00II, USA, at the Rodin Gallery, Seoul, Korea, 2000. The dust -colored artificial fabric signifies the apartment's New York-ness just as the elegant, earthy, or watery silk suggests a notional quality of Asian tradition. Complete with sewn bathroom and kitchen, 348 W. 22nd St.... models Suh's Chelsea apartment and credits the venue at which it was first displayed. As yet unshown in New York, the piece will eventually be merged with Seoul Home... by means of a pink nylon corridor, a fantasized connection that is rose-tinted like idealization itself. …

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