Journal of Bouba/kiki
October 5 – December 20, 2013
Glasgow Sculpture Studios, Glasgow, Scotland
Installation view of Journal of Bouba/kiki, Glasgow Sculpture Studios, Glasgow, Scotland, 2013
Photo: Keith Hunter
Floating Knowledge and Growing Craft – Silent Architecture Under Construction
Three Folds and Multiple Twists
Two Ends of One – Hugging, Protracting, Ringing, Squeezing, Flattening, Clinging and Winding
Installation view of Journal of Bouba/kiki, Glasgow Sculpture Studios, Glasgow, Scotland, 2013
Video: Johnny Barrington
Glasgow Sculpture Studios (GSS) is pleased to present an exhibition of new work, Journal of Bouba/kiki, by Korean artist Haegue Yang, borne out of a three-month production residency that the artist undertook at GSS from June until September 2013. This residency provided Yang with space for research, development and the production of new work. This exhibition is her first solo exhibition in Scotland.
The artist’s long-standing interests in the economy of labour, fabrication, movement, handicraft and abstraction have a continued presence in this exhibition. Examining what ‘production’ means in terms of an artist’s practice today, Yang brings together a variety of working methods. Her works range from complex installations using high-end fabrication with industrially produced and commercially available products, to hand-made sculptures and objects using traditional handicraft techniques. The handicraft pieces made from craft techniques such as knitting, paper making, origami and macramé are typically considered to be amateur, quotidian and less labour intensive, when compared to the conceptual and technologically advanced processes involved with her larger installations. This apparent opposition could be read as dialectic however, Yang sees them as a complementary combination. Yang is an artist who continuously pushes forward the boundaries of her practice, engaging with new methodologies and ways of making. Using the idea of a ‘production’ residency as a challenge to her own efficiency, where she is away from her usual safe environment of the studio, the artist has embraced GSS’ extensive range of processes and facilities for working to create an exciting and dynamic new body of work.
The exhibition will bring together four new projects by Yang, developed entirely at GSS, with one pre-existing work that was produced during another production residency undertaken by the artist at Singapore Tyler Print Institute (STPI), Singapore in November 2012. A major new venetian blind installation, Three Folds and Multiple Twists 2013, forms the central part of her presentation. Hanging from the ceiling of the central gallery, the blinds fold around the gallery’s columns, as the title suggests, engulfing them within its maze like structure. Yang’s interest in blinds stem in part from their limited function – they are made to simply conceal and to reveal – and yet she continually finds new ways to experiment with their configuration. In this installation a number of the lower blinds subtly twist in accordance with a choreographed programme. This presents a sensory experience for the viewer, as their perspective is altered as they encounter the work from various positions within the gallery. These twisting blinds further develops Yang’s interest in the mechanical movement of blinds, which was first seen in her major installation Approaching: Choreography Engineered in Never-Past Tense 2012 at last year’s dOCUMENTA (13) in Kassel, Germany. At GSS however, the movement is minimal, delicate and intimate, reflecting upon the environment of the white gallery space as opposed to a hard-edged industrial setting.
Floating Knowledge and Growing Craft – Architecture Under Construction 2013, is a two-part sculpture made using the traditional handicraft of macramé, and is a new departure for Yang. Accompanied with an iPod that plays a number of pod-casts, radio stations and audio files that the artist listened to while she was making the work. The pod-casts are varied, and offer the audience a glimpse of the artist’s interest and passion for learning and knowledge. In addition it reveals a real insight into both the labour-intensive process that the artist has placed into this macramé sculpture. Spice Sheets 2013 are a set of twenty prints produced at STPI, Singapore. Here the artist learnt methods of paper and print making. These works are individually produced, with each one infused with a different spice that Yang found in the spice markets of Singapore. South East Asia’s contemporary multi-cultural environment, as well as colonial history behind the diversity of spices in Singapore, was a direct inspiration on the artist for this production. Their presence in this exhibition echoes the nature of hand-made production, which is witnessed in the macramé, and is an inherent theme of the exhibition.
A series of ceramic hands cast from life welcome the viewer to the exhibition. Sited at the entrance to the gallery and displayed on plinths and two windows that have been carved into the gallery wall, the work, entitled Two Ends of One 2013,could be seen as being a particularly pertinent introduction to both the show and Yang’s overarching interests. The individual sculptures depict a variety of hand gestures created by the artist to illustrate a connection or pairing between two ends of our body, namely fingers. Yang’s interest in these postures is in part due to how the rest of the body can become subtly locked, as while the hands remain stuck in these poses no other activity is possible. Two Ends of One portrays an imagined plurality of the self; while the hands are constantly busy with each other, it prevents the rest of the self from then engaging with others. For Yang, this elementary entanglement of a self could be read as a prelude for wider social engagement. Produced using a time-consuming process of mould-making, Yang has individually cast in clay and then glazed, a variety of hand-poses using her own hands. It is in this work that Yang appears to separate and freeze in motion the act of labour, presenting us with a still life that captures the act of making in its most raw and simplified form. The work is motionless yet loaded with activity at the same time, the multiple poses arranged as if mid-way through a performance, unfolding a narrative of connected-ness.
The final work in the exhibition, Glasgow Tales of the Laugh 2013, consists of ten panels, which brings together a number of complex ideas. Taking photographs of public places in Glasgow, Yang explored different types of cultivated space, namely the Botanic Gardens and the Necropolis. These images are then married with text taken directly from Victor Hugo’s novel The Man Who Laughs first published in 1869, and written while the author was living on the Channel Islands during his exile from his native France. Yang focused particularly on the face of the character Gwynplaine, who wears a permanent laugh which has been carved onto his face. Such a ‘mask’ would typically belong to extraordinary beings such as monsters, freaks and outsiders of society, who neither belong to the people or the aristocracy. Each panel is dedicated either to an individual figure or to a topic taken from Hugo’s novel. In each one the artist has worked from a section of the story and combined this with pictures of the two places in Glasgow – either the botanical gardens or the necropolis. These places are idiosyncratically categorised by the artist as either ‘civilized’ or ‘wild’. Here she was somehow able to focus on the weird connection between the two; either the psychologically charged wildness that can be found in tamed place or the ordered and organic aspects found in mortal place such as a cemetery. The final panel differs from the rest in terms of its material and composition. Here Yang places a series of Post-it notes with hand written anecdotes about her humiliating experience at Glasgow airport. The airport is supposed to be an international space but it is here that Yang still feels like an outsider.
Throughout the exhibition there is a consistent exploration of the dualities of the industrial and the domestic, technical and low-fi, organic and manual, all undertaken with a contemplative tone. The works created at GSS demonstrate the artist’s depth of material, yet also a persistent concern with, as the artist herself says, ‘desperate experimentation’.
Haegue Yang presents two parallel solo exhibitions in the autumn of 2013 at Bergen Kunsthall, Bergen, Norway and at Glasgow Sculpture Studios, Glasgow, Scotland. Each exhibition is independent in terms of its manifestation, yet they are intrinsically linked to Yang’s continuous and evolutionary artistic developments. These developments are emblematic of the artist’s recent projects that focus on the notion of abstraction and the idea of movement. In the framework of these geographically separated, yet closely conceived exhibitions, a new collaborative publication is being developed. The publication will be launched in December 2013 (co-published with Sternberg Press, designed by Manuel Raeder, Berlin), containing two newly commissioned English-language essays by Ute Meta Bauer, Kathy Noble and an interview with the exhibition curators of both institutions – Kyla McDonald (GSS) and Steinar Sekkingstad (Bergen Kunsthall).
This catalogue accompanies two parallel solo exhibitions held in the autumn of 2013 by Haegue Yang: Journal of Bouba/kiki at Glasgow Sculpture Studios, Glasgow, Scotland (5 October – 20 December 2013); and Journal of Echomimetic Motions at Bergen Kunsthall, Bergen, Norway (18 October – 22 December 2013). This new collaborative publication, Dare to Count Phonemes and Graphemes, has evolved within the framework of these geographically separate, yet collaboratively conceived exhibitions. While each exhibition was an independent manifestation, they both are intrinsically linked to Yang’s continuous artistic evolution. The developments shown are emblematic of the artist’s recent projects, focusing on the ideas of abstraction and motion. This catalogue presents two newly commissioned texts, as well as an interview between Yang and the respective curators of the exhibitions, which explore the artist’s distinctive and diverse work.