Bathroom Contemplation

15 pages of text, printed on A4, written by Haegue Yang and Misoon Kim

Each 42 × 29.7 cm

Courtesy of the artist

Installation view of Haegue Yang: ETA 1994–2018, Museum Ludwig, Cologne, 2018
Photography © Museum Ludwig, Saša Fuis, Cologne

Excerpt from exhibition guide of Double Soul, SMK – Statens Museum for Kunst, Copenhagen, Denmark, 2022

‘Only when I take a bath does the world seem to become right.’

Yang has continually produced text-based pieces; on occasion, these were scripts for audio works or video essays. During her formative period, text served as a space for her personal, even confessional voice and an exit from the conceptual tendencies of her sculptural works.

In this text piece we hear alternating voices of two protagonists – a mother and a daughter. Each voice of Bathroom Contemplation is printed on a separate sheet and glued up on the wall, a direct and humble form of presentation devoid of unnecessary effects. Here, the bathroom embodies a space where two voices meet to recapitulate a situation of great embarrassment and alienation during a long-awaited time together after being separated due to Yang’s departure to Germany in 1994. The mother-daughter relationship is described here as a subject experiencing pain and agony from the daughter’s immigration.

Yang suggested to her mother, who is a writer and activist, to write a kind of double-diary about their time spent together during her mother’s visit in Germany, with an assumption that their writing would eventually deal with an indelible incident in the bathroom. Based on a simple yet crucial difference of there being no drain in the floor in German bathrooms, a ‘crisis’ was caused – when the mother accidentally flooded the daughter’s bathroom during a caring attempt to clean it. Around this event, tension between two beloved people builds and reaches a climax. It is a story about the shifts a person experiences depending on whether one is foreign or familiar with a society, between dependence or independence, being free or trapped and falling from ignorance or rising from knowledge. The text piece also conveys the frustrations of one arriving in a new country without speaking the language or understanding the cultural codes, hampered in the simplest daily activities to become like a helpless child again.


Exhibition history

Double Soul, SMK – Statens Museum for Kunst, Copenhagen, Denmark, 2022

ETA 1994-2018, Museum Ludwig, Cologne, Germany, 2018


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