June 6 - November 22, 2009
Korean Pavilion, 53rd Venice Biennale, Venice, 2009

Installation view of Condensation, Korean Pavilion, 53rd Venice Biennale, Venice, 2009
Photos: Pattara Chanruechachai
Video stills from Doubles and Halves – Events with Nameless Neighbors


In the exhibition "Condensation," Haegue Yang explores private or hidden spaces that might be considered nebensãchlich (marginal or insignificant) but to the artist constitute profound backdrops for understanding: the vulnerable sites where informal development can occur. Using the metaphor of condensation, Yang seeks direct communication with unknown people through a seemingly intangible path of exchange, one that imparts nonfunctional yet ontologically significant information. As the artist explains:

I imagine metaphorically that I preserve cool air in me as long as I can, until the temperature difference is so great that water drops collect on the bottle. I would like to transmit things to others without pouring water out of the bottle. I believe that people can be mobilized by this condensation, which is a kind of direct reaction, without needing to negotiate specificities. 1

The video essay Doubles and Halves—Events with Nameless Neighbors (2009) is a kind of cornerstone of the exhibition. In it, Yang integrates footage shot in two overlooked places—the declining neighborhood of Ahyun-dong, Seoul, where she used to live, and the seasonally abandoned Biennale grounds near the Korean Pavilion during the off-season. Juxtaposing a nonsynchronous voiceover with a lingering visual composition that features the residue of residents and their activities at these sites, the artist speculates on the invisible experience of disappeared inhabitants in order to consider the unwantedness and resonance of marginal spaces. While her viewers remain nameless and faceless to one another and to the artist, Yang's "condensational communication," which takes place ceaselessly at unpredictable times and in unpredictable places, offers a possibility for shared recognition. By activating subjectivity and resisting formal definitions of efficiency, Yang nurtures a ghostly yet real understanding that will inspire blind, thorough acceptance of others.

In the sculpture Sallim (2009), Yang reproduces a full-scale model of her Berlin kitchen. Sallim (roughly translated as "running a household") considers the noncommercial space of the kitchen as a site of preparation for action and the organization of life. Indebted to works such as Martha Rosler's Semiotics of the Kitchen (1975) and other feminist practices of the 1960s and 1970s that insisted on the undervalued labor and potential of "women's work," Sallim unearths a potentially radical value in the domestic sphere of the kitchen as a space of "worklessness." 2 Yang's kitchen is, as she says, "free from many of the things that are attributes of the ordinary concept of work in terms of social effectiveness/productivity," thereby nurturing a different connection to the outside world, to others, and to her work.

Consisting of a labyrinthine system of stacked venetian blinds flooded with natural light, Series of Vulnerable Arrangements—Voice and Wind (2009) evokes shadows of places and experiences not physically present. Here Yang uses commercially manufactured venetian blinds in indescribable, uncategorizable colors and patterns that exist at the edge of taste. These functional decorations for the home defy rigid concepts of design or periodization
to emphasize the nonaesthetics of the private sphere, "where the self is cared for and contemplated, and can be shared in a different way." As in previous works, Yang introduces electricity as an invisible connection between objects, people, and ideas. Six ventilators placed around the main gallery generate wind at various intervals, altering both the stability of the blinds as suspended barriers and the movement of visitors. Scent emitters infuse the installation with moments of sensory experience, calling upon the visitors' subjectivity as a key element in the definition of the space. Employing transparency and improvisation as metaphors for the vulnerability of space and time, Yang seeks new possibilities of public engagement.

Eungie Joo

1. See "A Conversation: Haegue Yang and Eungie Joo" in Condensation: Haegue Yang (Korean Pavilion exhibition catalogue). All quotes by the artist are from this conversation.
2. See Jean-Luc Nancy, The Inoperative Community, trans. Peter Connor (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1991).

Exhibited works

Series of Vulnerable Arrangements – Voice and Wind, 2009

Sallim, 2009

Doubles and Halves – Events with Nameless Neighbors, 2009