The artist Haegue Yang, born in 1971 in Seoul, surprised visitors to the 53rd Venice Biennale at two separate exhibition locations. As part of the large-scale thematic group show »Fare Mondi« in the Arsenale she presented seven sculptures from her work Series of Vulnerable Arrangements Domestics of Community, consisting of metal stands, from which electric cables in differing diameters and colors along with various kinds of objects and light bulbs opulently cascaded. In their vertical orientation these works are as equally reminiscent of life-forms as they are of technological relicts from an era earlier than the 21st Century. This exhibition is on display from January 22 to April 3, 2011 at Kunsthaus-Bregenz
At the same time Haegue Yang had, after long consideration, accepted the invitation to represent her home country at the Biennale in the Korean Pavilion in the Giardini. Under the title Condensation three new bodies of work were created in which she sensitively circumvented national stereotyping through a conscious engagement with it, and instead addressed questions concerning the construction of communities as well as potential locations of social and political alliances between people. Following Venice, the artist not only participated in many important group exhibitions in Basel, Cologne, London, Los Angeles, and Moscow, but in 2010 also had major solo exhibitions at the New Museum in New York (»Voice and Wind: Haegue Yang«) and the Artsonje Center in Seoul (»Haegue Yang: Voices Over Three«). With »Arrivals«, the exhibition she has conceived for Kunsthaus Bregenz, Haegue Yang is taking yet another important step forward. She is not only presenting a selection of her most important work to date in new installations within an architecture especially conceived for it, but has also created 33 new light sculptures, which enigmatically populate the third floor like alien life-forms. Furthermore, she has developed her largest installation to date for the Bregenz show, consisting of approximately 200 window blinds, which occupy KUBs entire second floor with an impressive weightlessness.
The complex installations, sculptures, objects, photographs, videos, and slide projections, which in their atmospheric intensity appear equally poetic and conceptual, negate any unequivocal interpretation. Even if issues such as cultural background and references to other social and political questions are repeatedly noticeable, Haegue Yangs work captivates precisely because of its ambiguity, which is rooted as much in the conceptual art of the 1960s and 1970s, as in an engagement with current theoretical discourses. This is already clearly demonstrated in the extensive presentation of older works on the first floor of KUB.
Here the artist has divided the open-plan space into numerous smaller compartments with wooden constructions, and makes use of solely the triangular, i.e. trapezoid wooden walls to hang her works on, which appear fragile in comparison to the buildings solid concrete walls. The wooden structure creates intimate, manageable areas and unusual perspectives, enhancing the dialogue between the works on display. Overall, this particular arrangement, especially in combination with some new works, permits new and novel insights into work that to date has never been presented so comprehensively. Additionally, the slightly darkened space, the various soundtracks accompanying the videos being shown, and the clacking sound of the slide projectors generate an almost meditative atmosphere. Like the video essays with shots panning across cities that cannot be conclusively identified, viewers are similarly encouraged to find their own way through the exhibition architecture. The intended path or the one finally taken, partially pre-planned and partially roaming, could also be read as a constituent in the creation of other works by the artist.
Thus the exchange is condensed, the to and fro between times and places, as demonstrated by Illiterate Leftovers, a work from 2004 derived from 80 sheets of fax paper. In this work Haegue Yang faxed an empty white sheet of paper to a receiver with the request that they fax the sheet back unmarked. The consequence of this procedure was that the identification data (name of sender, fax number) and other traces from the fax machine soiled the papers white surface, the residues of the analogue transfer. In the exhibition the material sheets have disappeared and have been replaced by the »illuminated traces« of a slide projection.
The rigorously conceptual approach is continued in the installation Storage Piece from 2004 which is also on display in Bregenz, for which the artist wrapped up all her works to date, but which still lacked storage space and were therefore threatened by the prospect of disposal. She presented the wrapped works on transport pallets and declared the resulting store to be an artwork, which subsequently was sold to a collector as a single piece of work. It represents an »exhibition within the exhibition,« in which individual works are merely suspected but not clearly recognizable.
The structure of the newly created window blind work which defines a large rectangle located diagonally within the space and partly derives from the grid of KUBs glass ceiling, is accented by five high piles of a tower-like construction. Whilst two of these towers are located within the rectangle, the three remaining towers breach the rigidly assembled form, fraying it outwardly. Several openings permit the visitor access deep into the installation, the various gaps are not interconnected however, so that in contrast to a maze the chosen entrance will always then serve as an exit too. The window blinds, primarily painted in silver but with a very few in gradients of color, combine with eight movable spotlights mounted to the walls as well as aroma machines to cause a strong visual and sublimely olfactory effect.
Haegue Yang has arranged her new light sculptures, which are similar to those already shown in Venice, on the third floor of KUB in the form of small groups, as pairs or individually. In contrast to comparable earlier works, her new works developed especially for Bregenz distinguish themselves by an expressive strength of almost baroque opulence. This is because in addition to the variously colored light bulbs and other elements from lamps she employs artificial plants, wigs, and everyday objects that is seemingly organic and artificial devices with an intensity that has so far been unusual for her.
In doing so she fabricates objects that alternate in character between creatures originating from remote galaxies, primitive people, and hippy-like apparitions. The impression of animated arrangements of cult objects is additionally enhanced by a background soundtrack: in the mornings, at midday, and in the evenings the space is filled by Igor Strawinskis ballet music Le Sacre du Printemps, a composition revolutionary for its time. Strawinskis almost religious, primitive, and challengingly avant-garde drama seems to resonate within the exhibitions title »Arrivals,« which self-critically and humorously qualifies the energetic, optimistic gesture of such an impressive show.