YOUNG IN HONG: THE MOON’S TRICK
The Beauty of Art Lies in the Beholder
The Korean Cultural Centre in London is currently presenting the first UK public solo exhibition of the work of 45 yr. old Young In Hong. The work is entitled ‘The Moon’s Trick’ and focuses on a series of pieces made up of embroidered works, sound installation and performance, with embroidery, the artists signature piece, as the focal point of the exhibition. Hong likes to use images that depict Korea’s recent history with a particular interest in religious, cultural and political rituals.
Burning Love illustrates a scene from a 2008 candle-lit demonstration that was held in Seoul, Korea. The demonstration was triggered by the Korean government’s reversal of a ban on US beef imports. Thousands of people took to the streets in protest, making it one of the most important democratic events in Korea’s modern history – an event that was largely played down by the mainstream media at the time. Burning Love tries to capture this significant moment through large-scale embroidery and attempts to revisit its unexplored time and space in history.
Burning with Triadic Harmony is welcoming the first full moon of the new year and burning daljip (brushwood) which are two traditional customs celebrated in Korea for the 15th day of the Lunar New Year. This work focuses on these moments that have been lost during a time of modernization. The bottom part of the piece shows a ‘photoscore’ created from the image of the fire.
Silhouette of Fire – the line drawing was made by placing flat beads on the silhouette of a burning fire, a fire used in rituals of the Full Moon celebration. The artist considered the line as a test, creating a melody out of it.
Shadow of Us depicts a moment from a 2013 candle lit protest in Seoul, South Korea. This work offers a glimpse into the moment and space when each candle in its paper cup was left on the street floor. The artist has created a sound composition based on this image – by producing lines/notes that represent musical tones.
Partition is a piece of embroidery inspired by a photograph published by North Korea in 2013 to mark the 60th anniversary of the Korean War armistice. Only the upper half of the firework image was left after the image of the crowd at the bottom was deleted.
The Square Saddened, a piece of densely sewn embroidery features an image of just one of the many gatherings that were held to protest the events that surrounded the death of 2 Korean teenagers in 2012. The tragic deaths of the girls occurred when they were struck by a tank being driven by the American military, in an accident now known as the Yangju Highway Incident.
Looking Down From the Sky is a 5 ‘photo-score’ panels function as a musical score for the live performance, which was premiered on the opening night of the exhibition. The five-section photo-scores were stitch drawn based on the collected archival images of the People’s (minjung) Movement in South Korea. Each section was made up approximately 6 photographs illustrating different incidents. It also becomes the score for music, composed of 5 sections of intro, three developments and cadenza. The particular shapes of the score represent specific durations, pitch and sound-effects appropriate for the performers.
Prayers No. 1-40 is comprised of 40 drawings and a sound installation. Embroidered in black and white, the 40 pieces are derived from archive photos of post-war cityscapes from the Korean peninsula, as well as the frequent protests and demonstrations which occurred during the subsequent modernisation period. Attracted to the power of images taken mainly by newspaper photographers at a time when freedom of speech was not guaranteed, and censorship was commonplace, the artist pulls out certain forms from those photos and then pushes the outlines of the images to the point that only abstract lines remain. It is from these remaining lines that Hing attempts to create musical scores. Thus, for her, these archive photos become what she calls ‘photo-scores’. Each fragment of sound is a subjective interpretation of the specific time and space that each music score was drawn from.
The artist has named her exhibition The Moon’s Trick, which is taken from one of Soo-Young Kim’s (1921-1968) early poems. The poet was amazed by the vortex created by the spinning top. While watching it he felt that it allowed him to exist in a different sphere of the world. The poet named this moment ‘the moon’s trick’. Under this title, the artist expresses her longing to trigger moments where a kind of absorption takes place, in the same way that poet Kim was amazed by the spinning top. She attempts to achieve this through a constant process of translation moving towards a state where the original point of departure is blurred, and the conventional notion of authorship is integrated. The intensity of labour and the experience of absorption, whether being part of the crowd or a cadenza are the ways by which Hong chooses to express a notion of modernity. And this modernity for Hong, in which Korea has played its own part, is an ongoing global event that continues to transform lives.
Art imitates life, and subsequently, life imitates art. Art is something which can be analyse to give deeper insight into the common values and beliefs shared by the members of a certain society. Regardless of the place of origin or the time period of a form of art, it will always reflect the social structure in which its creators lived. The main idea of art lies primarily in human hands. Values can be expressed in subtle and enduring ways in the arts. A great piece of artwork encourages the viewer to “respond constructively to the views expressed by the artist”. If something is made a certain way, it is beautiful in its own right. Art is a creation that represents liberty to whatever the viewer wants art to be. As what the saying foretold, “a picture is worth a thousand words”.
Young In Hong’s work embraces performances, textiles, installation and collaboration, all important elements of her practice. Hong’s work has been shown at international venues including Block Universe (2017), Grand Palais, Paris (2016), ICA London (2015), Gwangju Biennale (2014) and Pla-teau Museum, Seoul (2014). Young In Hong completed her BA Sculpture at Seoul national University (1996) and has a MA and PhD in Fine Art from Goldsmith College (2000, 2012). Hong presently lives and works in Bristol, and is a senior lecturer at Bath School of Art and Design, Bath Spa University.
The Moon’s Trick exhibition runs until December 30th.
Featured Image Source: ©Samuel Zeller, 11.01.2018, www.unsplash.com