Monday, November 14, 2011

Reflections on work of artist : Do-Ho Suh

How would it feel to walk over a glass floor pushing your weight on miniature men? As I watch the video of this art work, and see the viewers in the gallery crouching on the glass floor to get a better glimpse of these miniature men, ‘Scale’ is the first word that comes to my mind when I see Do-Ho Suh works of art. From a distance what seemed like a carpet on the gallery floor, on further zooming was replaced by these Lilliputian men who hands were up, holding the glass. Were they trying to push the weight away? Were they being trampled under the weight? Scale not only in terms of the physical sizes, but also quantitatively. Similarly another work which uses dog badges and the sculpture slowly grows from the floor into the robes of perhaps a non-existing monarch/patriarch. As the viewers walk over it creating crunching noises, they also carefully observe what is written on these badges. So is the wall filled with identity card photographs of the students! Each unit which makes all these works is small and unique. However when they come together as a mass all that one can perhaps see is the huge scale. I can sense crowd, a sense of alienation and a search for identity. Images of the crowd of commuters taking the Mumbai local train after their office hours come to my mind. What I liked was the way gallery space was used to display/make these works.

The artist shares a similar experience he felt about school uniforms. One of his works deals with this. Uniformed busts are arranged in rows- like soldiers/students standing for drill.  Interestingly the uniforms were stitched together by the sides, so that they become one big unit. We have people who are tried to be made so similar that we do not notice them mutating into one another. I found this a very deep comment on urban lives we live in. When there daily clock to rigidity follow, set of rules without which survival is impossible, man becomes a machine-a means of production. This experience is dictated by obligations- to the employer, authorities, family, etc. We are all part of that ‘anonymous everyday life’. I remember some scenes from the movie Metropolis. Another experience which fuels his work was his term of mandatory service in the South Korean military. 

The nostalgia and longing form an important theme to many of his works. "Once my fortune teller told me that I have five horses and that means that I travel a lot," says Do-Ho Suh who was born and schooled in Seoul, Korea. Being overshadowed by his father, Suh wanted to make a mark of his own and relocated to the United States to continue his higher studies. However he still travels between his life and studio in New York and a life full of memory and family ties in Seoul, South Korea. La/seoul/NY/Baltimore/ London is one of his work coming from his idea of ‘wanting to carry his home’. Using traditional Korean techniques of sewing, Suh creates an ephemeral space with very beautiful details, all from his memory. He speaks about how memories of your childhood and its association with space becoming a part of you. In many cities when we do not own a place to stay and have to keep shifting their rented apartments, our attachments associated with the place are only carried on as memories and photographs. Also with a lot of globe-trotting and migrations, the questions where do we belong and where is our home linger. Longing and search for identity fuse

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