by Janice Li
Do Ho Suh’s Passage/s, showed at Victoria Miro Gallery from February 1st to March 18th, 2017, had been a sensation in London’s art scene fo early 2017, Hub’s colourful installation being one of the most snapped exhibits on Instagram. Similar to his previous works in a smaller scale, Hub is a series of fabricated indoor architecture, made of colourful translucent polyester fabric, exploring the ideas of emptiness, transparency and memory through structured space. But instead of transporting an entire home into a gallery, like he did with the successful My Home is Yours, Your Home is Mine and Home Within Home, Suh put emphasis on the transitional, in-between spaces – a hub of corridors, stairs, foyers, doorways – spaces that are not immediately considered of being a space on its own. Ten one-to-one scale structures in pastel pink, green, blue, orange, and yellow, were stitched together to form a long continuous passageway, each referencing a place that the artist has lived and worked across the globe, including Seoul, Rhode Island, Berlin, New York, and London, where he currently resides.
Starting from his Seoul Home/L.A. Home at the Los Angeles Korean Cultural Centre in 1999, at which Suh transported a Korean space – a typical Joseon scholar room that his father modelled their house on in the 70s – to a foreign space. Like a snail, he described, he carried his home wherever he goes. The scholar room was a space of past memory and nostalgia; in Seoul Home/L.A. Home he situated his native culture of the past within the immigrant culture of the present space. From then on, he began to contemplate on the constant passage through space, questioning how much does one carry one’s own space to another.
Hub consisted of transitional spaces. By stitching these in-between spaces from different stages of his life together, he created a long passageway, a continuous structure that connected his childhood in Korea, undergraduate years in Providence, studio time in Boston and New York, and at last, London, displaying his de-territorialising process. Through this creation, he posed a series of questions to himself: ‘How much space do I or can I carry with me? What is the maximum or minimum of that space? What IS that space? How much space does a person need? Is that space mine? What makes it different from yours?’
All of his works are intimately personal. They are either spaces that move along with him or those he tries to move along with; they are both comfortable spaces that he created for himself, as well as compressed, confined, and alienated spaces that were imposed on him. Exploring the continuity, transportability, translatability of space, and the experience of the space’s own displacement, Do Ho Suh rendered designated immobile physical home transportable and translatable through specificities.
The specificities Suh referred to were achieved in his works by the act of rubbing. In the Rubbing/Loving Project, he traced the pattern of the entire interior space with pastel in his New York home where he lived for twenty years. Rubbing is immediate, during which he directly captured the accumulation of his memory, discovering the palimpsest of the physical space as he caressed the interior surface with his fingertips. The Korean artist explained that the separation of time and space being a very western idea, where in the east they usually collapse into each other. By rubbing, pronounced the same as ‘loving’ in Korean, he poured his whole body into every corner of the interior architecture, using the sharing of energy to turn memory in time and space from a two-dimensional paper into a physical sculptural entity.
In retrospect, Suh realised that home, as a place, only started to exist fully when he no longer had it – it came to existence as an issue that occupies his internal space, now infinitely transportable and oscillating between culture. Life is a movement through different spaces, the space one occupies in the present relates to those he/she did before. Passage/s highlighted this relation in time and space by bringing the audience from one past home of the artist into another into another into another through theses seemingly endless and connective in-between spaces.