Euyoung Hong
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Fragment as a Clue or a Beginning
by Sunyoung Lee (Art critic)

The gallery space, currently exhibiting Euyoung Hong’s sculptural installation, at first glance gives a deserted feeling, as of entering an emptied space. It is because, like a white rabbit sitting on white snow, white wall pieces are installed on the whiteness of the gallery walls so that one scarcely sees them. The work, which presents the various forms of parts of walls, makes viewers imagine that another wall appears on the existent wall, or disappears behind the wall. Fragmented Space (2010 - 11), composed of a series of ten relief surfaces of equal height and width, arranges different parts of an interior domestic house in a pictorial quality. The position of the pieces, installed on the gallery wall about 10 cm higher than the floor, only implies that it is a work of art, distinct from the gallery walls; in short, the object that viewers need to look at closely. The work, in which electric switches, picture frames and a part of a drawer are attached to the wall, can be seen as bringing a real everyday space into the gallery. White walls, which can frequently be found in the interiors of our houses, make us re-evaluate its continuity with everyday space. It is not caused by the virtualness obtained from a miniaturized model, but emphasizes reality. However, the illusion of real continuity is immediately shattered, as the walls, which are attached to the gallery space, encompass another space from floor to ceiling.

Fragmented Space, as shown in its subtitle, becomes an unfolded space. Fragments on the wall are arranged simply, breaking the organic relationship between part and whole. Without securing a view of the whole, the real size of the wall becomes an attracting object to viewers, not a part physically detached from the whole. There are only parts without the whole. Fragments escape from the dialectics between part and whole. Hong recognizes the space where a new creative line penetrates, overthrowing the traditional relationship between part and whole by negating the legitimacy of wholeness. Within this fluidity, a fixed centrality disappears. Merely arranged mechanically, this space, interacting with viewers, which has the real size of architectural structures instead of an organic structural principle that strictly controls and encompasses the whole, is one that a viewer should experience as soon as he or she enters. It is a static yet dynamic process. The collected found objects, which probably played an important role somewhere, involve the potentiality of ‘ground zero’ for expanding into the new function.

Hong sometimes dismantles and re-uses her previous works. Even though drawn from the existing, new orders emerge through the process of whitening or de-colourization. Fragments on the walls make viewers focus on the space, rather than the object itself and the space here cannot be understood as the same physical space that the previous things simple re-occupy or pass through. An empty space is filled with the symbol. In relation to the reality of South Korea, often called a Construction State, it is the symbol of space constantly repeating creation and destruction. The power of capital that penetrates the ground of nature and life recontextualizes the structural dimension of our life by changing the method of spatial arrangement. South Korea achieved an extremely rapid material development, setting aside invisible values, and it is also seen as a place of widespread change, in which a radical change that drives the majority in one direction is barely conceived as violence. Hong’s sculptural work implies and deals with the political economy of space from a social perspective, but the form of work itself is very much ontological. It does not aim at political disclosure or enlightenment consciousness. Instead, Hong’s work focuses on an aspect of contemporaneity, that is, the idea of everydayness, which stimulates a change for change.

The synchronic, or a part of the diachronic, discloses a hidden side of change. The sign of change has traditionally been represented through something splendid and polished, but Hong’s work is rather decolourized and matte. This reveals that a tedious and monotonous everyday life can be considered as another aspect of stimulation and violence resulting from radical changes. But her work is not past-oriented or nostalgic about the past. It discovers the possibility of creation by rethinking the dominant pre-existing structure or frame. Hong lived in an apartment, which frequently represents the symbol of development, in Seoul until the mid-1990s, and currently lives in an old flat in London, built around the 1800s. Compared with European countries, the extremely radical and aggressive tendency of changes of residential environment in South Korea definitely had a strong impression on Hong, and also strongly influenced her artwork. Although we may find the profit relation of capital in a particular type of development, which usually bulldozes a degenerated place, instead of in the minor changes of house renovation, difference can be sensed in the midst of this uniform change. Difference becomes a beginning of creation. The second gallery contains an installation of a house, which resembles a part of a demolished house probably taken from an actual site of redevelopment somewhere in Seoul. ‘I am particularly interested in places spoilt and destroyed by someone,’ Hong said.

Such questions as, ‘Contrary to the will of residents, why is a place constantly disappearing? Instead of that removed space, what kind of a new space will be there? Why does a space need to be changed in such a way?‘ are contained in her statement. This fragment of the interior of a house, partly covered with bright floral wallpaper, was originally inspired by a real demolished house in a site of redevelopment in Seoul, where people did not leave their homes and continued their life in the terrible living conditions. In the violence of deconstructing a space, life still goes on. Rolled black shade, usually used in the construction site, is placed above an arrangement of household items, such as purple slippers, a dining table with worn edges, a heating fan that might give warmth in a strong cold draughty place, a calendar printed with large letters, etc. These objects were mostly collected from the site of removal, but are still worth using. Violence that turns everything instantly into rubbish is equivalent to bombing. Movement implies removal. Hong’s photographic work, Re-moved Space (2009) documented the marks left in her previous studio in Changdong right after removing her installation works from the space. The work overlaps moving with removing.

Hong’s work, often decolourizing the original natural colour of the object by painting in white, focuses on the notion of relationship, not on the physical object itself. Relations are derived from the space. Like a line of correction liquid, which erases wrong words, whiteness becomes a ground for writing new words. Non-decolourized works seem like an extension of reality, but naturally displayed objects were actually collected from completely different times and places and artificially re-structured. Hong reconstructed a part of an actual red-brick residential house in Changdong, Seoul in 2009, whose interior and exterior space was renovated by its resident. An aluminium-framed window is opened for drying laundry. Things placed here and there in the framed structure themselves become a work of art. The window, which is a space where something can be stored and opened to the outside, removes the formal difference between collage and painting. This construction is an invention of ordinary people especially for using their tiny space more spaciously. It expands the territories of life towards another space beyond the equally given space. The wall, which is filled with various collected objects from unexpectedly encountered places, is a detached part of reality, not a miniature model of reality.

Like a microcosm, it forms a fragment of everyday life. The fragment here includes the whole. A grey construction protruding from a white gallery wall appears as a strong fragment, like a wedge. Above the small window frame, within which household items are arranged, small eaves are projected, and the natural state of colour is lost as dusty grey ashes cover it up. It was actually based on one of the oldest apartments in Seodaemun, Seoul. Around the apartments, people, who live in new residential buildings of some 20 - 30 storeys, are hoping that these dangerous-looking outdated apartments will disappear as quickly as possible. It is a fragment as a microcosm that is packed with physical, mental, social situations in association with the notion of redevelopment. It is not detached from the existing, but a constructed fragment. It is a microcosm, which cannot simply be identified with a physical building. A fragment attached to an instable structure asks that the ground - where such concepts as the visible, real, essential can be constructed - is stable. Creation is caused and constructed in this sloping instability. Composed of a part of chair attached upside down to the middle of pillar and various collected objects, constructing a balance in its own way within the structure of the chair, the work obviously shows that instability can also be a ground for creating new orders.

Re-moved (2010 - 11), which horizontally arranges various forms of household container, such as flower pots, plastic basins, water bottles, cups, bowls, etc., like a museum collection, is conceived as spaces as a microcosm. The specific context for the collected objects is completely removed, and abstracted by re-arranging them at the viewer’s eye level. Hong applies a new order to the collected containers, by rearranging the objects in order of their internal width. This new space emphasizes the exercise of a certain type of power, whether or not it is regarded as an organization or a destruction. As Felix Guattari states in his text, The Machinic Unconsciousness, arrangement does not succumb to coincidence, or common axioms. The only law that arrangement is subject to is the deterritorialization movement. Arrangement includes possibility as well as potentiality. Like capital, art seizes the initiative of creation and destruction of space. Fragments come from a variety of sources and build a new order of co-existence through a work of art. In these fragments of life, the absence of human beings, who may have lived there, becomes evident.

Re-moved traces the organic life of human beings through the inorganic element of space. The way in which the sections of detached fragments are reassembled in various ways is mechanistic. According to Guattari, the machine is not identified with the essence, which is generally associated with the world of the legal or the formal. The machine here can be achieved not through the space of pure logic, but only through the coincident machinic expression (or manifestation). The machine and its arrangement are far from an objective view, which always implies an external diameter against the pre-existing order. Hong’s work is a montage of disparate components. The machine is opposed to the tendency of structuralization of materialization and miniaturization. If there must be a structure, then its components are assembled with various parts and operate. Both the dwelling space that we inhabit and the machine, which operates the unconsciousness, encounter unpredictable things from unexpected directions. This machine has a tendency of destroying the structure; of being divided as a single code.

Paradoxically, this twists the motto of modern architects, who define the house as, in Le Cobusier’s words, a ‘machine for living.’ The material of modern architecture, such as glass, steel, or concrete, transforms architecture into a machine with a sharp edge. This corresponds to the masses of machinic life, which uses machinic means in both its materials and construction methods and which moves collectively. Modern architects’ utopian vision accelerated this realization because the world was already destroyed more than enough through both World Wars, and it can also be found to be the case in South Korea, which experienced a war that destroyed everything and had to make its own efforts for the country’s overall reconstruction. But the modern rationale that aims to restore the whole world completely became transformed into tools, and the cycle of creation and destruction was accelerated even more by the cycle of capital. In the wind of change, if we ask who benefits from the development, rationality is replaced with irrationality. Fragments placed in front of the viewers by the artist are inexplicable traces that were once believed to be something rational. At the same time, it can be understood as that which a particular moment or aspect in the process of constantly being transformed is presented.

This fragment belongs in the territory of time imaging due to sustainable creation while being destroyed. This openness is a proof of being alive. Fragments, combined with other things, proliferate and are distributed. This fragment has the organic characteristic of proliferation; but it is connected to the outside in an endless disjunction, rather than the maintenance of homeostasis, by preserving its clear outline. Co-existing heterogeneous elements recognize not totality, but difference. It highlights the majority of substance that is created and changed. This fragment is very unique. In The Infinite Conversation, Maurice Blanchot notes: ‘Someone claiming fragment must not be limited to the fragmentation of the pre-existing reality, or the future moment of harmonious whole made by fragments.’ And: ‘In the fragment’s violence quite a different relation is given to us.’ The important point here is, ‘how to produce and consider a fragment that does not depend on fundamental (but forgotten) totality, or the future decisive totality.’

Hong’s work exists as fragments, or a self-sufficient totality that connects with reality. According to Deleuze, art is a machine. This ‘machine’ is defined as ‘the production of partial objects.’ Art is not divided into parts, or reduced to a single totality, but existing as a unique ultimate part in itself. Partial object is a theatre separated by fragments without totality, divided parts, and partition. Thus, ‘incommunicable’ or ‘nothing in common’ between fragments indicates distance. ‘Lost time’ here inserts distance between neighbouring objects, and by contrast ‘recaptured time’ connects discrete objects. In reality, a man acts with old, present, and future behaviours at the same time. Thus, there has existed a multi-periodic wrinkled time, multiply folded time in science or reality. Contemporary art has predicted various times through the fragmentation.

For Deleuze, contemporary works of art function as a fragment to produce a certain ‘crystal’, rather than a traditional harmony or organic totality. This model is found in plants. In Anti-Oedipus, co-written with Guattari, he emphasizes not a model of animal totality (organic), but a botanic model. Like a rhizome, ‘It is produced as parts, themselves alongside the parts.’ In here, only a transverse line organizes fragments. This prevents fragments not only from forming a whole, but also from being taken apart. Each part determines the whole by negating the conventional idea that a work of art as an organic totality is that in which the whole determines a part. A contemporary artist establishes his or her full time like ecstasy through the destruction. This established world or a new order in the fragment is the unique time in which we enjoy a work of art. It is not the indiscriminate destruction of time; but it becomes a threshold that is able to make us rediscover our ‘lost time’ in our isolated life. The whole in the fragment proposed by Hong picks up an intense singularity in the traces of ruins.

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