'Home' Means What? It Depends

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'Home' Means What? It Depends

In today's world, "home" means many things. With globalization spurring large-scale human migration and the Internet culture blurring physical boundaries, "home" means more than your geographical location. Artists investigate these implications of globalization in "My Home is Yours, Your Home is Mine," a new exhibition at the Rodin Gallery near the City Hall.

Featuring the works of 11 artists from Asia and Europe, the exhibition explores the notions of "home" as a symbolic metaphor for one's nationality, identity and even one's "authentic" culture.

Organized by three curators of different nationalities, the show is probably the largest affiliate art event between Europe and Asia to be held in Korea thus far. Hou Hanru has brought together works by artists from his native China who left after the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989 and now work overseas. His fellow curator, Jerome Sans, although French-born, curated the pavilion for Denmark in last year's Venice Biennale. These two visiting curators have teamed up with Korea's Ahn So-yun for the exhibition.

One of the first questions the show asks is about the boundaries between public and private space. The French architect collectives, Peripheriques, turn the gallery into a cozy neighborhood by refusing to divide up the space into hard, fixed squares like other group exhibits. Instead, the architects created long artificial walls, forming a curving aisle. Coated in metallic aluminum, the reflective surface of the walls complicate the viewer's perception about what is real and fake, authentic or ersatz. Their installations raise similar questions about identity and notions of home.

Two Korean artists, Kim so-ra and Kim Hong-suk, have created a "Living Room" for the gallery's visitors. The space is furnished with an antique couch, cabinet and telephone. The two artists have even arranged for a cleaner to come in every three days. The two Kims transcend ideas about the privacy of the home, putting the heart of the home into a public sphere.

Suh Do-ho participated earlier this year in "KOREAMERICAKOREA," an exhibition by Korean-American artists at the Artsonje Center in central Seoul. There he displayed his vision of the "portable" traditional Korean house, made from soft, see-through fabric.

At this exhibition he presents his latest body of work titled "48 West 22nd Street, Apt. A, NY 10011." This fabric, flimsy, portable re-creation of his New York apartment was sent to Korea from New York in a symbolic representation of the artist's nomadic life. Mr. Suh invites visitors to walk in and take a peak at the interior.

The translucent fabric of the artist's home also indicates blurring boundaries between private and public space in contemporary society.

The Chinese artist, Wang Jianwei, who deals with the changing environment of rural communities in China, contributes a video projection to the exhibition. By juxtaposing an image of an Asian family watching television with a clip from an American film, Mr. Wang points to the bitter reality of many rural communities in developing countries, in which the television has become the only mediator between its residents and the outside world.

More playfully, Thailand's Surasi Kusolwong is to hold an auction during the exhibition, selling tourist souvenirs bought in Thailand as well as other household devices.

Titled "Lucky Seoul 2000" - the popular slogan used during Korea's industrialization drive in the late 70s - the work critiques the capitalist "conspiracy" behind the "globalization" gloss.

As a special event, the artist will draw a lottery. The winner will be given an opportunity to travel back to Thailand with the artist and stay at the artist's residence. Mr. Kusolwong performed as a masseur during this year's Kwangju Biennale, examining Western perceptions about the "exotic," sensuous Orient.

In Tsuyoshi Ozawa's "Capsule Hotel Project," the artist finds a commonality between the capsule hotel - the fancy bed-sized room often used by white-collar businessmen for overnight stay in his native Japan - and a temporary dwelling for a homeless person covered with a blue construction tarpaulin.

Mr. Ozawa juxtaposes the two living spaces that are identical in size but starkly different in personal meaning and usage. The ironic reality that divides the occupants of the two spaces is perhaps the artist's interpretation of the impact of industrialization in terms of social stratification in his contemporary Japan.

Two industrial designers based in Japan, Izumi Kohama, a Japanese, and Xavier Moulin, a Frenchman, present a collaborative work, titled "Homeware."

The artists have designed "wearable" domestic items, including a bag that turns into a seating mat when unfolded. Most of their clothes and accessories have multiple uses and can be carried around. The two artists say they use clothes as a metaphor for "portable houses."

Jun'ya Yamaide, also from Japan, creates a spectacle in the gallery with some 100 boxes hanging in the air. Inside the boxes are watches and clocks the artist has borrowed from Seoul residents since his arrival. Each box is labeled with the name of the lender.

Mr. Yamaide asks whether one can "own time," also perhaps critiquing the capitalist system in which employers purchase labor time.

The exhibition emphatically "invites" the viewer in. The show's organizers even subtitle the show, "Come and play at our house." This invitation also works to subvert the traditional role of the spectator as the passive receptacle for art. Instead, the spectator becomes a guest, invited to enter a personal and "domestic" sphere. The artists become hosts.

And ultimately, even those divisions are broken down. Most of the works on display are interactive, and all parties - guest and host, spectator and artist - must participate to "complete" the work.

As part of the work "Foreigner Free" by the Danish artist Jens Haaning, entrance is free for foreign visitors.

The exhibition runs through Jan. 28. Audioguides in English are available. For more information contact 02-2259-7781.

by Park Soo-mee

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