Where story, emotion mergeVisual codes around us often hint at what we are about to discover.
Uniforms tell us about a company’s corporate identity, while the lists of words in dictionaries signify an order of language. You are what you see!
A hospital is a natural surrounding to talk about the relationship between structure and significance. In hospitals, doctors dressed in white gowns draw immediate attention. Mortuaries are located on the opposite end from the patients’ rooms, in an attempt to separate life from death. A cross in a chapel is a sign of suffering for the ill.
A group of 11 Korean artists are exhibiting site-specific projects in Kangnam St. Mary’s Hospital, in a show titled “Creeping Into Life.” This show explores spatial possibilities of the hospital, where stories and emotions merge. The works attempt to provide an emotional healing for the audience.
About half of the artworks on display are exhibited around the reception hall at the main building, where traffic is most busy.
Park Eun-seon, a mixed-media artist, created an artificial arch along the pillars by the hospital’s waiting counter, and did a series of hand-drawn pictures on its surface. Near the end of the pillar, Ms. Park created a rack where she placed a fish tank, complete with fish.
Covering the entrance door of a chapel close to the fish tank is an origami work by Park Won-ju titled “Warholic Chapel.” As if to suggest human vulnerability, the paperwork is delicate, almost vulnerable, exposed to all types of impetus passing by the door.
“How Do You Do” ― a photo installation by Bang Byeong-sang located on the walls leading to the doctors’ offices ― examines the personal sides of the doctors, who, to the patients’ eyes, always seem to hold a more matter-of-fact, unemotional view of death. By installing casual snapshots of doctors posed in their offices, the artist hopes to reduce the psychological pressure and fear many patients face before knocking on the doctors’ door.
Adding a poetic meaning to the fear and grief surrounding death, Park So-young embroidered the shape of a zodiac constellation and a flying bird on a large cloth at the entrance of the mortuary.
By the hospital’s wooden bench across the backyard, Park Mu-rim, a graduate of the California Art Institute, created a hospital miniature by using the major resources ― electricity, water, blood and gas ― that run the hospital. Mr. Park created a minimalist sculpture, a square box made out of acrylic joints, that symbolically represent those elements.
“The exhibition is organized to supersede the conventional notions of art known to much of the public and trigger a dialogue with a dynamic audience,” said Park Mu-rim, who is also a curator of the exhibition. “By doing so, the artists hope to penetrate the emotion, experience and knowledge of the patients and their visitors, just as the space has done the same to the artists to trigger their inspiration.”
But the project unfortunately does not push hard enough for an emotional response. Many works on display are almost invisible, and one has to look for a particular work to know where it is, even with the exhibition map. But perhaps that is all part of the exhibition’s “creeping.”
by Park Soo-mee
“Creeping Into Life” runs to June 30. For more information call (02) 332-5846.