Filling space with feelings

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Filling space with feelings

Can a sofa feel our pain when we lose love? The artist Arik Levy says his “Arik” sofa bleeds all over. Try watching his short film “Hug,” in which he embraces a woman for 12 minutes. Levy picks up one of three overlapping tables of varied heights. Underneath, the table reads, “I Can Love Again.”
Levy’s exhibition “Love_Counts,” which opened yesterday at Park Ryu Sook Gallery in the Cheongdam-dong area of southern Seoul, offers a humorous, refreshing, conceptually strong approach to the point where contemporary design meets art. A total of 31 works, including three short films, nine items of furniture, three carpets and 15 lighting fixtures, take up two floors of the gallery, which at first glance looks like the interior of a posh boutique, but which also suggests a way of life.
“This is a new approach for our gallery, known for mainstream traditional art works in Korea. With works by Levy, the gallery can remain young and new in concept,” said the curator, Lee Jin-suk.
The gallery space is strewn with odd-looking objects that perform simple functions, and with gadgets of complex design and materials. What distinguishes Levy’s works is their curious appeal to viewers’ hearts.
A carpet is cut like a puzzle, stimulating creativity. “Umbilical” lights have electric cords fancifully woven in macrame style. What looks like an anthromorphic mirror, “Splash,” is mounted on the wall; it was inspired by Levy’s passion for surfing.
“It’s from special alloy metal, so the image reflected on the surface appears distorted from a distance,” Levy said. In designing the space, he says, he hoped to break down boundaries between photography, furniture design, lighting and so on.
Since graduating from Art Center Europe in 1991, the Paris-based artist has participated in numerous exhibitions and seen his work displayed in museums worldwide. In 2003, Levy received the Interior Innovation Award in “The Best of Best” category in Cologne. Earlier this year, two of the “Umbilical” series, “Umbilical Ball” and “Umbilical Knitted,” were added to the permanent collection at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.
He insists his work is not interior decoration, because he works with raw materials. “My works are not just for visual effects, but to enhance feelings in people,” he said. “I’m a visual storyteller, a Techno poet.”
The JoongAng Daily spoke with Levy at the gallery.

Q. You call yourself a Techno poet. Do you consider yourself more analog or digital?
A. I use technologies to express my feelings. When I take pictures, I use simple digital cameras. A furniture company, Ligne Roset, for example, provides me with its furniture and I rework it.

At the start, what did you have to work with at this gallery?
When I came in, unlike most commercial spaces, I felt a sense of presence, the warmth of people, as if there were ghosts at this gallery. I thought it was strange, so I asked staffers; they said it used to be a private home. I incorporated that sense of people’s presence with my works.

How did you end up becoming an artist?
Growing up in Tel Aviv, I was a beach bum, surfing year-round, and I still surf. By 27, I sold everything and left my country for love. In Geneva, I studied art at Art Center Europe, a branch of Pasadena Art Center, for two and a half years straight. And things started to happen there.

What inspires you?
“Star Wars,” and “Dune” by David Lynch. The film industry can have the capacity to express the future by building everything on the set, which can help us see what our future might look like, and follow up in 30 to 50 years. In “Star Trek,” Spock flips out a mobile phone and uses a full body scanner to diagnose a problem in the body. That kind of simulation [of the future] is fantastic.

by Ines Cho
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