Haegue Yang (b. 1971, based in Seoul and Berlin) has been acclaimed as one of the most influential artists in the contemporary international art scene since the mid-1990s. Employing multifarious materials of ordinary, industrial, and pseudo-folk natures, her work freely traverses themes such as the relationship between the narrative and the abstract, domesticity, migration, and borders without any hierarchical order. Her vast cultural references encompass historical figures, events, and natural and societal phenomena, metamorphosing with her mesmerizing yet rigorous visual language.
In MMCA Hyundai Motor Series 2020: Haegue Yang - O₂ & H₂O, the artist attempts another leap toward “the abstraction of reality.” As the major energies of living organisms, air and water do not exist purely in natural states as chemical symbols. While O₂ & H₂O refers precisely to specific materials, the title feels abstract at the same time, metaphorically expressing the evolution of the artist’s persistent interest in tracing formless sensorial experience with the abstract language of art. O₂ & H₂O poses questions to contemplate in totality the world of scientific facts, the perceptual world including experiences and senses that venture beyond such facts, and the phenomenal world that is gradually pushed to the brink with the climate crisis and disasters.
O₂ & H₂O is an exhibition as hybrid as our reality. Yang takes the knowledge, conventions and phenomena formed in various socio-cultural spheres and embodies them in 'fantastic' visual language to transcendental space and time. Sonic Domesticus and The Intermediates, made with bells and artificial straw, and spoons from Mok Woo Workshop question the meaning of performativity in craftsmanship and allude to our society today. Further, her sculptures - beings that point at somewhere between living organisms and machines, or objects and humans - evoke the grotesque and familiarity of folklore.
The environment constructed in Seoul Box and Gallery 5 awakens our senses and perception of space. Common interior components such as corridors, walls, doorknobs, and venetian blinds are arranged or stacked in particular ways to draw a constellation. In Five Doing Un-Doing, the digital collage on banners, and the wallpaper piece, DMZ Un-Do, all the overwhelming phenomena that we encounter – substance and symbols, energy and technology, climate and social polarization, disasters and national borders – are silently collapsed onto each other. This is a surreal yet realistic insight into our current civilization that the exhibition O₂ & H₂O aspires to present.
Along with the catalogue for O₂ & H₂O, an anthology, Air and Water: Writings on Haegue Yang 2001-2020, is to be co-published by the MMCA and Hyunsil Publishing. The anthology in Korean language features a total of 36 writings by authors at home and abroad, each produced at a crucial moment in the artist’s career. Offering an insight into the artistic development and trajectory of her oeuvre over the last 25 years, Air and Water will provide the contexts for its readers to appreciate the exhibition in greater depth.
* Sonic Sculptures of MMCA Hyundai Motor Series 2020: Haegue Yang - O2 & H2O will be activated at Gallery 5, every open day at 5pm (additionally at 7pm on Wednesday and Saturday) during the month of February 2021. A total of 9 pieces of Sonic Sculptures, e.g., Sonic Domesticus, Sonic Clothehorses, and Sonic Ropes will be activated for 15 minutes, choreographed by Sangyun Park.