Wednesday, February 21, 2007
Do-Ho Suh - Moving On
Do-Ho Suh is an immigrant.
See the nostalgia of this Staircase. See how suspended it is, how volatile and fragile, yet how present and precise. Apparently the artist waited 6 years to ask the landlord of his house in Seoul if he could measure the house to reproduce the staircase. This is another hint: it is a replica. A precise replica. As if someone tried to have the memory here, at his service. Which is common, maybe, if you're an aging artist going back to what once was. But hardly if you are 40. Unless this home is too far away to be a home. Unless the only sensation you have is that of a volatile present, a parallel world where things are not quite palpable... and still. Made of red nylon, made of air. It goes nowhere (Stairway to Heaven?? Come on...), yet it brings about the change a staircase does: it hints at another space. And indirectly, it divides: there are other levels. And it cuts through, diagonally, like a clean razor.
What is this floor that is a ceiling that is not a floor? What is this carpet-red sky? How am I to deal with it - and with this strange, unaccessible space that suddenly appears in-between? Don't count on the stairs - they are what they are, a suspended image of an all-too-precise memory, and they aren't even touching the ground. Count on the absence. On what you think might be there, or might have been there. Count on the distance that helps you travel.
Oh, the elegance of memory. The title is Uni-Form/s: Self-Portrait/s. All My 39 Years. And those are indeed all the uniforms Do-Ho Suh wore during 39 years of his life. This boat is exquisitely neat. Just observe the lines, the purity of form. Notice how Do-Ho Suh focuses on the essencial: there are no trousers, very few additional items (bowtie, shirt). The only real intervention, beyond the selection and maybe the neat construction (the wheels...), is the adjustment of the uniforms to the lower line. That, for me, is the stroke of genius. This work, as the previous one, is not like a clay sculpture, but like a stone one: it is made by chopping away. The context, the environment, the whole which over-justifies the object. Its power, to me, lies in the new framing, where the elements are picked out very carefully, hardly even re-arranged, but above all, re-framed. Here, more than in the Staircase, it is the framework that makes the picture.
One small detail: The work was made in 2006. The artist was born in 1962. Meaning he was 44 when creating this work. Which suggests he spent 5 years without a uniform. Infancy? Or recent years? Where is the place of freedom?