Do Ho Suh Recreates Front Door of His Childhood Home in London Exhibition About Memories and Marginality

Do Ho Suh, Hub-1, Entrance, 296-8, Sungbook-Dong, Sungboo-Ku, Seoul, Korea, 2018, polyester fabric and stainless steel, 236.5 x 192 x 239 cm. © Do Ho Suh. Image courtesy of the artist and Lehmann Maupin, New York, Hong Kong, Seoul, and London.
Do Ho Suh, Hub-1, Entrance, 296-8, Sungbook-Dong, Sungboo-Ku, Seoul, Korea, 2018, polyester fabric and stainless steel, 236.5 x 192 x 239 cm. © Do Ho Suh. Image courtesy of the artist and Lehmann Maupin, New York, Hong Kong, Seoul, and London.
Do Ho Suh, Intercoms, London Home & Studio, New York Home, Studio & Corridor, Berlin Home, and Providence Home; Lighting Fixtures, New York Studio & Corridors, Seoul Home, Berlin Home, Providence Home; Fuse Boxes, London Studio, New York Home, Studio & Corridor, 2019, polyester fabric, 140.3 x 547.8 cm. © Do Ho Suh. Image courtesy of the artist and Lehmann Maupin, New York, Hong Kong, Seoul, and London.
Do Ho Suh, Karma (4 columns), 2015, 24K gold plating on stainless steel on black granite, 79.6 x 87.8 x 87.8 cm. © Do Ho Suh. Image courtesy of the artist and Lehmann Maupin, New York, Hong Kong, Seoul, and London.
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Calligraphy Rhapsody – Retrospective Exhibition of Georges Mathieu

Korean artist Do Ho Suh’s solo exhibition at Lehmann Maupin in London harnesses polyester and steel to collapse time and place into the here and now, thereby welcoming visitors into the mental refuges inhabited by the artist.

 

TEXT: Nicholas Stephens
IMAGES: Courtesy the artist and Lehmann Maupin, New York, Hong Kong, Seoul, and London. Photos by Jack Hems.

 

“I should like to bury something precious in every place where I’ve been happy and then, when I was old and ugly and miserable, I could come back and dig it up and remember.”                                                                                                            — Sebastian Flyte

Like Evelyn Waugh’s tragic protagonist Sebastian Flyte in Brideshead Revisited (1945), how many of us would like to relive the past? Gatsby-like, could we try and turn back time, and apply our experience to erase youthful mistakes? Korean artist Do Ho Suh’s new London show offers the tantalising prospect of a world without painful separations, where the past and the places we once lived remain with us.

 

Do Ho Suh, Hub-1, Entrance, 296-8, Sungbook-Dong, Sungboo-Ku, Seoul, Korea, 2018, polyester fabric and stainless steel, 236.5 x 192 x 239 cm. © Do Ho Suh. Image courtesy of the artist and Lehmann Maupin, New York, Hong Kong, Seoul, and London.

 

On entering Lehmann Maupin’s new stucco-fronted South Kensington space, the polyester and fabric Hub-1, Entrance, 296-8, Sungbook-Dong, Sungboo-Ku, Seoul, Korea (2018) looms large. Hub-1 is a recreation of the front door and vestibule of the artist’s childhood home in Seoul; to see this green, mazy framework is to step inside the artist’s mind and memory to his most formative years.

On a smaller scale, Suh is also presenting intercoms and fuse boxes from his homes in London, the US, Berlin and Korea. In a previous interview, he described such objects as 80% accurate, enough to remind him of a former dwelling. The work embodies the comforting familiarity of everyday, practical objects, and how, if you love a place, everything that belongs to it, no matter how mundane, shares in its aura. Few would grab the fuse box for safe keeping as they ran from a house fire, yet memories of these objects stay with us and are tremendously evocative. And who can tell us what we are allowed to feel nostalgia for, and what not?

With borders closed in so many countries, and many people unable to return home for Christmas, dreaming of another place and time may be a defining characteristic of contemporary humanity. For Suh, it is particularly personal and resonant: the experience of moving country has been a frequent one. Suh’s biography is reminiscent of former UK Prime Minister Theresa May’s phrase—“Citizens of Nowhere”.

For those who have lived in many places, there are joys of discovery and adventure, but also concomitant repercussions—nostalgia, and a yearning for another place; what the Germans call Fernweh. The question of how we carry our past with us, and how we come to terms with it, is a cornerstone theme of the exhibition. Suh extends this further to ask a more fundamental question. How much of our personality is really ours? And how much is just a reaction to our surroundings and environment?

 

Do Ho Suh, Intercoms, London Home & Studio, New York Home, Studio & Corridor, Berlin Home, and Providence Home; Lighting Fixtures, New York Studio & Corridors, Seoul Home, Berlin Home, Providence Home; Fuse Boxes, London Studio, New York Home, Studio & Corridor, 2019, polyester fabric, 140.3 x 547.8 cm. © Do Ho Suh. Image courtesy of the artist and Lehmann Maupin, New York, Hong Kong, Seoul, and London.
Do Ho Suh, Karma (4 columns), 2015, 24K gold plating on stainless steel on black granite, 79.6 x 87.8 x 87.8 cm. © Do Ho Suh. Image courtesy of the artist and Lehmann Maupin, New York, Hong Kong, Seoul, and London.

 

This is the question addressed by the crown-like, 24K gold-plated sculpture Karma (4 columns), (2015) which presents four individuals striding purposefully in opposing directions. Yet, the cascade of heads, which leads to the apex of the crown, negates the tale of human purpose. These are four societies from the four compass points—North, South, East and West—subsuming individuality into collectivity. Here, people are allowed to believe they are beating their own path, whilst in reality they are merely forming one link in a long chain. Where does one person end and another begin?

At the heart of Suh’s exhibition is a psychological game of cat and mouse, between the mental and the physical, this time and that place, comforting familiarity and treacherous nostalgia. The dichotomies merge and mount until we understand that the show is simply urging us on a wide path of introspection—an honest investigation into our own minds, memories and identities.

Hub-1 is a key departure point for probing our self-deception and the frailty of our own identities. It is seemingly life-sized, but it also fragile, translucent, collapsible, malleable, eerily ethereal and beautiful. Sometimes our memory plays tricks on us, misleading us into excessive nostalgia or misrepresentation of things, which were never as good as we now imagine they were. Suh presents his ‘memories’ like an unreliable narrator. We must call his motives and intentions into question. What lies or mistruths is he telling us? Are they as bad as the lies we tell ourselves?

London is an ideal forum for a show such as this, and an ideal place for this artist to live. The past may be misrepresented, but it’s OK to lie to ourselves, because the city is a place of reinvention. As Paddington Bear tweeted last year from his official account: “Mrs Brown says that in London everyone is different, but that means anyone can fit in.” Contributing your culture, your food (and in this case your fuse box) means that you, as an immigrant, can take your rightful place as a citizen of London.

 

Do Ho Suh
3 December 2020 – 20 February 2021
Lehmann Maupin, London

 

 
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