The talented photographer Penelope Lisi reviews Do Ho Suh’s exhibition “Passage/s” which took place at the Victoria Miro Gallery.
“Passage/s” exhibition has now moved to Bildmuseet, Umeå, Sweden. For more information visit: Bildmuseet
Can you imagine every detail of your childhood home materialized in front of your eyes?
Do Ho Suh could. And if you stopped by Victoria Mirò you could see it yourself.
In the spacious gallery, room after room, the Passage/s of the artist’s past come to life.
The first space hosts large-scale experimental “drawings” introducing the visitor to Suh’s universe. Gelatin tissue and thread twist and bend gently on the cotton paper creating colorful familiar images. The walls are covered in doors, entrances and other architectural elements that together give shape to the skeleton of Suh’s life.
Remains of a peripatetic life journey that brought the artist from South Korea, his homeland, to the United States, to Berlin, and, finally, to London, his chosen home.
And among these visual fragments of memory, there is one I found particularly striking/evocative: Staircase.
The panel shows a shiny red spiral ladder turning on itself and ending in nothingness, brusquely interrupted. The shape appears extremely human on the white wall, a contorted body reminding us of the deep connection between our physical selves and the spaces we inhabit.
This theme continues in the biggest room of the Gallery II which houses the Hub. This one-to-one scale fabric structure reproduces the shapes and places that left a mark in Suh’s existence: in this case parts of his London apartment and parts of his childhood home in South Korea.
The vividly dyed fabric surfaces modeled and stitched together to form levels and corners, float in space like an impalpable skeleton.
The architectural features are carefully assembled to be the exact reflection of real places: every detail has been delineated in threads of bright polyester in an intricate web, delicate yet resistant. Ordinary minuscule pieces, almost invisible that would go unnoticed in everyday life. Switches, plugs and handles now glowing as protagonists of the space.
The meticulousness of the details gives the work a sense of authenticity. Yet passing through those corridors feels extremely private, as if walking into the artist’s intimacy while exploring your own. The semi-transparent walls symbolize and show a blurring of the line between private and public, between reality and imagination. And Suh’s personal space becomes something else, extracted from its context, someone else’s space, someone else’s intimate comfort zone.
“I see life as a passageway, with no fixed beginning or destination. We tend to focus on the destination all the time and forget about the in-between spaces”, Suh said.
The installation stages an experience of constant transition, connecting spaces in between places, metaphor for an existence spent crossing confines in search of a destination, of a vague sense of belonging.
So the representation shifts from the artist’s own private journey to a more global reflection on movement between countries and cultures, in a globalised world where identity-shaping implies ongoing motion.
Would I engage with this artist?
If you experience life as an endless transition in which identity development is defined by space, you should take a walk through Do Ho Suh’s artworks. Pass from threshold to room to space to a world in which our existence is never fixed but floating across boundaries in a constant sense of suspension.