Un-condensed Rural 6.0

The Art and Time of Land Arts    강원환경설치미술초대작가전

Place (In mind)

Not long ago I was invited to again participate in the annual exhibition in Gangwon province at Baek-Rak Temple. Exhibitions at Buddhist temples in South Korea are now part of recurring cycles. A growing number over the past decade have begun flourishing as outreach connections to communities and regions.  As we can see many recent changes through the past few years associated with such projects, we might begin to ask ourselves, which way will they embark for future exhibitions? Will they develop as fields for critical and creative discourse or simply as pop-culture events? I have deliberated with these words from the distinct advantage here of having been both artist participant and active observer in this past years exhibition at Gangwon Environmental Exhibition at Baek-Kak temple. From this I have formulated some memorable (at least for me) and critical observations for future reference. 
The Gangwon Environmental Installation Invitation Artists Exhibition/ 강원환경설치미술초대작가전, has taken place annually in and around Hongchoen since 2007. The year it officially expanded to include the region outside of Baek-Rak temple itself, including areas around Hongcheon city. In essence the notion of environment, and to be integral within it, took root literally. Prior to 2007, smaller exhibitions were held inside of Baek-Rak temple, limited to a gallery arrangement and the entanglements of interior presentations and buddhist doctrines.
In retrospect, the expansion in 2007 to include the greater rural context as place for critical interpretation and response marked a turning point in the exhibitions evolving agenda. The most recent exhibition was different yet again, perhaps as it was opened to a few select artists representing a broader spectrum in Germany, Italy, Japan, USA and of course South Korea. In total there were 37 participants. The international inclusion was opportunity to glean outside perspectives and trajectories which, have imparted ideas for future exhibitions.
Baek-Rak Temple is located about 10 km northeast of Hongcheon-city, in the rural mountainous region of the Ju-eum Chi-ri river valley. The temples geographical location between two-lane country road, river and steep mountainous terrain has hemmed it in physically, with limited space for any sort of architectural expansion. However, its modest size has promoted energies elsewhere such as the annual late summer exhibition and the well tended and cultivated landscape which, bear evidence of the active landscape care. The landscape around and within Baek-Rak has become place of evolving outdoor exhibition space. With previous years environmental works still on display, adding perhaps to future questions regarding ongoing preservation of past works or a mandated temporariness.  Plans are taking shape to reorganize outdoor public spaces, parking and working production areas on the temple grounds, in anticipation of larger exhibitions to come. 
Yet, the fundamental definition of what land art becomes in South Korea, remains open to interpretation and perhaps elusive as we now see in the range of work produced at Baek-Rak temple. This in itself is not so much at issue, but rather central in critical debate in the exhibitions future, with a growing collection of preserved works. Some of which having become woven into the landscape in fixture alongside the unrealized installations yet to come.  

Bonggi Park, untitled, 2013 

Thinking is Time (Thinking in Time)

For artists at the Gangwon Exhibition, the exercise of selecting site for individual works was one of expedient response, with analysis and synthesis in a matter of first impression moments. Quickly, choices were made regarding where to spend six days working in place. There were negotiations made and ties to suit personal agendas. The landscape bears memories of past experiences for each artist and from this, sites (and projected visions) took root. 
As we consider what it means to work against time- in allotments we have, and what we face in the unpredictable effects of weather, interaction and use; we are pressed to think in and of time. Our initial plans and expectational goals can be altered and adapted as necessary. In working and making (productive craft) there is gestational potential in this; we construct and we think. In the process of doing, our planned assaults, as well as intuitive acts become catalysts that extend beyond initial intentions.  The very reality of time becomes implicit in understanding the effects of time itself. 
Participating artist of note Jan Kochermann’s work reflects experiential interpretations.  Urban situations based upon places he has experienced and with these, the associated “facts” inherent within those, often times- urban conditions; tunnels, bridges, and as his latest monograph explores the notion of ‘shafts.’ These observations supersede “concepts”
 in his creative approach and architecturally constructed figures. His installation works bring us close to perilous edges and points of contentious contemplation- and in part we are prompted to consider, do we freeze, move forward or return from points of origin? 
Koechermann’s installation at Gangwon, titled ‘Nowhere City Gangwon,’ settles on urban interpretations cast against the cultivated gardens of Baek-Rak temple. Koechermann explores domestic high-rise housing constructed as cardboard paper models. Social apartment blocks of eastern european origin (coincidentally similar to apartments in South Korea) placed within cultivated gardens of a temple greenhouse in an odd proportional accuracy.  Weaving and wading through the greenhouse, the experience becomes journey like, as if gliding through a forest, as one moves towards the levitating apartment forms. 
Koechermann’s work, contemplated and determined over a weeks concentrated process intuitively discovers an appropriate site in working time. In works progression, we know that time can be consumed in deliberation, contemplation and variable choice. The outdoor environment itself becomes the place we are working against, as Koechermann unintentionally demonstrated. The distractions of a workshop; conversations, engagements, etcetera, and in all of this, the results become unexpectedly different. The process of making is removed from the specifics of site, as I witnessed in Jan’s work, and at a distance, we are perhaps freed from the entanglements of being too close. While Jan’s initial proposal in quantity and in sited position from his first ideas were quite different, I can say with conferred observation, the end result was no less revealing.

Jan Koechermann, Nowhere City Gangwan, 2013 

Form Versus Content (or Context?) 

This past years work at the Gangwon Environmental Exhibition revealed a split in identity as installations were envisioned in one of two ways. First, as integral-in-context, propositioned as spatial and inhabitable arrangements as a direct response to the environment. These works responded to landscape and social engagement in provocative ways and in some instances with materials extracted directly from site. They were site-specific in ways requiring participatory rendezvous by viewers, establishing spatial boundaries and surfaces of tactile encounter. 
Other installations endured as placement objects in the landscape. They are conceptually representative and decisively for view at a distance, much like that of gallery spectacles. These works remain bound by metaphorical concepts, to be read and perhaps interpreted against the viewers experiences and perceptions. Formal agendas, as conceptual metaphors, have long struggled against the very ideological content it seeks to promote.  Are there limits to the continuation in such installation approaches at Bae-Rak temple? 
Importantly however, content, it appears, is ready to expand further as contextual and spatial experience at the Gangwon Exhibition. To the extent that the temple grounds continue to morph in support of spatial needs and exhibit directions; this too is providing a sounding board for artistic response. Adapting to these changes will require further considerations in spatial manipulation through material testing and critical dialogue in how one occupies place. A place that appears now fluid amongst inevitable evolutions to come.
The environmental exhibition has prompted opportunity for material experimentation. The matters of earth and ground providing materials for labor; casting, shaping, lifting in curiously unnatural ways. This reflects common  knowledge (in some ways) and amongst long standing traditions in building places of inhabitation with the most basic of materials- that being soil. It becomes recognizable because of what it is physically however, in different compacted quantities and structured arrangements ‘earth’ takes on altered identities and endures relatively stable through long extensions in time. 
In my own installation, I envisioned ‘Earth_work’ as connection to both my past and present. Certainly, an understanding of building with natural and sustainable materials was foundational- and the notions of working sustainable have long been a part of my architectural up-bringing. However, the act of putting it all together was something of educational discovery.  I contemplated observations on traditional construction methods in Korea. In particular, the dimensional arrangements as determined by our bodies occupation in space. The lengthwise unit of 1.5 meters is a dimensional guide for spatial and structural organization- it has been implemented through centuries as a benchmark in spatial denomination. 

Eric Reeder, Earth_Work, 2013 

Basic, locally harvested materials in traditional construction have encouraged spatial arrangements in response to the environment. In particular, the arrangements of space out-of-doors is interesting to note. Earthen walls of stone and mud have for centuries in Korea defined boundaries of engagement and navigable borders between inside and outside, as well as public and private space.  Hence, the combinations of ‘native’ material from site and dimensional analysis established summarily clear starting points for ‘Earth_work.’ 
At the onset, my assistants and I constructed wooden forms for containing and compacting ground soil. The forms were fabricated similar to those used for casting poured-in-place concrete, utilizing 3-layer ply wood boards and wood batten strips. The technique of compacting soil within wood forms is known as rammed earth construction and is common in method throughout the world, using only slight variations in the way formwork is devised and the types and colors of soils that are deployed. The resulting walls though are relatively similar irrespective of geographic location.  
We tested the wooden casting forms with soils from around our working studio at Konkuk University and the College of Architecture in Seoul and constructed a mock-up wall to determine the appropriate and proportional balanced mixture for stabilizing the soil. This technique requires little in the way of technical knowhow or materials, outside of suitable, sandy soil and lime/ cement additives for strengthening and coloration as desired. Not all of which is necessarily required though for rammed earth construction. In optimal proportional combinations of soil, clay and particulate sand, structural integrity can be achieved. Evident to the extent that rammed earth walls can survive centuries if properly constructed with these basic materials. 
Earth_work installation makes connection to landscape by proximity of functional objects. Clay pots and the preparation space around them establish a point of pause. Whats more, the space overlooks a mesil (Japanese plumb) orchard, with seasonal implications for activity and further opportunity in making place for repose. The composed arrangement of rammed earth walls establish a place for open, interpretive use and yet, specific in what it is, as a material construct. Amorphous soil appears no longer its natural self, when compressed to rectilinear perfection and atypical crisp-edged forms, and in a sense, becomes a suspended object in time. 
Time is already bearing, as it has begun to impose its natural courses of change. Earth_work stands without the benefit of additional lateral support or proper foundation. Its alteration and ultimate future now unfolds as the seasons mark transitions, the earth itself shifts and settles and potential function at the hands of visitors is realized. Green sprouts have emerged on the low walls as a reminder of soils incubational properties. Earth_work’s mark is heavy on the land and yet its time in place remains elusively unpredictable.

Eric Reeder, Earth_Work, 2013 

The Other Architects 

I can accurately claim title of Architect and interestingly enough, so too were many of the participating artists, as ‘architects’ in their own constructive manner. Artists as ‘builders’ have a way with materials. As the combination of interpretative and prudent exploration enhance creative vision seems to suggest. What is left consciously undone becomes equally important, and in a way, the critical and contemplative artist masters this skill en route to constructing something ‘complete’ while simultaneously leaving pieces undone.  In effect, we are left to fill in the non-specific conditions with our minds eyes. We allow environment to filter into view, through and around the crevices of what has been made and that which has been left undone. 
Gangwon artist Klaus Kleine comments in detailed description regarding his work in general, as an ongoing play on visual impressions; a method of optical trickery, and the ultimate desire to create “highbrow spaces with lowbrow materials”.  Salvaging, repositioning and fastening in what’s possible for maximum effect, extracted from the least amount of stuff. By example, referring to his installation titled, Räume 1 – 6, this becomes resolutely clear. 
Kleine is especially adept at casting and shaping poured materials: concrete, gypsum plaster in particular, as his specialty interest, having grown from extensive work with industry experts in concrete fabrications. Working with poured materials, he composes space defining “walkable rooms,” as he describes them, from cast surfaces, be they out-of-doors or indoor spaces of transformed warehouses or galleries. Whats more, the cast materials assume familiar identities through textures and shapes. At times, his casts become representational of other elements and objects in recognizable architectural and historical orders of reference.  
Notably, Kleine’s work at Gangwon unfolded as a dance in slow contemplation. His gypsum cast fragmented forms titled, “Uncomposed Room” reflected a working process as he fashioned rudimentary formwork from unlikely materials in corrugated metals, plastic buckets, and plastic disposal bags. He poured liquid plaster in these oddly shaped, fitting forms and then worked them into desired geometries, sometimes going so far as to rhythmically roll wet casting mixtures until solidifying the plaster in position. Tempered deliberations between casting and drying time were meditative opportunities. For Kleine, this was about placing objects, as components into themselves, within the plum tree garden in which the work was sited. Emptiness, and the imperfections of a momentary landscape, become equally complicit partners in arrangements of familiar things. Uncomposed Room is a lesson in restraint;  making and positioning sparsely suggestive in things at complimentary odds within nature. 
Kleine goes further to suggest associations with places and times of the past.  Interestingly though, and perhaps more important, are the delicate comparisons of natures creations and those Kleine claims as fragile and “susceptible to erosions,” fragments in his own work. Uncomposed Room is indicative of the dialectical discourse he evokes in standing to make implied, imperfect rooms, albeit within carefully conscious and deliberate limitations. Both as physical and material manifestations, the passing of his architectural icons are already a foregone and expected conclusion.  

Klaus Kleine, Uncomposed Room, 2013 

Looking Back; Projecting Ahead at Gangwon and Beyond

Upon closer inspection, in comparisons to land arts elsewhere, methodological formations are emerging. Distinctions can be made of individual contributions now at Gangwon and in 2013,  as personal agendas evolve beyond metaphorical objects. Material interactions as conceived, extracted and then organized in place are such methods- and recognizable in what land art has become in world-wide recognition; envisioned as response within the in-situ of place. 
In particular at Baek-Rak temple, what transpired were unexpected collaborations between participants.  This appeared strangely unfamiliar amongst highly individual artists. To some degree this too had influential impacts on choices and sited locations with deferential outcomes as a result. In this perhaps a new identity of such creative productions may find altered course, as the grounds of the exhibition area at Baek-Rak continue to fill with past years’ works. The negotiations and collaborations transpire to become a significant factor in which to navigate individual perspectives and creative outcomes. That in itself appears challenging enough. 
We might conclude from this the significance of discovering time in landscapes. How we cultivate and exploit its most salient qualities. Only then can we we begin to respond and create profoundly and in kind as artists, and as architects.

condenCITY_114 density 6 portable

Our mega-cities today are more portable than ever. Density has given rise to  commercial speculation. And a willingness to put in place that which appears temporary. Alongside deeply anchored towers are containers for in-transit residents. Portable lives in relatively easy to move spaces. Today it is fashionable to be temporary, malleable in life as it is in architectures.       

Mountain Memories/ Space Magazine

Recent article published in Space Magazine as we are continually challenged to critically recognize our conflicting relationships with the landscapes and cities around us.


condenCITY_113 density 5 temporary

Few cities I have ever been in, lived in, appear as temporary as Seoul. It is an organism of continual change constructed of and for temporal moments. Seoul's motions of shift and alteration are unsettled as public ways and buildings are uncovered. And by example, stripped bare to foundational floors- and re-covered in timely architectural outfits. The base foundations of reinforced post and slab concrete, freed from historical value, are suitable for quick transformation. Seoul is thus allowed to permutate at a moments notice. 

Seoul's density and concentrated form is life-like as it moves along. 

Gallery MOA 2014 international architects drawing exhibition

The 3rd International Architects Drawing Exhibition
제3회 국제건축가 드로잉전 
Architects : Kim In Cheurl, Kim Hee Gon,Moon Hoon, Park Tae Hong
Bang Chul Rin, Woo Kyung Kook, Lim Ji Taek, Yoo Hyunjoon,
Jun Inho, Jeagal Youp, Eric Reeder, Santiago Porras Alvarez .
Kim Young Jai, Jin-wook Lee, Park Kijun,(15명)

주제 : 말 (MAL)
제3회 국제건축가 드로잉전의 주제는 “말” 로서 우리가 일상적으로 사용하는 언어를 의미한다. 말이란 세상에 존재하는 모든 것을 이미지로 표현해내는 그림과 같다 라고 비트겐 슈타인은 이야기 하였다. 즉 가능한 사실을 표상할 수 있으려면 공통적인 구조를 가져야하며 동시에
지시대상을 갖는 다양성 속에서 표출 되어야 한다는 것이다.
그렇기 때문에 동일한 사물이라도 국가, 민족, 문화에 따라 다양한 의미로 표출 할 수가 있는 것이다. 따라서 말은 언어 ,즉 랑그(Lingue)와 개인적 언술행위(Parole)에 따라 다원적이고 다의적인 해석을 낳을 수 있고 비 표상적 결과로서의 형식이지만 역사, 사회적 맥락이 내재되어 있는 결과인 것이다.
따라서 말을 주제로 드로잉 한다는 것은 자신의 언술적 행위를 추상화된 현상으로 표출(드로잉기법)시키는 것으로 역사와 사회적 토양의 바탕으로부터 산출되는 이미지(象) 라 할수 있으며 동시에 심층의 상(相)으로서 특수성을 갖게 되는 것이다.
예를 들어 한국에서는 말을 말(언어),말(Horse),말(끝)등으로 사용하고 같은 음의 영어(mal) 에서는 부정적 의미, 프랑스에서(Lingue)는 혀모양, 이태리에서는 파스타, 국수, 독일에서는 회화 등의 서로 다른 의미를 지니게 된다.
이와 같이 건축가 들에 의하여 언어를 드로잉 화 시키는 작업은 개인의 감성과 가치관에 따라
또 다른 다양한 형상을 표출 시키게 될 것이다. 그동안 건축가들의 건축적 드로잉은 건물을 설계하는 과정에서 아이디어 스케치를 하는 것이라면 이번 드로잉전은 보편적인 건축적 표현을 넘어선 새로운 장르의 문화, 예술적 담론을 형성하기 위한 특별한 드로잉 전시가 될 것이다.

전시 : 2014 02 28 - 03 19
오프닝: 2월28일 오후5시 Gallery MOA , Heyri

A reasonable translation of the Architect, in Kyung Kook Woo's words....

Subject \\ MAL: to say
The theme for the 3rd International Architect's drawing exhibition equates to "the end"; or stated another way, final interpretations in the language we use on a daily basis. Image can be everything, captured in a single word and expressing essential meaning through representation. Or we might consider that we are able to deduct a common, understandable structure through language solely.

We retain the ability to formulate expressions in a variety ways.

Identical words cross national, ethnic, and cultural boundaries, surfacing in diversified meanings. Language therefore, namely ‘lang’ (Lingue) and personal conduct ‘eonsul’ (Parole), depend on cultural background and reveal distinct intentions in meaning- of course through non-representational form, and further, the influence of history is embedded as a condition of social context.

So to say that the subject of the abstracted drawing represents active phenomena, or more specifically (drawing technique) via calculations from historical and social background related to an image (象) can be viewed as just another possibility (相) as a specificity would have it.

For example, in Korea, spoken words (language- ‘mal’), mal also refers to horse, as well as ‘the end’, and in the use of English as a negative (mal), likewise in the negative sense in French (Lingue), it is tongue-shaped, Italian pasta noodles, and in Germany an entirely different meaning as such.

Thus, the language of architects, drawing upon divergent values- work is based on an individual's position. 

Drawing demonstrates another variety of expressed shapes and values. An architectural design by the architect, via the process of drawing the sketches surfaces from an idea; it is at this nucleus that drawing goes beyond universal expression in a new genre of architectural culture and artistic discourse, and now what we formulate as a special drawing exhibition.

Architect Kyung Kook Woo

Display: 2014 02 28-03 19
Opening : February 28 at 5:00 pm Gallery MOA, Heyri



I'm a stranger
in my own land
My place has become strange

counting too much
Sacred heart(s)
St Mary's 

Cathedral of spending
Shuffling plastics

"Its a lot of testorone all over the place,...

20 million combat troops."
And he continues on:

"Where a leader could rest in an area like disneyland."
So, said the man with cadence.
Over and over
and I listen

There is a longing for the past as we return to our yesterdays.
The people, faces once in life, absent.
The place is, Just as it always was. Though

I've sat in this very spot without emotion; as flat as can be.
Stirred only to think of what i could do
If i could walk away.

condenCITY_112 density4 scale

Compact urban conditions once promoted densities of another kind. Pathways and streets in the past were planned and constructed with people in mind.  Scales of 'body' and that of cart, defined utilitarian passage and places public. Today, automobiles now consume and provoke a different kind of scale- and in the post industrial age of machines and technologies, we go higher (in heights and in density). Larger in scale we have evolved, tending to supersede what was yesterday.  'Scale' is consuming greater quantities, leaving less and less of the urban experience we once knew.

Density, it appears, cuts both ways. 

condenCITY_111 density3 walkable

'Memory Maps' presented 2012.04 at Heyri MOA Gallery (South Korea) 

Density instills walkability and the ease with which we are able to go from point A to point B and anyplace in between. The walkable city promotes many benefits in heath, the environment amongst other advantages as we go about our daily routines. The investment in sidewalks and public infrastructure, encourages walking. 

Dense cities promote directional shifts as we navigate route; quick shifts in last minute choices to go left, right or forward.  Daily routine and habit can give way to chance and the urban experience unfolds with the unexpected choice. As we reflect upon the places we've walked, reflecting upon these journeys, piece by piece, we shape our perceptions in place; 

our reconstructed memories of cities. 

condenCITY_110 density2 cogs


Density (in cause and effect) establishes collective centers of mass production and exchange. The two are inextricably linked by necessity and to the extent that one without the other ceases to exist. These neighborhoods of highly mixed conditioning, often rely on central masses- large scale infrastructures that power a local economy.  Centralized in form, these megastructures are characteristically simple and redundant, yet what spawns around them is more intricate and complex; neighborhoods that have emerged freely and organically. Density takes peculiar shape out of a self guided will. 

By example the Pyonghwa Market in Seoul, extends for more than 600 meters in length. It is predominantly a textile clothing market with a few other intermixed programs and functions. It is supported by a host of services and residence who have taken root around it establishing a symbiotic situation.  It is by nature a kind of machine in the denseness of Seoul. A cog in the larger picture of things.

Density is constructed around urban 'cogs'.