The nights at last have fallen quiet.
Only the seasonal sound of crickets remain as autumn nears in Seoul, after a roaring summer stretch through July and August. The sound of the cicada is unmistakable in many cities in East Asia. In Seoul, this distinctive and penetrating shrill marks the arrival of high summer as these large insects emerge from underground to mate and live out the second part of their short above ground lives. They take shelter in the older canopies of mature trees, occasionally swooping down for fly-by's, avoiding any number of birds-of-prey, in search of a mate. Prior to their emergence these tree dwellers spend the better part of seven and as many as fifteen years underground as grubs maturing. After burrowing out from underground they shed a beige skin as their bodies continue evolving. Evidence of this molting can be seen in empty shells still clinging to tree trunks where the cicada have emerged, leaving behind their subterranean armor.
In unison the chorus sound of hundreds of cicada create a saw like rattle as they vibrate their pulsating abdomen against fast moving wings. Summer nights persist through the haze of humidity and acoustic domination of penetrating song; unescapable. For now, this enveloping sound canopy, has gone quiet. Until next years cyclical population returns.
The air we breath.
The urban corridor loosely connected from Beijing to Tokyo, through Seoul, is home to more than 85 million people residing in dense urban centers. Prevailing winds link these cities to the dismay of many. Desert sands of the Gobi Steppe and industrial pollutants combine and drift across the eastern edge of China, over ocean gulfs, mountain ranges, spanning several nations. Some of the highest and smallest particulates now carry along the jet stream over North America and beyond. Proof of this having settled high in Canadian glacial ice packs in layers of ice containing tints of dust.
Summers in Seoul remain a relatively clear time, statistically speaking, of dust free skies. Dusty air persists during seasonal transitions of spring and autumn with shifting atmospheric winds. The frequency of dusty and poor air quality days are rising as they have been over the past 50 years. Increased industrial activity, changing weather patterns, and warming global temperatures (which tend to intensify wind patterns) all contribute to this menace from the sky.
And so the air has become our forsaken frontier; integrally part of dense cities and the lives of millions, yet an elusive repository apart.
Still, we must breath.
Still, we must breath.
The Art and Time of Land Arts 강원환경설치미술초대작가전
Not long ago I was invited to participate in the annual exhibition in Gangwon province at Baek-Rak Temple. Exhibitions at Buddhist temples in South Korea are now part of recurring annual cycles. A growing number over the past decade have begun flourishing as outreach connections to local communities and regions beyond. As we witness many recent changes through the past few years associated with such projects, we might begin to ask, which way will future exhibitions emerge? Will they develop as fields for critical and creative discourse or simply as pop-culture events? I have deliberated from the distinct advantage of having been both artist and active observer in this past years exhibition at Gangwon Environmental Exhibition at Baek-Rak temple. From this I have formulated some 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 invited artists representing a broader spectrum from 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 valley, and steep mountainous terrain has hemmed it in physically, with limited space for architectural or landscaping expansions. However, its modest size has promoted energies elsewhere such as the annual late summer exhibition and the well cultivated landscape, bearing evidence of ongoing care throughout the year. The landscape around and within Baek-Rak has become place of evolving outdoor exhibition. With previous years environmental works still on display, adding perhaps to more questions regarding ongoing preservation of past works or a mandated temporality of new works. Plans are taking shape to reorganize outdoor public spaces, parking and working production areas on 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 landscape, fixtures alongside the unrealized installations yet to come.
Bonggi Park, untitled, 2013
Thinking is Time (Thinking in Time)
As we consider what it means to work against time- in the 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 expand 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, often 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 previous works suggest perilous edges and points of contentious contemplation; we are prompted to consider freezing in motionless contemplation, moving forward or even returning to 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 a curious 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 intensive 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 from observation, the end result was no less revealing.
Jan Koechermann, Nowhere City Gangwan, 2013
Form Versus Content (or Context?)
Recent works at the Gangwon Environmental Exhibition reveal a split identity as installations were envisioned in one of two ways. First, as integral-in-context, propositioned as spatial and inhabitable arrangements in direct response to the environment. These installations, positioned in-situ as connections, and in some instances materialized directly from site. They are require participatory engagement by viewers, establishing spatial boundaries both physical and implied, via surfaces of tactility.
The second type of installations endure as objects in the landscape. They are conceptual representations and decisively viewed at a distance, much like that of gallery spectacles. These works remain metaphorical concepts to be read and interpreted against the viewers experiences and perceptions. Formal agendas, as conceptual metaphors, struggle against the very ideological content which it seeks to promote. Are there limits to the continuation of such installation approaches at Bae-Rak temple, as the landscape fills with gallery objects?
The exhibition encourages material experimentation. Earth and ground provide materials for labor; casting, shaping, lifting in curiously unnatural ways. This reflects common knowledge (in some ways) and congruency with long standing traditions in building places of inhabitation with the most basic available materials. Earth/ soil is recognizable because of its physical character however, in large compacted quantities and structured arrangements, ‘earth’ assumes a transformational identity.
‘Earth_work’ was envisioned as connection to both past and present. Certainly, an understanding of building with natural materials was essential. The process of putting 'earth' together, as I would learn, was an experiment of discovery. I studied traditional construction methods in S. 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 spatial denomination.
Eric Reeder, Earth_Work, 2013
Locally harvested materials in traditional Korean building have encouraged spatial arrangements in response to the environment. In particular, the arrangements of outdoor space is highly important. Earthen walls of stone and mud have for centuries defined boundaries of engagement and navigable borders between inside and outside, as well as delineations between public and private space. The combinations of ‘native’ material from site, and dimensional analysis established organizational content 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, known as rammed earth construction, is common throughout the world. Slight variations in the way formwork is devised and the types and colors of soils that are deployed create slight degrees of variation. The resulting walls though are relatively similar irrespective of geographic location.
We tested the wooden casting forms with soils from around our studio at Konkuk University in Seoul and constructed a mock-up wall to determine the appropriate proportional balance 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 makes connection to landscape by proximity of functional objects. Clay pots and the preparation space around them establish a point of pause. The space overlooks a Japanese plumb orchard, with seasonal activity and appropriated space of repose. The composed rammed earth walls establish a place for open, interpretive use, yet specific in what it is as a material form.
Time is already bearing its natural course of decomposed change. Earth_work stands without the benefit of lateral support or proper foundation. Its alteration and ultimate future unfolds as seasons mark transitions, the earth itself shifts and settles and potential use 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 it's time in place remains elusively unpredictable.
Eric Reeder, Earth_Work, 2013
The Other Architects
I can claim title of Architect and so too were many of the participating artists, as ‘architects’ in their own constructive methods. Artists as ‘builders’ have a way with materials, as the combination of interpretative and enhanced 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. We allow environment to filter into view, through and around the crevices of what has been made and that which has been left incomplete.
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 outdoors or indoor spaces of transformed warehouses and galleries. Whats more, the cast materials assume familiar identities through textures and shapes. At times, his casts become representational of other elements or objects in recognizable architectural and historical orders of reference.
Kleine’s working process at Gangwon unfolded as theater 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; pouring liquid plaster in oddly shaped forms and then working 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 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
Architecture today is more portable than ever. Density gives rise to commercial and residential 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 our architectures.
Few cities I have ever been in or lived in appear as temporary as Seoul. It is an organism of continual change constructed on temporal foundations. Seoul's motions of shift and alteration are unsettled as public ways and buildings are uncovered and recovered continuously. Spaces are stripped bare to foundational floors and remade in timely architectural outfits. The base foundations of reinforced post and concrete slab, absolved of any historical value, are suitable for quick transformation. Seoul permutates at a moments notice.
Its density and concentrated form is life-like as it moves along in constant transformation.
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)
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