The Korean Cultural Centre UK (KCCUK) is pleased to present the first solo exhibition in the UK of Young In Hong (b.1972), on view from November 21 through December 30, 2017. The exhibition focuses on a series of pieces made up of embroidered works, sound installation and performance. The embroidery, a signature working method of the artist, will be presented as a focal point of the exhibition from which a sound installation and performance will evolve.
Over the last decade, Hong’s large-scale embroidered works have been precisely that, large-scale. Large scale in terms of size and ambition but also in terms of their labour-intensity. The stitching presented within the embroidery is often based on photos that Hong has found, images that depict Korea’s recent history. When choosing photographs to work with, of particular interest to Hong is the collective experience within specific political and economic incidents. Hong attempts to capture the transitional nature of a collective experience and the energies that they generate and she does this through the medium of embroidery. Often conceived as a female affair, embroidery has long been received as a speciality area of female labour. By using this predominantly female craft to reweave history, Hong attempts to highlight what could not be captured, the fleeting moments of shared experience and the immaterial energies exchanged. Taking advantage of a medium that slows things down, for Hong, embroidery has proven to be a versatile artistic tool; each thread records the time that the artist has put into making the piece as well as the response to the artist’s desire to capture what the historical documents may have missed. For instance, Burning Love (2014), which evolved from a photo of a 2008 candle-lit demonstration in Korea, is a good example of Hong’s large-scale embroidery installation capturing the energy within a moment of Korea’s recent past.
Along with these existing pieces, Hong will bring together a new body of work that at first glance, looks less labour-intense than her previous embroidered works. Prayers No 1-40 (2017), the abstract images of 40 pieces of embroidery in black and white, are derived from archive photos of post-war cityscapes from the Korean peninsula, as well as the People’s Movement such as the Gwangju Uprising in 1980. Attracted to the power of images taken mainly by newspaper photographers at a time when freedom of speech was not guaranteed and censorship was commonplace, the artist pulls out certain forms from those photos and then pushes the outlines of the images to the point that only abstract lines remain. It is from these remaining lines that Hong attempts to create musical scores. Thus, for Hong, these archive photos become what she calls ‘photo-scores’. During the exhibition, the music created by the artist based on these ‘photo-scores’ can be heard playing from the speakers installed on the top of the partition walls.
Hong’s exploration about the relationship between image and sound via ‘photo-scores’ is repeated in Looking Down From the Sky (2017). This work is made up of 5 panels, each containing a different image that can be read as a ‘photo-score’. The source of these images are also from the archive photos of the People’s Movement that the artist found. These 5 panels will function as musical score for the live performance which will be premiered on the opening night of the exhibition. The particular shapes of these embroidered works represent a specific duration, pitch and sound effect from which the artist creates music. Then, the artist invites other musicians to participate by asking them to recreate their own music so that her music can be translated into something that goes beyond her.
This constant process of translation unfolds in the exhibition space and in so doing brings about a vortex from which a certain level of intensified energy emerges. For this reason, the artist has named her exhibition The Moon’s Trick, which is taken from one of Su Young Kim’s (1921-1968) early poems. In this poem, the main image is a spinning top which Kim once observed. The poet was amazed by the vortex created by the spinning top and he felt that it allowed him to exist in a different world. The poet calls this ‘the moon’s trick’.
Under this title, the artist expresses her longing to trigger moments of surprise in the same way that poet Kim was amazed by the spinning top that almost took him to a different level of perception. The artist attempts to achieve this through a constant process of translation to the moment when the original departure point is blurred and the conventional notion of authorship is no longer available. In this process of translation, what is emphasised most is the specific mode of ‘doings’ by the participants of the exhibition.
Young In Hong’s work embraces performance, textiles, installation and collaboration, each important elements of her practice. Hong has been shown at international venues including Block Universe (2017), Grand Palais, Paris (2016) ICA London (2015), Gwangju Biennale (2014) and Plateau Museum, Seoul (2014). Young In Hong completed her BA Sculpture at Seoul National University (1998) and has an MA and PhD in Fine Art from Goldsmiths College (2000, 2012). Hong presently lives and works in Bristol, and is a senior lecturer at the Bath School of Art and Design.