Moving house is a minor trauma. The whole production is totally unnatural—we're meant to be either nomads traveling light, or agricultural nesters collecting paraphernalia but never taking it anywhere. Moving to an entirely new continent? Nearly unthinkable. Today the privileged among us have the best of both words, all the creature comforts as well as the ability to cart them about to the cosmopolitan destination of our choice. But this process of laying roots and tearing them up again isn't seamless, nor is it painless. In Passage/s, his exhibit at London's Victoria Miro gallery, Do Ho Suh presents a medium-spanning exploration of what it means to be at home in a peripatetic world.
The Korean-born artist has had the sort of itinerant life afforded the art world elite, but even though he leaves dwellings behind, they remain with him. "These spaces are not separable from me even if I no longer live in these places," Suh tells Creators. "Spaces could haunt you forever."
It's appropriate, then, that Suh's Hubs, the exhibition's stand-out works, have all the fragile ephemerality of ghosts. The nine Hubs are life-sized fabric statues of his former dwellings in Seoul, Berlin, London, Providence and New York. They're lined up door-to-door, forming a walkable corridor that traverses three continents, all constructed of delicate skeins of brightly-colored polyester. Visitors are invited to walk through them, becoming the temporary inhabitants of these phantom dwellings.
The doorways and tiny foyers are perfect in their detail—an embroidered "Protected by ADT" sticker adorning one door suggests that this is an American home; in other rooms, signature fire exit signs and light switches betray that we've crossed a fabric threshold and are now in London. In flattening all his journeys into a few meters across a gallery floor, Suh flattens the globe. By making moving home and country seem easy, Suh highlights its countless physical and emotional complications.
As if the continent-bridging Hubs didn't make the world small enough already, they take on another life as two dimensional works. These "drawings" are stitched in gelatin tissue, just as their three-dimensional counterparts are. The drawings, however, are then dissolved into flat pictures after being submerged in water. They become abstractions from afar, with doors and staircases visible upon a second look.
The Pram Project, Suh's three-channel film, is the exhibition's most directly affecting work. Suh attached three cameras to his daughter's stroller, creating a panoramic view of walks through London and Seoul with his children. He and the girls chatter adorably, mostly off-camera, in Korean and English. The Pram Project creates a perfect foil to the Hubs. Taking place in parks and on city streets, it's as open as the Hubs are contained. With continuous babble and the occasional shot of Suh's little daughter darting about, the film is full of warmth all on its own, while the Hubs, without visitors, are empty and cold. "It is up to the viewers whether they want to see [the Hubs] as lived in-spaces or shells," says Suh. In this way they're like any dwelling on any continent—they are what we make of them.
Passage/s will be on view at Victoria Miro until March 18th. To learn more, click here.