< Do-Ho Suh >

I am very excited to have the opportunity to meet Do-Ho Suh tomorrow and see his new installation on the FDA campus.
Oh yeah!

do-ho suh
portrait © designboom

‘cause and effect’, 2007
installation at the gallery lehmann maupin, new york
image courtesy gallery lehmann maupin

uni-form/s: self portait/s: my 39 years’, 2006
installation at art basel
image courtesy gallery lehmann maupin, new york

‘reflection’, 2005
large scale installation at the hermes gallery in tokyo.
it consists of two gates made from nylon fabric which are separated by a translucent fabric
‘floor’, appearing to be a reflection. see more images
image courtesy gallery hermes, tokyo

the ‘gate’ is based on the former entrance to his family’s home in seoul, see it here.
it was intended to encourage contemplation on how we remember images and space.
image courtesy gallery hermes, tokyo

‘screen’, 2004
installation at the museum for world culture in gothenburg, sweden
image courtesy gallery lehmann maupin, new york

‘screen’ (detail)
image courtesy gallery lehmann maupin, new york

‘paratrooper I’, 2004
installation at the gallery lehmann maupin, new york
image courtesy gallery lehmann maupin

‘paratrooper I’ (detail)
image courtesy gallery lehmann maupin

the perfect home II (detail), 2003
installation at the gallery lehmann maupin, new york
image courtesy gallery lehmann maupin

‘karma’, 2003
installation at the artsonje center, seoul
image courtesy artsonje center

‘who am we?’ (detail) 1996/2001
photograph © designboom
wallpaper shown in the italian pavilion of venice biennial, 2001

‘who am we?’ (detail)
photograph © designboom
the portraits are of about 40 000 teenagers and were taken from photographs in the
artist’s high-school yearbooks. at a distance, the faces cannot be distinguished.
on closer viewing dots become recognisable as photographs.

‘floor’ installation, venice art biennial, 2001
photograph © designboom
in the italian pavilion, viewers were encouraged to walk on a thick glass floor with
thousands of tiny plastic human figures.
they represent the multiple, the diverse, the anonymous mass… supporting and
resisting the floor.

‘floor’ (detail)
photograph © designboom
a small section of this large ‘floor’ installation has since been cut by the artist and donated
to his father who uses it as a coffee table. see images here

‘some/one’, venice art biennial, 2001
in the korean pavilion the floor is blanketed with a thousands of military nickel dog tags.
evocative of the way an individual soldier is part of a larger troop or military body,
these tags swell to form a hollow, ghost-like suit of a traditional korean dress.
photograph © designboom

‘some/one’ (detail)
photograph © designboom
do-ho suh showed us the first prototype of this sculpture - see the artist in his seoul studio

do-ho suh
was born in seoul, korea in 1962. after studying oriental
painting at the seoul national university, and fulfilling his
term of mandatory service in the south korean military,
do ho suh moved to the united states. there he received
a BFA in painting from rhode island school of design and
an MFA in sculpture from yale university.
do ho suh’s sculptures are architectural environments,
beautifully and meticulously crafted. whether addressing
the dynamic of personal space versus public space,
or exploring the fine line between strength in numbers and
homogeneity, he constructs site-specific installations that
question the boundaries of identity.
do ho suh represented korea at the 49th venice biennale
in 2001. he has participated in group exhibitions at the
baltimore museum of art, the museum of modern art,
the guggenheim museum in new york, and the museum of
contemporary art in los angeles, among others.
major exhibitions of suh’s work were held at the whitney
museum of american art in new york in 2001, the seattle
art museum and the seattle asian art museum in 2002,
the serpentine gallery in london in 2002, the kemper
museum of contemporary art in kansas city in 2002 -03,
the artsonje center in seoul in 2003, the sackler gallery
in washington in 2004 and the hermes gallery in tokyo
in 2005.
do ho suh lives and works in new york city.more info on the artist
the gallery represents do-ho suh and has shown
his work in 2000, 2003, 2004 and 2007.

we met do-ho suh at his family home in seoul,
on december 18th, 2007.
what is the best moment of the day?
it’s different from day to day. maybe it is right
before I go to bed. I enjoy that quiet moment alone.
what kind of music do you listen to at the moment?everything really. in the studio my assistants listen to the
radio for background noise. mainly korean pop music.
but, when I am alone I listen to a lot of classic
rock from the 60's and 70's.

do you listen to the radio?yes, just in the studio.
it’s not what I want to hear, but what my assistants want
to hear.
what books do you have on your bedside table?I have a lot of books that I read over and over again.
one of the subjects I read about is fish - I was going
to be a marine biologist before I decided to be an artist.
when I was younger, it was the passion of my life.
I still have books on fish on my bedside table.
recently I bought a book called 'the deep'. it's about fish
in the deep sea. I haven't finished it yet. right now I have
three books on fish on my bedside table in new york.
they are quite relaxing, and help me fall asleep too.
do you read art - and design /architecture
yeah, sure. there are a couple of art magazines I regularly
read like 'art forum', 'cabinet' and 'parkett' for example,
and I do read architecture magazines.
'detail', 'architectural record' and 'dwell'. what else?
sometimes 'domus', 'blueprint', 'metropolis' ...
I like 'dwell' because they deal with and feature pre-fab
buildings and low-budget housing. I think their angle is a
little bit different than others. it's not totally architecture.
it's more about accessible housing.
where do you get your news from?these days I pretty much get it from the internet,
I hardly watch TV.
there’s 'channel 10, new york one', it's a local new york
city news channel, and I actually watch that when I'm in NYC.
I assume you notice how women dress.
do you have any preferences?
umm, that's a tough question,
I laughed when I read this one in your other interviews.
I think we should skip it and come back to it later...
(in a second moment)
I think I prefer the traditional, the refined.
I'm not interested in the big fashion houses.
even though I have exhibited at 'hermes', and they do have
very nice things, I don't really feel that I am a part
of that. so my preference would be something very
elegant but not brand name.
in general, I prefer a minimal look.
what kind of clothes do you avoid wearing?that’s another tough question...
I don't think I wear nor have any leather items.
I don't really have an occasion to wear ties, I'm an artist.
I go to funerals sometimes here in korea, so I have a
black suit and tie. Apart from that there are very
few occasions where I dress up.

when you were a child, did you want to become
an artist?
no, like I said, up until the 11th grade, I wanted to study fish,
so becoming an artist was a last minute change, right before
I went to college in korea. although my father (se-ok suh)
is an artist and has an influence on me, I wouldn't say he
necessarily introduced me to the art world itself, but more
his aesthetics. his taste definitely somehow influenced my
aesthetics. he never directly explained his artwork to me,
but to his students. they always gathered around my father,
as if they were in a huddle, admiring an antique piece,
drinking and having discussions. he had a group of followers
and I always joined them and just listened in on their
conversations. it was a very artistic environment, so I
was definitely exposed to that. they would talk about painting,
sculpture, architecture, and gardening. my father is very
keen on plants and gardening.

how much did the korean society influenced you?a unique part of my father and my growing up was actually
his practice, although he was a professional painter,
he was pretty much the last sort of scholarly painter in korea.
he is a renaissance man. it is a tradition from the past -
in the far east - and a scholar must master poetry, literature,
calligraphy, painting and things like that as part of their virtue.
you have to study everything. he lives that tradition.
my grandfather was also a scholar. even though my father
had a modern education he still writes his poems in classical
chinese. those were the main influences...
my mother also loves art. she's a housewife, but is also
very involved in preserving korean heritage and culture.
she has a tremendous amount of knowledge about
traditional art, costumes and architecture.
so I’m not just influenced by my father.

where do you work on your designs and projects?I have two studios, one in new york and one near seoul.
that is where I make my work, where I give form to my
work. the conceptualization part happens in-between
places, when in transit, like in an airport,
on the airplane or on the train - those in-between places.
I think I have more inspiration when I don't actually make
something. in the beginning, I didn't like traveling too much.
but now it's part of my job. I have to travel a lot and I sort
of developed a habit to use that time for more creative
things. for example, instead of reading, I actually do a lot of
sketching during a flight. I carry a very small sketchbook.
that has been the same format since my college days.
I travel light too, so I always carry those little things and
make sketches.

in your work I can see a lot of social criticism,
did you have periods in your life characterized
by rebellion?
maybe, my work has social criticism, once in a while...
but it doesn't come from any sort of rebellion.
I'm a slow starter. I can't be reactionary as fast as others.
It takes some time for me to digest things and show my
thoughts and opinions in my work.
by the time I do that, it is not criticism any more...

new york influenced you a lot?my work started from that slippage or discrepancy,
the crack.  the difference between my mother tongue
and foreign tongue. I think new york city allows me to
relate to myself in a different way.
whenever I come back, I come to korea quite often,
it is always different. it’s not the same place anymore,
once you leave your home. it's quite an unsettling
experience, because you feel like you don't belong
anywhere. I guess we don't really need to belong to a
place in today's society. that is what I like about new york.
it's not perfect, but you can have pretty much anything
there. it's a tough city, but I think it’s the perfect city
for strangers, because pretty much nobody is
from there.
do you discuss your work with other artists?not in the sense of the turn of the century european
tradition, proust's gatherings and all of the paris salons.
I do have a few people, a few artists in new york, or in
seoul, that i discuss my work with.
could you compare the current art scene in
new york and korea - any preferences?
there are a lot of good contemporary artists in korea.
but new york, in terms of art world, is a much bigger place.
I personally have a lesser personal attachment to things
in new york, and the friends that I made in new york,
I made them relatively later in my life.
in korea, I have childhood friends and memories.
there are more complicated relationships in korea.
some times it's suffocating because of this tight web of
relationships here.  for art making, I prefer new york
because I feel freer and more independent.
describe your style, like a good friend of yours
would describe it.
this is another tough one...
if my friends would say anything about my work, it’s that
'he is good with space, he deals with space very well.'
(and I would agree with this too).
what project has given you the most satisfaction?
those you've worked on for a long time?
I think it’s almost the opposite. it doesn't really come
from the amount of time that I spend on a particular project.
the most satisfactory ones came really fast, in the
conceptualization stage. there is one piece, it's called
'who am we?' it's a wallpaper piece. I really like this
kind of work because it looks very simple and subtle.
a lot of people would miss it so easily. it's still one of my
favorites. I'm surprised every time I look at it.
how was I able to come up with that idea?
who would you like to create something for?
t is always for me at the beginning.
but then my art becomes for others.
oddly enough, people from different cultures...
for someone who is not familiar with my ideas.
so hopefully my work can blur boundaries.
is there any artists from the past, you appreciate a lot?felix gonzalez torres, he is one of my favorite artists.
there is also one chinese painter from 19th century,
ch'ing (quing) dynasty. his name is ba-tai-sar-ren.
and those still working / contemporary?there are so many! ann hamilton, robert gober,
matthew barney, kara walker, bruce nauman...
you name it.
what advice would you give to the young?keep your sanity! ha ha ha...
I think it is a key for the survival of young artists.
because being an artist is very difficult like all other things.
having fun while making art is important.
what are you afraid of regarding the future?global warming and its consequences.
but I am not that pessimistic.
It could be a beginning of new cycle on earth...


Carolyn said…
This work is just amazing, I love outside the box work like this. Especially the "uniforms", and the little men installations. I'll bet they bring a smile to the face as well as making one ponder...