Haegue Yang is a new kind of insider

Yang’s installation at the Walker explores the life inside of lifeless objects.

Spectators inside Haegue Yang’s “Yearning Melancholy Red” immediately become both a critic of the elaborate maze of blinds and a hidden limb of the work.
PHOTO COURTESY WALKER ART CENTER

Spectators inside Haegue Yang’s “Yearning Melancholy Red” immediately become both a critic of the elaborate maze of blinds and a hidden limb of the work. PHOTO COURTESY WALKER ART CENTER

John Sand

âÄúIntegrity of the InsiderâÄù WHERE: Walker Art Center, 1750 Hennepin Ave. WHEN: Sept. 24 âÄì Feb. 28 PRICE: $6 for students, free Thursday nights Inanimate household objects are assigned meaning by their functionality, but they can also take on a more conceptual depth. Blinds may signify the division of indoors and outdoors, while newspaper advertisements become examples of idealist expansionism. This arbitrary assignment of function and subjectivity is what Korean conceptualist Haegue Yang aims to tackle in her new exhibit, âÄúThe Integrity of the Insider.âÄù The exhibition begins with a bright esthetic, as white fluorescent lights fill an enormous window in the first room and then transition to deep infrared light, like the closing of enormous shades. Yang said the show revolves around the directionlessness of work and âÄúthe intense struggles between public and private, politics and art, or work and love.âÄù The exploration of such sweeping themes at first seems impossible to tackle, but Yang begins simply. In the first room of the gallery, the set of sculptures âÄúDIN A4/DIN A3/DIN A2 Whatever Being,âÄù whose title references the multiple sizes of international letter paper, protrudes from the wall. The paper sizes may signify the abstract depth of written correspondence and the way size can signify weight of meaning and function of communication. Since their color is only slightly different from the gallery wall, the most striking facets of the work are the subtle shadows each emerging figure casts. Doryun Chong, recently appointed associate curator for the department of painting and sculpture at the Museum of Modern Art in New York and curator for the show, said Yang has âÄú[taken] these standardized shapes and forms [and] imbued these things with emotionality.âÄù It appears the originally flat rectangles have grown from the wall as though they were giant geometric fungi. The next room of the gallery is only lit by a single light, but nearly all of the works contain their own luminescence. âÄúLa Pluie (Projet pour un texte),âÄù a two-minute film by Belgian conceptualist Marcel Broodthaers , plays on repeat. âÄúLa PluieâÄù shows the artist underneath a pouring shower, writing a letter in ink so that the words are immediately lost into the sewers. Yang answers Broodthaers in âÄúQuasi-MB âÄî In the Middle of its StoryâÄù with aged letters of her own. They hang in a series, with photographs of the places they were written and their typed text. Yang makes slanted references to Broodthaers and writer Marguerite Duras in the exposition but strays from making them explicit. In effect, the work becomes not a reference to another work or even her own art but perhaps an effort to erase these other artists and herself from the pieces altogether. âÄúI want to make them faceless and nameless at the exhibition stage,âÄù Yang says. âÄúI overlooked my own self-reference âĦThere is a kind of coming and going of these figures, a kind of tension between to learn and unlearn,âÄù Yang goes on to say. It is an effort to delete the process of art from the final creation. This theme of pointless reference continues in the sculpture âÄúHippie Dippie Oxnard, âÄú wherein Yang takes found objects from Oxnard, Calif., and arranges them in a sort of emotional sampling of industrial objects. Lightbulbs, extension cords and seashells hang limply on a large metal rack. Atop the structure is a mess of aimless knitting. Chong says it paints the picture of âÄúknitting as ineffective, useless labor âÄî something you do to keep your hands busy.âÄù Chong believes that âÄúHippie Dippie OxnardâÄù is a commentary of the way âÄúworkâÄù is thrown around in the art world. As an examination of artistsâÄô âÄúwork,âÄù Yang incorporates a sort of undirected inertia, the desire to create without a definite plan. The final sculpture of the show, âÄúYearning Melancholy Red,âÄù is an entire gallery room of diagonal hanging blinds. The installation divides the room into dead-end canals lit by infrared lights that shift languidly to spotlight nothing at all. When others are walking through the gallery, the work becomes a sort of voyeuristic game. When members of the audience are partially hidden behind open blinds, they incorporate themselves into the work, becoming both the spectator and a portion of the private life hidden from the world. In a small room adjacent to the blinds, a set of drums sits lifelessly. Gallery goers are implicitly invited to take part in the work, and when the bass drum and high-hat start banging away, the lights are programmed to respond to the tempo âÄî an awakening of response to the thick compressions of air from the snare drum. Yang plays with the idea of participation throughout her show, incorporating the debris of human life into her work as a form of humanity. In doing so, objects like globes, origami and foldable drying racks take on a subjectivity of their own, exposing themselves in gymnastic slideshows. âÄúIntegrity of the InsiderâÄù is an exposé on the arc of life, exposing the emotion behind all objects, whether they can actually accomplish anything of their own accord or not.