Koo Jeong A: Riptide at the Korean Cultural Centre UK

Installation View, Koo Jeong A, Riptide. Courtesy the artists and Korean Cultural Centre UK - by Matthias Sohr. Installation shot. Courtesy the artist and Korean Cultural Centre UK

Koo Jeong A is the Korean Cultural Centre UK (KCCUK)’s ‘artist of the year’ 2016. For her first exhibition with the KCCUK, she asked a number of international artists to respond to 20 of her line drawings. These responses vary enormously, from carpets sprouting grass, to site-specific multi-media installations. Each work is exhibited alongside the original drawings. Taking one particular drawing ‘Civilising Process’ (2005) as its theoretical point of departure, the exhibition is permeated with a strong sense of narrative. Asian Art Newspaper put some questions to Koo Jeong A so as to find out more about the exhibition’s thematic and philosophical concerns.

ASIAN ART NEWSPAPER: How did you choose the artists who would collaborate with you? Were all the pieces new commissions?
KOO JEONG A: Initially Jeyun Moon, the curator of KCC London, and I exchanged ideas around an exhibition made up of numerous artistic conversations. It started with the idea of sending out a drawing titled “Civilising Process”, now titled 884, from my book “R” published in 2005 by SwissRe. This drawing, alongside twenty others, will be republished this year by HENI PUBLISHING. Our idea was to create an exhibition which draws upon distinctive collaborations between artists who do not know each other. Brought together, the artists will be able to talk about the different meanings of their artistic worlds. Most of the works have been newly commissioned for this exhibition. Jeyun and I discussed the multicultural aspects of South Korea, which is mirrored in the exhibition through the global nature of the exhibiting artists. We also wanted to emphasise the institutional initiatives that KCC would like to deliver as a contemporary art centre in the heart of London.

AAN: Do you see all art as a “civilising process”
KJA: “Civilising process“ is like my personal manifesto: a wish that we can, one day, live without contradictions and that art can be testament of our individual human strength to produce constant civilised states. Individuals are actually very powerful, we need to acknowledge them in a positive light and do more to appreciate each other.

AAN: How far do you see ‘line’ as inextricable from ‘writing’ and ‘narrative’? Do all your line artworks tell a story?
KJA: Lines are stretched, compressed, repeated like super composed sounds of music. A noise becomes a piece of music when there are certain interventions made by the artist – these make up a piece of music, which in turn, tells a story. As the ancient Greek mathematician Euclid explained, the line is the fundamental starting point of any shape or narrative: “The straight line from any point to any other point, extended a line segment continuously in both directions…” Likewise the Brazilian pioneer of visual poetry, Wlademir Dias Pino, said about the superposition of levels in a folded space; the line is merely the way of speaking. In our minds, a line can transform freely and naturally from a number to a piece of music.

AAN: Where does the name ‘Riptide’ come from?
KJA: When KCC asked me to make an exhibition in 2-6 months, I was inspired by the situation of a riptide; the triangle wave that killed people on a south-east coast beach in Korea. ‘Riptide’ led me to the idea of the Korean garden and concepts surrounding MA DANG in Hangul. In a historic sense, the Korean garden welcomes people into a central space, where trees are planted along the borders – never in the centre of the garden – leaving this space empty. This allows for public events or concerts, and is an area where most of the established public celebrations take place. When pushed further, I considered the open spaces and the process of creation in MA DUNG to be reminiscent of femininity, motherhood and the female anatomy. Proceeding this, I found it very interesting that in google images, diagrams of the riptide are comparable to the female reproductive system. As a child on the Hewoondai beach in Busan, I enjoyed the riptide’s dangerous moments. I used to jump into and hang out at the bottom of the ocean until all the waves were gone… When Richard Sennett and Saskia Sassen organised a dinner in their home during the summer of 2016, I talked about how to make a metaphor for an instance when I feel positioned away and distant from two different meanings, a triangle almost. Richard Sennett gave me the right word for the triangle wave: riptide.

Until 19 November 2016, at the Korean Cultural Centre, Grand Buildings, 1–3 Strand, London WC2N 5BW (Entrance on Northumberland Avenue) www.kccuk.org.uk