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PART-TIME SUITEWait for Me in a Crashing Airship, 2016, still image from 360-degree VR video, color, sound: 16 min 45 sec. Courtesy the artists.

Young & Emerging: New Narratives

Also available in:  Chinese

PART-TIME SUITE

In 2009, three graduate students rented a musty, water-damaged basement in Seoul and invited guests to the space. As visitors descended the steps in galoshes provided by the trio, they first saw that the room was entirely flooded. Appearing like a black, inky sheet of silk, the water perpetuated an overwhelming sense of abandonment emanating from the hidden space, which was marked with brown stains due to leakages from the restaurant upstairs. 

Ominous and foreboding, this first project by Part-time Suite (which began as a three-person collective, and now consists of Miyeon Lee and Jaeyoung Park) was an ode to the disused spaces in Seoul’s cityscape as well as a resistance against conventional interactions with galleries and institutions, which can often involve long periods of stasis and social exclusion. The members, after graduating from art school in 2009, decided to take matters into their own hands with this self-organized show, kicking off a practice that aims to galvanize alternative narratives about contemporary culture. In the video work People, the Next People (2017), for example, they attempt to reconcile with the falsities of the image-reality relationship, warped by the digitization of culture, through revisiting the Minjung art movement of the 1980s. Utilizing a series of archival images from demonstrations and pro-Korean-reunification events and smartphone-shot home videos, the work revisits the image itself as a political tool.

Their most technically ambitious work to date, Wait for Me in a Crashing Airship (2016), commissioned by SeMA Biennale Mediacity Seoul, is a 360-degree virtual-reality video featuring performances by the artists in locations including a futuristic-looking bunker beneath Yeouido Island in Seoul’s Han River. The work proposes that human survival persists in these disused spaces, and always will. YC

ÖZGÜR KAR, Love Letters, 2017, still image from HD video, sound: 10 min. Courtesy the artist.

ÖZGÜR KAR

In the indisciplined regions of art today, the word (both spoken and written) is teeming with a new potency. In Özgür Kar’s largely static animated video Love Letters (2017), a bald-headed, gay-boy version of Shahmaran—traditionally a female deity of the underworld from Turkic mythology with a snake’s body—is drawn in white lines on a black background. He recites in a formal, vaguely British-inflected voice: “Do you like to get down and dirty around decay? Do you want to fiddle among some fungi?” This rhetoric portrays a comically deadpan, fantasy-filled talking head, expressing an unfamiliar (queer, even) subjectivity that is human and also not, earthly and earthy. 

With Love Letters as the prologue, at Taylor Macklin project space in Zürich, two other videos formed what the artist describes as akin to a fairy tale. The main act is First Fine Days (2017), based on a poem by Paris-based writer Pascalle Monnier titled Summer, and features Shahmaran intertwined around a supine naked man speaking with postcoital contentment amid the sound of chirping crickets. In the epilogue Interminable (Monologue 2) (2017), a nude reclining man with a baboon’s face—based on another libidinous underworld deity, Babi—describes waking up in the middle of the night to find a creature in the room with him, leading him to contemplate “the hideous idea of vice” and its strange kinship to love. Despite the format shift to animation, sex and death remain eternal themes, here layered with an inchoate melancholy and an air of detachment. 

For his participation in upcoming group shows in Europe, Kar will extend this current series of monologue-driven animated works. Collectively, these new works appear to mark a new direction from prior projects in which he excerpted existing internet videos, such as Declassified in Part (2016), which shows an old map of Asia depicted as a winged horse that when folded back reveals citizen-shot footage of violent scenes. Yet throughout, Kar summons the historical repetitions of violence and tragedy that lie behind the mythological. HGM

MOREHSHIN ALLAHYARIShe Who Sees the Unknown – Ya’jooj Ma’jooj, 2017, still image from HD single-channel video, color, sound: 10 min 30 sec. Courtesy the artist and Upfor Gallery, Portland.

MOREHSHIN ALLAHYARI

“She is the ‘monstrous other’; the dark goddess; the possessive jinn; the dividing persona; the alternative figure.” In a hypnotic voiceover incantation accompanying flashes of a demonic, three-headed form engulfed in darkness, Morehshin Allahyari conjures up the djinn Huma, known as the bringer of fever in Middle Eastern folklore. This film is part of “She Who Sees the Unknown” (2017– ), Iranian new-media artist Allahyari’s ongoing body of work encompassing sculpture, video and performance, which reimagines “dark female figures” from ancient mythology in an allegorical examination of contemporary crises. 

In Allahyari’s retelling, Huma, “of smokeless and scorching fire,” becomes a vehicle for a discussion of global warming and its uneven impacts, split along fault lines of geography, ethnicity and wealth. Mischief-makers Ya’jooj and Ma’jooj, who in the Quranic tale are prevented from bringing about the apocalypse by an iron wall, are reinterpreted to interrogate the xenophobic binary of the vulnerable Self and threatening Other—a personal issue for the New York-based artist, who was temporarily stranded in Berlin last year after United States president Donald J. Trump issued the first travel ban against seven Muslim-majority countries (Allahyari was traveling on an Iranian passport). 

Summoning her fictional beings into the real world, the artist undertakes a painstaking process of 3D-modeling and -printing, before scanning the finished sculptures so that their digital copies may be distributed and re-created by anyone with access to a 3D printer. Allahyari came to prominence with this practice in “Material Speculation: ISIS” (2015–16), which remakes artifacts destroyed by the terrorist group. While the preceding project seeks to preserve history, “She Who Sees the Unknown” casts an unflinching gaze at the future, destabilizing definitions of monstrosity and catastrophe to challenge hegemonic narratives and open up new worlds of possibilities. OL

SODA_JERKTerror Nullius, 2018, still image from HD video, color, sound: 54 min. Courtesy the artists.

SODA_ JERK

When sister-duo Soda_Jerk’s Terror Nullius (2018) debuted at Melbourne’s Australian Centre for the Moving Image in March, the film’s key funder, the Ian Potter Cultural Trust, withdrew its promotional support, calling the work “un-Australian.” The Trust was correct in the sense that the point of the 55-minute video was to unravel the nation’s mythologies and troubled history. Billed as a “political revenge fable in three acts,” Terror Nullius mashes up clips from iconic Australian films and television history, as well as Hollywood movies starring prominent Australian actors—irreverently putting words into the mouths of these unlikely protagonists as a means for queering, feminizing and attacking the conservative rhetoric of the patriarchy, Australia’s refugee policy and its treatment of Indigenous peoples. Sound bites from Mel Gibson’s verbal abuse of his ex-partner Oksana Grigorieva, in which he tells her she deserves to be “raped by a pack of niggers,” are played as Gibson, in the role of Max Rockatansky from the 1979 postapocalyptic action film Mad Max, gets trampled by a female biker gang that includes actors Nicole Kidman and Olivia Newton-John. Heath Ledger, as a gay ranch hand in Brokeback Mountain (2005), is inserted by way of intercut frames into the heteronormative cowboy drama The Man from Snowy River (1982), where the main character “sets out to become his own man.” Refugees arriving on a beach are beat up, only for the perpetrator, Russell Crowe as Hando in Romper Stomper (1992), to be killed by an eagle, in a scene culled from another movie. By remixing and appropriating existing materials—techniques that draw from DJ and internet-meme culture—Soda_Jerk prompts considerations of who gets to say what, and how. CC

PANNAPHAN YODMANEEAftermath, 2016, site-specific installation of found objects, artist-made icons, concrete and paint, 300 × 1,600 cm. Courtesy Singapore Art Museum.

PANNAPHAN YODMANEE

So much of history is susceptible to reinvention. Over time, architecture from ancient civilizations has been overtaken by nature, while age-old myths and allegories are conveniently reworked to affirm current-day political, social or spiritual situations. These cyclic rituals drive the practice of Bangkok-based artist Pannaphan Yodmanee, who combines elements of contemporary and traditional Thai art to examine the wonders of cosmology and the relevance of religious philosophy in our rapidly developing world. 

In Aftermath (2016)—a site-specific installation that won the 2016 Benesse Prize at the 5th Singapore Biennale, the artist superimposed intricate paintings, reminiscent of Thai-style temple murals, onto flaked plaster walls and surfaces of concrete slabs. Amid a dystopic landscape of fractured cement, iron and stone, Buddhist scenes of heaven and hell mingle with similarly illustrated events from Southeast Asia’s turbulent political history. Collapsing earthbound and spiritual narratives onto a single plane, Yodmanee presents a third realm where stories of faith, loss, devastation and death are neither wholly real nor untrue.

In a similar depiction of a fictional wasteland, the installation Prophesy probes the impact of modernization and its negative effects on traditional values. Sacred fragments from Buddhist temples, such as miniature stupas and idols of the Buddha, lay in various stages of ruin, juxtaposed with shale aggregates and slabs of cement— cheap, common materials that brought rapid changes to Southeast Asia’s landscape. In these remixes, Yodmanee reveals that nothing, whether human-made, raw or sacred, is safe from fickle revisionism—and eventual destruction. WJC

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