National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea

National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art | 30 Samcheong-ro, Sogyeok-dong, Jongno-gu
03062 Seoul

plan route show map

artist / participant

press release

Haegue Yang
O2 & H2O
MMCA Hyundai Motor Series 2020
September 29, 2020–February 28, 2021

Haegue Yang (b. 1971, Seoul and Berlin) is critically acclaimed for her expansive oeuvre and has been active internationally since the mid-1990s. Employing multifarious materials of ordinary, industrial, and quasi-folk, her works forsake hierarchy, freely traversing subjects such as the relationship between the narrative and the abstract, domesticity, migration, and borders. Extensive cultural references encompassing historical figures, events, and natural and societal phenomena are embedded in her mesmerizing yet rigorous visual language.

Bearing “the abstraction of reality,” O2 & H2O is an attempt at another artistic leap. For this exhibition, air and water, elements essential to life, are perceived through the lens of O2 and H2O, chemical symbols of human invention. The title O2 & H2O reflects the artist’s persistent interest in tracing sensorial experiences with the abstract language of art. It also resonates with Air and Water, a work produced by the artist in 2002 for an exhibition of the same title. O2 & H2O poses questions to contemplate in totality the world of scientific facts, the perceptual world including experiences and senses that venture beyond such facts, and the phenomenal world that is gradually pushed to the brink with the climate crisis and disasters.

O2 & H2O is an exhibition as hybrid as our reality. Yang takes the knowledge, conventions, and phenomena formed in various socio-cultural spheres and articulates them in “fantastic” visual language to transcendental space and time, resulting in creating groups of sculptures, such as Sonic Domesticus and The Intermediates, which use bells and artificial weaving materials. Her sculpture-beings inhabiting somewhere between living organisms and machines, or inanimate objects and humans evoke the grotesque and familiarity of folklore. Mok Woo Workshop - 108 Wooden Spoons presents objets d’art and texts of the carpenter and writer Woohee Kim, an acquaintance of the artist and her family, contemplating on the meaning of everyday life, locality, community, and performativity in craftsmanship.

The environment constructed for the exhibition awakens our senses and induces our motion in the space. Common interior components, e.g., corridors, walls, doorknobs, and venetian blinds are arranged or stacked in particular ways to draw a constellation. The ten-meter-high blind sculpture Silo of Silence – Clicked Core reveals the artist's recent tendency in utilizing the “oblique” materiality of the blinds. Two works of Sol LeWitt Upside Down, are displayed, in which the cube-shaped original works of Sol LeWitt (1928-2007) are “scaled down three times” and “enlarged twenty-one times” to form two large cubes made of blinds. In Five Doing Un-Doing, the digital collage on banners, and the wallpaper piece, DMZ Un-Do, all the overwhelming phenomena that we encounter in reality-substance and symbols, energy and technology, climate and social polarization, disasters, and national borders–are silently collapsed onto each other. An artificial intelligence voice generated by cloning Yang’s voice in collaboration with Neosapience, Genuine Cloning inquires into values such as identity, authenticity, and uniqueness.

O2 & H2O marks a significant and substantial solo exhibition of the prolific and celebrated artist Haegue Yang at the MMCA. As an outcome of collaboration over three years, the exhibition will provide an opportunity to explore the oeuvre of Yang in depth.