Made at the STPI Creative Workshop in Singapore, the new works in this exhibition are part of the artist’s ongoing Rubbing/Loving project, in which rubbings of interior spaces and everyday objects are created in a process that discloses and memorialises details of the artist’s surroundings.
Do Ho Suh has visited the STPI Creative Workshop several times a year over the past ten years. He is the first artist to be invited more than once to this internationally renowned resource for artists working with print and paper, and a long-term collaboration with the workshop has been instrumental in the development of his groundbreaking, large-scale thread drawings.
Focusing on objects, fixtures and fittings attached to the walls, the works in this exhibition attest to Suh’s close relationship with STPI and commemorate his time there. Light switches, door knobs, a telephone, a tap, a hairdryer hanging from a hook… created by lining objects with paper and rubbing the surface with coloured pastels, the works on display lend a quiet poetry to the quotidian while laying bare the processes, rational yet sensual, that enable the artist to determine and connect with his surroundings. Reconstructed in three dimensions, the completed works exist at the boundary of drawing and sculpture.
Touch and its repetition is a key aspect of Suh’s Rubbing/Loving works. Suh has often drawn parallels between architectural space and the body, and in these works the paper functions as an epidermis – a second or surrogate skin – that bears the impression of his own touch: pastel, applied with the fingertips in a gesture the artist describes as a ‘caress’.
For Suh, these rubbing works function as symbols of memory, and in them he documents the accumulation of time and preserves his experience of living and working within spaces of special significance. They encapsulate wider ideas in his art about home and belonging, malleable space and memory, and the boundaries of identity within a shared realm, referring to Suh’s fruitful time at STPI as well as that of the many international artists who have worked there. Contained within the works, too, are further ideas of connection, transition, movement and flow, not confined to but especially evocative in the pipework and other conduits he brings to light, ideas that acquire special resonance in the historic city of Venice.
Also in Venice: a new film by Do Ho Suh, commissioned by the V&A.
La Biennale di Venezia and the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, present Robin Hood Gardens: A Ruin in Reverse, curated by Christopher Turner and Olivia Horsfall Turner, a special project at the Applied Arts Pavilion at the Biennale Architettura 2018, 26 May–25 November 2018.
Robin Hood Gardens: A Ruin in Reverse, centres around concrete fragments of Robin Hood Gardens that will be transported to Venice from Poplar, East London. These concrete fragments come from the internationally recognised housing estate by Alison and Peter Smithson, which is in the process of being demolished. In 2017, when destruction was imminent, the V&A salvaged a three-storey section of each façade and the original interior fittings of two flats.
Made in response to the architecture and interiors of Robin Hood Gardens before its demolition, Suh’s panoramic film, Robin Hood Gardens, Woolmore Street, London E14 0HG, 2018, is both site-specific and time-specific – a document of the Smithson’s modular interiors as they have been adapted, decorated and furnished by residents, as well as a wider meditation about home, memory and displacement within a physical structure that is about to disappear. Given access to four flats, three of which were still occupied, Suh has used time-lapse photography, drone footage, 3D-scanning and photogrammetry to create a visual journey in which the camera pans vertically and horizontally through the building, moving seamlessly from one space to another. The film’s steady, contemplative pace and constant, frontal viewpoint function as a framework within which the myriad details that denote differences of taste, style, culture or circumstance from flat to flat are revealed. Its sustained motion accentuates the feeling of transition experienced by the residents and heightens a sense of imminence, of a building on the verge of demolition, less than fifty years after the architects’ utopian vision was realised.
Additionally, work by Do Ho Suh will feature in Architectural Ethnography from Tokyo: Guidebooks and Projects on Livelihood, curated by Momoyo Kaijima, the Japan Pavilion Exhibition at the 16th International Architecture Exhibition, La Biennale di Venezia.