Movable Memories

By Randall Rowe, PhD Student, Department of Slavic and Eastern European Languages and Cultures

 On Monday, March 19th the Global Mobility Project hosted two exciting events with South Korean artist Do-Ho Suh. There was a great turnout for his talk at the Knowlton School of Architecture, where he elaborated on his creative process. His work questions the concept of home and how a person transports home across time and space. Do-Ho has created fabric homes by measuring the dimensions of his former living spaces and then sewing together representations of these spaces. He has also engaged with his former homes in other ways. For example, he has used a technique called rubbing to create traced representations of these spaces. He wraps the subjects of his installments (his former homes) in white paper and carefully rubs the surfaces with a pencil to reveal the intricate designs and details of the living spaces. This very delicate and physical practice (measuring, sewing, rubbing, etc.) reinforces Do-Ho’s deep connection to the spaces. Consequently his memory of home becomes a portable manifestation of an abstract concept that may be carried with him in a suitcase everywhere he goes.

Do-Ho talked about how his fabric structures are developed from the memories of his former dwellings. They change meaning as they grow to include the various places he encounters in his work and life, he says. His presentation started with his original installation, Seoul Home, which debuted in Los Angeles at the L.A. Korean Culture Center (1991). His installation grew to incorporate his other former homes and began to move from exhibit space to exhibit space. Reflecting the transient nature of his work and the migration experience, Do-Ho’s Seoul Home became Seoul Home/L.A. Home/New York Home/Baltimore Home/London Home/Seattle Home… (1999).

Later in the day, we hosted a screening at the Wexner Center for the Arts of Fallen Star: Finding Home (2016), a film that was directed by our very own Prof. Vera Brunner-Sung and Valerie Stadler. This film documents the Fallen Star art installation (2012), which was a collaboration led by Do-Ho Suh at the Stuart Collection of the University California, San Diego. Fallen Star was an ambitious project that culminated in placing a small house, inspired by a cottage on the East coast of the U.S., on the 7th floor roof of a building in Southern California. Again, Do-Ho engages with the idea of home, but this time on a college campus where many arrive from other cities, states and countries. After the film, the audience was treated to a rare opportunity to ask questions of both the creator of the project and one of the directors of the films.

In our Q & A session, both Do-Ho and Prof. Brunner-Sung stressed the collaborative nature of their work. Fallen Star was made possible by the expertise of many people in a variety of fields. Do-Ho Suh envisioned the project, but conceded that he, alone was unable to execute such a large scale work. The Stuart Collection, together with local engineers and contractors constructed and raised the house, and the process was documented by Brunner-Sung and Stadler. The film not only shows the process of erecting the project, but also captures the process of change within those who helped carry out the project. A project of this scale was dismissed as too frivolous or nonsensical by skeptical observers, but the team stood by the mission. During a poignant moment in the film, the superintendent of the job, Don Franken, concludes that perhaps art can be difficult to understand because it is experienced by every person in a different way. This captures the transformative nature of Fallen Star and Do-Ho’s work in general. Those who view his art are invited to question otherwise stable and personal concepts such as home or belonging. Do-Ho’s work is particularly powerful, because it delicately reminds the viewer that one’s home is not always constant. In fact, it is often ever-changing, and every person uniquely relates to an idea of home.

Thank you to Do-Ho Suh for visiting us at The Ohio State University, and thank you to all who helped make both events happen. Thank you especially to our co-sponsors: Office of International AffairsAsian American Studies, Ohio State UniversityOSU Department of ArtKnowlton School of Architecture, and the Department of Civil, Environmental and Geodetic Engineering!

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