In his first exhibition with Miro, contemporary South Korean artist Do Ho Suh presents a topical exploration of migration and the meaning of home.
Words Patrick Hamilton Courtney
Today’s burning political and social questions, no matter where in the world you are, focus around migration. Our news overflows with the harrowing plight of refugees, the rearing of the head of nationalism, and constant discussion on globalisation and the state of borders. These issues can’t help but ignite thought about where and what home is, a topic charged with emotion.
Many of us know what it is like to have had more than one home. To have gone somewhere new, and started over. Whether it’s for education, work, adventure, or love, replanting our roots is a part of life. What makes a location a home is easy familiarity; a harmony between us and the smells, textures, and spaces that we occupy. The quirks and habits we get into, the routines that make us feel secure, the opportunities for pleasure we have come to know. All of the places that we have passed through, the paths we have taken to end up where we are now, are what this exhibition is about.
Do Ho Suh was born in Seoul where he completed an education in fine art. After mandatory military service, he moved to the States to study further in Rhode Island and at Yale. Later, he worked in New York and Berlin, and now he resides in London. His migration represents thousands of miles, and years of his life. The works displayed in this exhibition attempt to show how Suh thinks of these homes as components of his journey, not destinations in themselves. They suggest the idea that home is a moving place, something we make for ourselves that we can find wherever we may choose to look for it.
The exhibition is divided into several sections. An opening room features brightly coloured blown up images of doorways rendered in fabric, flattened onto huge sheets of paper or canvas. Upstairs from this room are lightboxes filled with fabric models of mundane everyday objects: door handles, light switches, fuse boxes. In a room at the back, a video of Suh and his toddler daughter’s favourite passages through favourite places is projected across three walls. Filmed on a go-pro, with narration from the little girl, the film is one of the most captivating video installations I have seen.
The most impressive element of the exhibition, the one that will draw queues at weekends, is a series of 1:1 scale models of various corridors from parts of Suh’s life. They are made from translucent, brightly coloured fabric, and are interconnected into one long, colourful walkway. The detail is exquisite. Electrical caution signs, plugs, windows, shutters, and complex wood-panelled door frames are meticulously recreated. If you can visit at a quieter time, walking through the installation on your own is quite an experience.
This exhibition is at once thought provoking, comforting, and reaffirming. Reminding us that movement and migration are one of the parts of life to indeed be most treasured.
Do Ho Suh: Passage/s at Victoria Miro runs until the 18th March 2017. Admission free.
Victoria Miro, 16 Wharf Road, London. N1 7RW.