Critics’ Picks

Haejun Jo and Kyeong Soo Lee, A Ship Believing the Sea is the Land, 2014, mixed media, dimensions variable.

Haejun Jo and Kyeong Soo Lee, A Ship Believing the Sea is the Land, 2014, mixed media, dimensions variable.


“Tell Me A Story: Locality and Narrative”

Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo
Via Modane, 16
June 7–October 7, 2018

This exhibition, curated by Amy Cheng and Hsieh Feng-Rong, reflects on Asia’s evolving identity through the eyes of twelve artists. The show opens with Haejun Jo and Kyeong Soo Lee’s A Ship Believing the Sea is the Land, 2014: a wooden fishing boat coated in paraffin, inside which a small screen plays the film Scenery of Between—inspired by a boat discovered on reclaimed land in Gunsan City, home to a US military base. Around this installation are artifacts, from a wax kangaroo to a wooden turtle, and framed drawings hung on the wall illustrating Jo’s father’s memories of Korea’s twentieth century, from World War II to the Korean War. Presented in a dark room next to this arrangement is Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s single-channel video Fireworks (Archive), 2014. The camera tracks a couple through a garden filled with mostly animal stone sculptures, plus a skeletal couple embracing. Flickering light punctuates a snapping staccato soundtrack: a sound not unlike machine gunshots, firecrackers, or film racing through a reel.

Although referencing a part of Northern Thailand impacted by the US campaign against the Vietcong, Fireworks (Archive) expresses the horror and beauty of human nature in abstract terms, relying on archetypes—animals, skeletons—to tell a story of death and remembrance that feels universal. Contrastingly, A Ship Believing the Sea is the Land represents the personal experience of particular historical events. This fluid relationship between the general and granular privileges an engagement with history through the affective recall of lived experience. Koki Tanaka’s Provisional Studies: Workshop #1, “1946-52 Occupation Era and 1970 Between Man and Matter,” 2014–2015, for instance, is anchored to the Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art’s use as a US military barracks between 1946 and 1952 (when a room was turned into a basketball court), and the museum’s staging of the 1970 Tokyo Biennale, “Between Man and Matter”—the installation includes video documentation of workshops staged with high schoolers, and reenactments of basketball games in the museum. In this temporal mapping, a region is seen as a place where historical trajectories—both regional and global—coalesce in points of tainted yet intimate connection.