Critics’ Picks


Heman Chong

Art Sonje Center
87 Yulgok-ro 3-gil Jongno-gu
February 7–March 29, 2015

Singaporean artist and writer Heman Chong’s show “Never, a Dull Moment” examines communication and the process of putting together an exhibition. Chong, who trained as a graphic designer, often employs text in his practice. This particular body of work features more words than images, across painting, installation, performance, readymade sculpture, digital prints on cloth, and a short story that doubles as the press release.

A number of the works here are the result of instructions from the artist to the hosting institution. Smoke Gets In (Your Eyes), 2015, for instance, provides an area where visitors are permitted to smoke cigarettes within the galleries. Elsewhere, Boiling Point, 2015, a table of hot plates bearing pots of boiling water, is placed near paintings from the series “Things That Remain Unwritten,” 2013–, in an intentional, precarious installation choice. Throughout, there is a sense of humor and wit in these interventions. For Within, You Remain, 2015, Chong requested that custodial staff refrain from clearing the floor of debris accumulated both during the removal of the gallery’s previous show and the run of his, creating a piece that continues to change each time someone walks through the room. Leftover Triangle (with Two Shelves) from “A Room of His Own: Masculinities in Korea and the Middle East” is an architectural remnant from the last exhibition here, while Past, Lives, both 2015, is a poster that lists the eighty-nine exhibitions previously mounted in this space. Together, these works form a sort of archeology of the exhibition medium, illuminating institutional history. There is an element of institutional critique at play, but ironically many of the works function because the institution is amenable to every challenge Chong places before it.