Critics’ Picks

View of “Kyuchul Ahn,” 2014.

View of “Kyuchul Ahn,” 2014.

Seoul

Kyuchul Ahn

HITE Collection
714 Yeongdong-daero Gangnam-gu
August 29–December 13, 2014

Kyuchul Ahn took the title of his exhibition “All and but Nothing” from a quote by Swedish poet Tomas Tranströmer: “We see all and nothing.” Here, Ahn twists the phrase, referring to the bitter experiences of failure in his own life and the misguided faith that his words and deeds have been comprehensive. As such, images of failure and performances of futility run through the exhibition.

In the middle of the gallery are unfinished walls, each made up of approximately 4,000 red bricks. During the exhibition’s duration, the artist will extend one end of each wall by adding bricks taken from the other. As Ahn’s backbreaking Sisyphean toil continues, the walls will move away from each other, but the whole process—documented by video projections—ultimately seems unproductive.

Throughout his career, Ahn has explored more personal failure. However, Golden Time, 2014, a bathroom sink incised with the work’s title, points to a grand failure of Korean society to create safeguards against human errors, which the sinking of Sewol ferry in April of 2014 painfully exposed. (“Golden time” refers to the first hour after a disastrous accident, during which victims have the best chance of being saved.) The artist, who like many Koreans watched the accident unfold on television, asks in a text accompanying the show: “Why is it that we work so hard and unceasingly but this brings no change to our lives?” Thus, his work done in vain becomes a political statement.