Koo Jeong-A

On the day before her opening at the Secession, Koo Jeong-A locked herself in the basement in order to work on its difficult series of spaces. When she came out twenty-four hours later, the work was done: Between an emergency exit, an office, and a storage room spread a poetic dream landscape, a compellingly carefree exhibition—subtle and meditative, yet anchored in the material bluntness that characterizes sculpture. In the relation between order and disorder there emerges a pattern, and these textures of chaos are what interest Koo.

A large table—nearly twenty feet long—at the beginning of the exhibition held an orderly stack of cigarettes; beneath it lay a trashy installation of junk. The table was covered with white packing paper and spoke (like another variant of the “last painting”) the language of Minimal art. The traces of a lonely night of working on the installation had literally been swept under the table: cartons and crumpled-up plastic wrap from unpacked art supplies, and the pastel tissue paper from the evening’s victuals, Italian almond cookies. Koo’s references to her presence in the work were personal and intimate: In the poignant sleeping nook, the bed was simply newspapers with a T-shirt spread over them; there were little pictures on the wall. It was enchanting—at least for those who recognize the principles of organization and composition in what seems to be so haphazard. Not that this is particularly important. What concerns the artist is the fact that art is made by perception just as much as production, by the viewer as well as the artist. Koo’s ephemeral installations of the poetic fragment are not about conventions of museum display; rather, they are tied more to collective and individual memories and help spark the observer’s imagination.

Koo, a Korean who has lived in France for the last ten years, spent the summer of 2002 as artist in residence in the Augarten studio of the Österreichische Galerie Belvedere in Vienna. During her tenure there she created the series of beautiful, spare drawings that filled one room of the Secession, and she celebrated her fascination with imperfection with a skewed hanging. Many of the works portray her dog, a funny little boxer. He also made a three-dimensional appearance, sculpted in blue soap. Hidden in his paper house, he sits in a corner at a café table. Only a mirror placed on the floor revealed his presence. Koo’s puppy guarded a refrigeration room, out of which condensation dripped through a hose into a pail. One discovered it by chance only if curious enough to go past an insignificant-looking wall.

With this work, Kimbo, 2002, Koo pays homage to Cedric Price, the visionary architect who won the 2003 Kiesler Prize and who holds that a building should adapt to the living habits of its inhabitants, thwart the physical boundaries of architectonic space, and work with temperature. He conceives of architecture not through objects but as an intervention that is time-based, adaptable, and relational. The artist and the architect agree that change in the course of time is a significant component of culture and that it is created through production and consumption, not through classification and storage. One should therefore think about happiness and well- being when experiencing an exhibition and take one’s time in coming to an understanding of it, for time is the key dimension of visual activities. In the catalogue text Price wrote for his admirer, he speaks of dreams that reach into the future. “And then,” he writes, “she draws a joker—and yet another dimension of wonder is played out by this artist . . . a masterful vision in which you can lose yourself—again and again.”

Brigitte Huck

Translated from German by Sara Ogger.