New York

Do-Ho Suh

If R. Buckminster Fuller were around today, he would likely be entranced by the idiosyncratically utopian vision and technical ingeniousness of Do-Ho Suh’s “Perfect Home: The Bridge Project.” Suh, working with a team of collaborators—architects, engineers, computer programmers, and animators, among others—has developed prototypes for four bridges that connect the artist’s home in Seoul with his home in New York. More allegorical than practical, the bridges represent imaginary links between disparate geographies and urbanisms, thereby emblematizing the artist’s long-standing concern with identity in relation to globalization. More specifically, they relate to Suh’s interest in the “perfect home”—a preoccupation that began in 1999. That year he produced, in silk, a scaled-down replica of his childhood home in Korea, packed it in his luggage, and transported it to a new residence; soon after, he sketched out a bridge linking Seoul and New York. Connecting distinct (and displaced) subjective and cultural cartographies, that structure constituted an ideal domicile.

Painted cobalt, the darkened interior of the Storefront for Art and Architecture evokes the deep blue sea. On display are four flat-screen monitors, each transmitting a video relaying the plans for one of Suh’s proposals. At once analytic and fantastic, the videos feature a sensuous dovetailing of drawings, computer-animated architectural designs, and the occasional photograph. This canny multidisciplinary hybridization operates as a representational language for the psychogeographic remapping of micro and macro territories.

Bridge 1: The Shortest Bridge (all works 2010) diagrams the shortest possible route between Seoul and New York, a trajectory that runs over the Arctic and other territories and literally cuts a path through buildings and mountains. Juxtaposing animated diagrams of the imaginary bridge with views of the artist’s actual Seoul domicile and New York apartment (along with drawings of theoretical homes made by Suh), the video travels along the bridge through urban and other spaces, zooming across and through the local, the regional, and the global. Situated at the structure’s midpoint is a vernacular amalgam of his New York building and his Seoul house, a hybrid edifice that reconciles disparate geographic, cultural, and architectural forms.

As a tangible, realizable plan, Bridge 2: Dead Reckoning Bridge (Dynamic Position Servomechanism) is perhaps more persuasive. Employing a Mercator projection, the design follows a straight line between the two cities. For the section spanning the Pacific, it proposes an infrastructure of floating “pods,” specially designed mechanisms that remain stationary by employing “attitude dynamics, servo mechanics, water jet propulsion, inertial navigation and power generation” to counteract the ocean’s currents and tidal flows. Bridge 3a: North Pacific Drift Bridge, meanwhile, responds to the engineering challenges posed by the so-called North Pacific Drift, a warm-water current running from Japan to North America. That bridge, consisting of a flexible infrastructure composed of shock absorbers and flotation devices, is a precursor of Bridge 3b: The Floating Bioengineered Bio-Bubble Bridge, Suh’s most recent design and perhaps the most sophisticated of the four. Floating in the ocean, moving along with the currents, the bridge calls for a “carbon nanotube bioscaffold,” which is at once its structure and a substrate for growing bioengineered kelp. The kelp, according to the design, grows gas-filled bladders to keep the bridge buoyant, and simultaneously supports a dynamic ocean ecosystem.

Forging a polydisciplinary digital language that incorporates cutting-edge science and technology, flexible systems of architecture (whether rhizomatic, recombinant, information-based, or otherwise), industrial design, global mapping, oceanography, and geography, Suh here rethinks the terms of art in an attempt to represent the dislocation of identity in spatial terms: the bridge as a heterotopia of belonging and unbelonging.

Joshua Decter