Bada Song’s Installation Piece at “So-Called Life” exhibition,
Camberwell College of Arts, 11 January – 9 February 2007.
Review by Beccy Kennedy
The photographs and installation art works displayed in the foyer of the Camberwell College of Arts for “So-called Life” are challenging of our expectations of the exhibition space and also perhaps of our assumptions of multi-media installation works. There are no audio-visual pieces, but bronze and cast paper sculpture and b/w photographs, arranged with a kind of strategic chaos, including a hint of Dada (in Paul O’Kane’s photographs) and Surrealism (in Rob Prewett’s bronzes), the latter two are almost engaging a re-Modernist, celebratory approach to composition. Most salient and unusual of the works are Korean born, Camberwell trained sculptor, Bada Song’s Roof, entitled, “Chi-Bung” (“roof” in Korean).
The traditional Korean-styled Hanok roof, suspended and deprived of the four walls of a home, is composed of cast paper tiles. On closer observation, one notices they are cemented together with walking sticks and thousands of Royal Mail red rubber bands. Song juxtaposes diligent craftsmanship with the readymade whilst fusing archetypical iconography of East and West, communicating the idiosyncrasies of identity translation between South Korea and South London.1 Yet Song brings our attention to more than these already complex questions of trans-national relationships; she exposes the fragility of nature, of social and material predisposition, actualization and realisation, and in doing this, answers her own questions. “Chi-Bung” reminds me of the classic physiological diagram, Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs2. Shelter lies at the bottom of the triangle, somewhere between “Physiological” and “safety” needs, and without these, “Belonging” and “Self-actualization” cannot be achieved3. The issue is that some needs and some desires are supra-cultural. When describing “Chi Bung”, Song talked more of age than of culture. Here, the embedded walking sticks might represent the wisdom of maturity and of experience.
When Song was a little child, living on the island, Jeju-do, she had a vision of a floating roof in a dark sea, after the turbulence of a storm, which had disrupted her home. She is unsure of whether it was real or dreamt but the image still resonates today, in another country and in another time, but with added retrospection. The roof’s possible connotations are exemplified by its anonymity and its detachment from any scaffolding which could represent a home. The space beneath the roof is absent, enabling the observer the freedom to fill it with their dreams, memories and expectations but also, actively, with their physical presence. As Song enthused, “Children can play and people can even eat their lunch under it.”4 The relaxed and interactive atmosphere at the University Foyer and the concentration of the works of just three artists, encourage the viewer to form a dialogue with the art works and experience the essence of their possible meaning, a feeling which may stand outside of formal language, of any language within this so-called life.
- O’Kane, P., taken from Press Release for “So-Called Life”, 11/01/2007.
- Maslow, A. H. (1970). Motivation and Personality, 2nd. ed., New York, Harper & Row.
- For a diagram, you can trust Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maslow’s_hierarchy_of_needs.
- Interview with Bada Song, 26/01/2007.