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Jungho Oak’s extreme yoga and Sun Salutations

One of LKL’s favourite exhibitions of 2013 was Oak Jungho’s solo show at 43 Inverness Street. And that wasn’t just because at the opening viewing, if you sneaked into the kitchen and asked nicely, you were given a glass of single malt instead of the more usual wine or beer.

Whisky, at a private view? The unusual – and welcome – situation had arisen because Oak had just finished his tenure as one of Glenfiddich Distillery’s artists in residence, and the centrepiece of the exhibition was a video work he created while staying in Speyside. He explains in the interview below:

Behind his accommodation was a barley field. “The effect that the change in setting had on me was quite a culture shock,” says Oak, “as I was amazed by the landscape that I had only seen in books.” And part of that shock was evidenced in this zany video, shot over many months, in which Oak dresses up as a Japanese warrior and practises Kendo on a defenceless scarecrow, at first proceeding with an unnatural caution, then gradually taking the thing apart as his courage builds up. The barley grows and ripens over the course of the video as it would in a stop-motion animation. The video would appeal to fans of Monty Python in its absurdity.

Still from Jungho Oak: In a Barley Field (2013)
Still from Jungho Oak: In a Barley Field (2013)

Oak is known for his “provocative public interventions”. Another strand of work that he executed while at the distillery was a crazy series of photographs in which he struck yoga poses from a Hindu blessing ceremony – the Surya Namaskar – among the whisky stills, wearing a pair of stag antlers. One wonders what the distillery workers, posing semi-seriously beside the Korean clown, thought of it all.

Jungho Oak: Surya-Namaskar In the Distillery (2013)
Jungho Oak: Surya Namaskar In the Distillery (2013) (Source)

Sadly, these works were not on display at Inverness Street. But instead, as well as a huge photographic triptych of Busan, there was a series of equally crazy self portraits in which Oak performs extreme yoga on the mudflats around Ganghwa island accompanied incongruously by a shopping trolley.

Jungho Oak: Standing Bow Pulling Pose- Dandayamana Dhanurasana (2011) Digital Print ,127 x 152cm
Jungho Oak: Standing Bow Pulling Pose- Dandayamana Dhanurasana (2011)
Digital Print, 127 x 152cm (Source)

This series of photographs from 2011, which combine Hindu yoga practice with Korean shamanism in a hybrid dawn ceremony was an earlier part of his Glenfiddich project:

I began the project in Seoul where these rituals were performed in non-traditional spaces such as a busy city centre or in a muddy field with a trolley while wearing a smartly tailored suit. The combination of the unlikely places with insensible clothing and useless props contribute to a feeling of frustration and pathos in this work I want to further develop the series of The Sun Salutations, Surya Namaskar, while in residence at Glenfiddich. This will help me expand the meaning and the performativity of the project in a different cultural background. It will also be an interesting and unique experience to wish for happiness amongst Glenfiddich craftsmen, which could be exotic to them. (Source)

The zany humour and sophisticated malt made for a highly enjoyable evening.

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