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Did you know pennies were magnetic?

A close-up of Yun Sungfeel's installation currently in the Courtauld
A close-up of Yun Sungfeel’s installation currently in the Courtauld (LKL, 24 January 2014)

Did you know pennies were magnetic? I certainly didn’t until yesterday evening, when I visited the opening of the Courtauld’s East Wing Biennial. And apparently 5p pieces are two. So says Yun Sungfeel, who should know. His series of works Looking at The real world from within The real world use hidden magnets to move iron filings, ferrofluid and other magnetic objects around the surface of a cone. In his installation at the East Wing Biennial, it is pennies that revolve in the reflective steel cone, like planets in an orrery.

Yun Sungfeel: Looking at The real world from within The real world - currently at the Courtauld
Yun Sungfeel: Looking at The real world from within The real world – currently at the Courtauld (LKL, 24 January 2014)

The theme of the student-organised contemporary art exhibition this time is work with which the audience is expected to interact. Yun’s work encourages interaction in two ways: first, the work incorporates proximity motion sensors which activate the installation as you draw close. Second, you are encouraged to add to the material which is being carried around the sculpture by the hidden magnets: particularly when his installation involves iron filings, there is usually a store of surplus filings which the viewer can throw into the cone – as at his current installation in the Mayfair eatery, Sketch.

Yun Sungfeel: Looking at The real world from within The real world - currently installed at Sketch in Mayfair
Yun Sungfeel: Looking at The real world from within The real world – currently installed at Sketch in Mayfair – note the coloured iron filings on the floor (photo: LKL, 18 January 2014)

Next time I’m in the Courtauld I’m going to try it with a 5p piece.

Here’s an extract of the text on Yun’s work, from the East Wing Biennial catalogue:

Yun’s work varies from two-dimensional to sculptural installation pieces, and make use of minimal form in order to convey monumental concepts. He synthesizes theories of universal physics with Eastern philosophies in order to create intellectually and spiritually engaging works, which are also visually interesting. The activating presence of the viewer is highly relevant to INTERACT. The tension between spirituality and physicality are resolved in the seemingly industrial nature of many of his works; for example, those in metal conceal the physical labour behind them, thus locating a huge amount of condensed energy in solid form.

Yun is interested in the nature of existence and the circular structure of the universe, something which is explored in works such as those in his Looking at The real world from within The real world series of 2012, in which he experiments with steel powder and action-sensored motorised magnets on circular forms, in order to convey circular energy created by the electromagnetic force. THis force is an embodiment of the coexistent union of yin and yang, taeguk, something investigated throughout his oeuvre. In the way Yun’s sculpture attempts to encapsulate the inevitable creation and extinction within the cycle of the universe.

The text which introduces the exhibition as a whole is as follows:

INTERACT: Deconstructing Spectatorship

Looking at The real world from within The real world

INTERACT: Deconstructing Spectatorship will seek to challenge pre-existing, traditional and even new perceptions of viewers and their place. A conceptually-driven exhibition, the eleventh installation in the East Wing Biennial series will once again provide the opportunity for young curatorial minds to work with contemporary artists. The artists of INTERACT will play with the role of the spectator: some invite them to interact with the works (and draw attention to this interaction) in order to realise and overcome this preconceived role, whilst others pose different questions and terms of reference.

Four primary routes of enquiry are examined in the installation and, while each is clearly articulated, they also interact.

Visual perception takes on different roles and is particularly significant in the works of Emilie Pugh, Bridget Riley and Sebastian Brajkovic, each of which manipulates optical understanding as visual interventions. Julie Mehretu’s drawings require the spectator to move back and forth in the space in order to decipher the layers of references, techniques and meaning that the works contain.

De-privileging the visual field, the viewers’ bodily awareness and other sensations will become their critical apparatus when encountering the work of Katie Paterson, which necessitates a sensitive appreciation of the importance of sound.

The spatial (and cultural) context of the Institute spaces dictate an attitude to the visitor, making him a spectator. In creating a space for reflection, through the work of Tina Gonsalves, the visitor’s own image will be cast back into the exhibition space. The viewers’ confrontation with themselves will therefore be mediated by the artwork, setting the terms with which they confront their own perspective. Identity thus forms the enigmatic point of convergence for these works, which include the evocative photography of Cordelia Donohoe and Liu Bolin.

Through a subtle orchestration of space, movement and perception, the apparent and obscure, The Courtauld Institute’s environment at once becomes an international representation of contemporary art. At the same time, an encounter with art which, through engaged spectatorship, conscious interaction is brought into a position of prominence.


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