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Exhibition news: Hyemin Son + John Reardon — Flat Flat Shiny Cat, at the KCC

The KCC’s final exhibition of 2016:

Flat Flat Shiny Cat by Hyemin Son & John Reardon

2016 KCCUK Open Call II
1–22 December 2016
Korean Cultural Centre UK | Grand Buildings | 1-3 Strand | London WC2N 5BW | Main Entrance on Northumberland Avenue

Flat Flat Shiny Cat

The Korean Cultural Centre UK (KCCUK) presents Hyemin Son & John Reardon’s show entitled Flat Flat Shiny Cat this December. This artist collective is one of the winners of the KCCUK’s 2016 Open Call Exhibition with their proposal being chosen from over 135 applicants by an independent panel of jurors: Mark Rappolt (Editor-in-Chief, Art Review), Katrina Schwarz (Curator, British Council) and Sung Hwan Kim (artist).

Son & Reardon’s work for the KCCUK is as much shaped by it being a Cultural Centre, as it is by artist Choi Jeong-hwa’s interior design for it as it is by the timing of the work being shown there. Their engagement with the KCCUK, as with a lot of their work, is context specific and attempts to work with what is given. This has led them, among other things, to thinking through questions of horizontality and superficiality.

Horizontality: lacking in depth. On the same plane as other things. Occupying or restricted to the same level in a hierarchy: parallel to the ground. Raising the corridor floor by approximately 20 cm over 10-metres. A 30-metre-long white curtain attached to the corridor wall. The soundtrack of a video that unsettles any kind of meaningful engagement these pieces of work along with a simulated ruin made from replicating an existing painted metal water tank are interconnected elements of the installation Flat Flat Shiny Cat. Son & Reardon also understand this work to speak to questions of superficiality: something existing or occurring at or on the surface. Appearing to be ‘true’ or ‘real’ only until examined more closely. A belonging of something that simultaneously reveals it not to belong or to belong temporarily. They share an interest with Choi in scenography and certain kinds of vernacular forms.

Located at one corner of Trafalgar Square in a prime tourist area, the KCCUK is a multi-purpose space containing places for exhibition that hosts, among other things, a number of cultural programmes providing an introduction to Korea, its culture, history and language.

The work—scheduled to be shown in December when London is at the peak of its commercial excess—looks for a different rhythm during this festive period. One that is more about slowness, effort, about trying to sustain something in the face of near collapse. About what Art Historian Christine Ross describes as a “depressive enactment…” (The Aesthetics of Disengagement, 2005).

Rhythm they think about in relation to architecture, people, things, and events. And about how rhythm often can become obvious when it is perceived to be lost, broken, or out of tune. To fall outside—temporarily or permanently—a particular order, understanding and, or expectation of things and how things work. This interest extends to the physical location of the KCCUK. In its relationship with the immediate surrounding environment and with the city more generally.

They are thinking about Matthew Stadler’s essay Pure Surface: Red76 and Ghosttown in which he writes “The ascendancy of surface and complete unintelligibility of depth goes some way toward explaining why art practices, once comfortably confined by conceptual and formal boundaries—including, crucially, the authority of the artist— now spread ravenously outward, indifferent to biography or locale, staging themselves serially across a vast horizontal plane of interchangeable actors and opportunities: the museum, a storefront, your bedroom, online, a scrap of paper. All blossom as sites of meaning […].”

Their approach to working with questions of context and how to add to, alter, and, or extend the KCCUK, also generates relationships between things—whether already existing things or things made and installed for the duration of their work here—and how these things are present, visible, tangible—In this way, a large part of the Cultural Centre becomes an active participant of the work with so called ‘unused’ space becoming as significant as ‘used’ space. Its character, construction and design invites this kind of intervention where different materials, spaces and realities coexist.

The KCCUK Open Call is an annual exhibition programme at the Korean Cultural Centre UK that defines itself as a springboard for emerging artists of Korean origin whose opportunities of presenting their practices are becoming rare in the competitive UK art scene. In heightening the attention drawn to Korean artists through individual and collaborative works, the programme is open to various forms of creative artistic expression and communication.

Some parts of the installation

  1. A typographical sign Flat Flat Shiny Cat is the title of the installation and also a piece of work in its own right. It carries with as much weight and significance as other pieces of work installed under the title Flat Flat Shiny Cat.
  2. Thinking about the city as scenography; movement therapist Tracey Chin—working with an Astra hoop—spins and twirls on a specially elevated platform in a slightly restricted corridor space.
  3. In a small room space—visible from the street—a simulated ruin is made from an existing painted metal water tank. This is done by replicating the water tank a number of times in wood and paint.
  4. A looped video of a slowly-revolving globe emitting a grating sound as it revolves plays on a cube-shaped monitor and plinth.
  5. A set of drawings titled Sleeping Staff.
  6. Inflatable made with invited artist Oliver MacDonald.
  7. Monitors displaying promotional films about Korean culture are occasionally disrupted by rapidly changing lines of text.
  8. (Off-site) An ongoing piece of work consisting of a series of flags can be found in a nearby Korean restaurant.

Hyemin Son (b. South Korea, lives and works in Seoul) Her work explores the interrelationship between everyday life, action and the imaginary as located predominantly in the urban cityscape. In a playful manner, Son constructs gatherings, performances and happenings designed to create tensions and ruptures between an artists’ intention and the situation as it unfolds.

John Reardon (b. in Ireland, lives and works in London) Reardon makes single and co-authored work, work under a shared name or title, as well as anonymous work. Reardon is interested in how a public is constituted through art and how art is made public.

Hyemin Son & John Reardon (plus invited guests) work together as the Minor Adjustment Collective. This includes the shared production and authoring of performance, object and installation work. Their collective work is shaped by an abiding interest in a precarious kind of materiality and vernacular form, in the conditions in which work enters the public domain and in how it is shaped and behaves under these conditions. They recently returned from the Setouchi Triennale, Japan where they installed a two-part work titled Collective Ferment. This is part of the Growing Manual project. An ongoing project they began in 2012 when it was shown in the Seoul Museum of Art. With the support of Arts Council England and the Korean Arts Council, they are currently working on Volume 2 of the Growing Manual publication as well as a related project with Wysing Arts Centre in 2017.

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