The Moon’s Trick, a multi-faceted show featuring recent work of Young In Hong, was the 2017 KCC’s Artist of the Year exhibition.
Hong’s work is multi-disciplinary. For a long while it has involved embroidery: LKL’s first encounter with her work was as part of the KCC’s opening exhibition curated by Jiyoon Lee back in 2008, in which she presented pieces which combined photography and embroidery. Subsequent work exhibited at Rokeby Gallery, I-MYU Projects and Saatchi Gallery (for Korean Eye) were large-scale embroidery pieces.
But her body of work also includes documentary film (Miners’ Orange, addressing the economic decline of a mining town in Gangwon province) and performance (ICA, Royal Academy) which often dealing with social and political issues.
The current exhibition combined many of these strands. Taking documentary photographs as a starting point – often photographs highlighting particular social issues or momentous political events – Hong creates abstract impressions of the photos, highlighting selected features of the image which she then embroiders: for example, the buses emblematic of the 1980 Gwangju massacre are reduced simply to the outlines of two windscreens and simple parallel lines representing the roofs. Over twenty of these simple embroideries, entitled Prayers, were displayed around the gallery space; also dotted around the gallery were speakers playing musical fragments related to the embroideries.
These abstract embroideries are then combined into an aleatoric musical score, given to performers to interpret as they see fit.
In the performance that opened The Moons Trick, instrumentalists performing on daegeum, trumpet and violin joined with two vocalists and Hong herself playing on sewing machine. In the performance space were large-scale embroideries focusing on key moments in contemporary Korean history – of which the most striking was the 2008 candle-light protests against Lee Myung-bak relating to the import of American beef during the mad cow disease scare.
Other embroideries interpreted the protests over the death of two teenagers struck by an American military vehicle in 2002 (The Square Saddened); or a traditional ritual – now discontinued in times of modernisation – to welcome the first full moon of the New Year by making a bonfire of brushwood (Burning with Triadic Harmony).
Altogether this was a thought-provoking and rewarding exhibition, and one only regrets that the show was not on for longer, to enable the viewer to absorb and reconcile better the different artistic elements that were woven together in this project.