It’s amazing what you can do with a bit of glue

The KCC’s exhibition in collaboration with the Gwangju Museum of Art, Circulation Metaphor, closed today in preparation for the installation of the KCC’s next show, The Real DMZ.

Jeong Jeongju: Soswaewon (2018)
Jeong Jeongju: Soswaewon (2018) – as originally installed at the KCC

Regular visitors to the KCC during the course of the exhibition will have noticed an unfortunate accident that happened to the ceramic installation that greeted you when you entered the gallery space. But for less frequent visitors, here’s what happened.

Jeong Jeongju’s ceramic model of the Soswaewon, Damyang-gun’s famous scholar’s garden dating from the 16th century, was installed on delicate, spindly bamboo legs.

Jeong Jeongju: Soswaewon (2018)
Jeong Jeongju: Soswaewon (2018) – as originally installed at the KCC (rear view)

It was absolutely fitting that the work should be installed on bamboo: the garden itself is entered via a trail through a bamboo forest. One day, I’ll get around to posting photos of my own past and future visits to the garden. I visited in 2016 and 2019, and will certainly visit again. On my most recent visit Mr Yang, a direct descendent of the scholar who created the garden, told me two very practical uses of the bamboo: firstly if you knock on it with a stone it’s better than any doorbell; and secondly, during the colonial era when there was a ban on brewing your own booze, the precious liquid could be hidden inside the hollow bamboo stems.

But apparently this was the first time that Jeong had installed his ceramic sculpture using this particular method of bamboo props lashed together with horizontal spars. It proved to be not fully robust.

Jeong Jeongju: Soswaewon (2018)
Thanks to Jason Verney for the photo

It’s the sort of mishap that can occur at any exhibition where fragile artworks are installed. But fortunately in this case the collapse must have happened in slow motion, with the bamboo cushioning much of the fall, because the ceramic pieces survived remarkably intact. Yes, there were some sections that were fragmented – but they were clean break, and nothing that a bit of glue couldn’t fix. And the pavilions seemed to survive more or less unscathed.

So the artist came back from Gwangju to do a repair job, and from a distance it looks good as new, though perhaps the lower pavilion (the Gwangpunggak) is less level than it was previously. This is a complex 3D installation, and it must have been difficult to get things perfect without starting again from scratch.

Jeong Jeongju: Soswaewon (2018)
Jeong Jeongju: Soswaewon (2018), after the repair work

The bamboos supporting the front of the installation are more densely packed together – more closely resembling a forest – and some of the sticks have been secured to the floor with a blob of glue for extra stability:

Jeong Jeongju: Soswaewon (2018)

Behind the scenes, the supports have been strengthened with MDF. Less aesthetically pleasing, but much safer.

Jeong Jeongju: Soswaewon (2018)
Jeong Jeongju: Soswaewon (2018), after the repair work

Congratulations to the artist for getting the reconstruction job done so quickly.

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