A round-up of three early January exhibitions

LKL visits three solo shows in the first two weeks of 2020: Suh Shinuk, Song Gin-young and Kang Jungsuck. Hopefully we’ll get to Tate Modern to see the big Nam June Paik exhibition before it closes.

Suh Shinuk’s Man(u)fractured has been extended for a week, to 18 January. It’s well worth a trip to North Kensington for. The exhibition has one of the cleverer titles that I can think of, and gives entertainment for the eye as well as plenty of food for thought.

The exhibition, the output of his residency at Unit 1 Gallery, looks at the dehumanising effect of industrial processes. The installations make extensive use of silicone rubber and robotic-like machinery. In Suh’s creation, humans have been flattened into two-dimensional shapes, like cartoon characters having been run over by a steam-roller.

Even in this state, they are stretched and contorted by slow-moving machinery or poked senselessly by a giant hand rotating gently on a spindle. White flattened hands are exhibited in a display case (are they waving at you?) while elsewhere other flattened hands flap uselessly on an endless conveyor belt. All around are stylised warnings about corrosive substances or other industrial hazards.

Meanwhile, across town, Song Gin-young had a brief untitled exhibition that also dealt in its own way with industrial space. Underneath the railway arches in Bethnal Green is what I assume used to be a vehicle repair shop and garage, which has now been converted into a funky coffee shop and bar. The vibe is still industrial, with the bare brickwork proudly displayed, and the space between the coffee area and bar occupied by what looks like part of an old carwash. Needless to say, the latter provided a handy frame for Song’s work.

Song embellished the stark interior with whimsical decorations and dangles with no purpose other than to delight the eye. Outside it was cold and damp. Inside, the playful pendants hanging from the roof of the entrance that you needed to dodge and duck to get to the bar, the slightly melancholy dolls leaning against the wall that you could maybe play with as you sipped a cocktail, the white frilly installation that looked like a puffy face… all of it lifted the spirits on a January weekend (as did the coffee and booze).

In the centre of town, at the KCC, is the exhibition with the most complicated title that I can remember: The Adventures of A Human, A Self-Driving Car, and A Lilliputian: Snow Scenarios. If the title makes you work hard, so does the exhibition itself. It’s the sort of exhibition which requires you to have a guide with you to explain what you are seeing: a large ball of uncertain substance wrapped in chains, surrounded by a low level blue tubular fence; another large ball wrapped in straps and harnesses that looked vaguely perverted; a Lara Croft-like doll standing on what seemed like a giant white half-banana fixed to the wall; strange styrofoam forms, panels that distorted the shape of the space or making you wonder if those white fuse-boxes had always been there; bottles of mineral water left on the floor as if by an untidy visitor: all peculiarly disquieting. If there was a narrative that connected the different objects, perhaps it was the world of the video game, according to the notice of the exhibition. As someone who has never progressed beyond Space Invaders I needed a bit more help.

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