Art meets fashion to gain world ground
By Ines Min
Art and fashion: they each carry an equal undercurrent of aesthetics, so what would be better than the marriage of the two?
Hermes and Comme des Garcons have opened exhibitions that bridge the expanse between the two industries while utilizing the international network of their bases. ``H Box: Loops’’ from Hermes is on display at Art Sonje Center while Comme des Garcons’ ``Time Train’’ can be seen at its Seoul store, both of which will run through May 1.
H Box, a traveling screening unit for artists, finally made its way to Korea after touring the world since 2006 from the Centre Pompidou, Tate London, Yokohama Triennale and other sites.
The collapsible structure, designed by architect Didier Faustino, screens eight works at a time, four of which are rotated out annually to allow new commissioned pieces to be exposed. The mini-theater provides an intimate setting for each work, viewers perched atop benches and bean bags.
The current run features artists from Korea (Nam Hwa-yeon) to India (Nikhil Chopra and Munir Kabani), while previous participants have hailed from Israel, Germany, Italy and other areas. Permanent curator Benjamin Weil said he looked for experimentation from the normal form.
``We had two main goals when we first began H Box,’’ said Catherin Tsekenis, Hermes director of cultural and philanthropic projects, at a press conference last week. ``To support the production of video art…and to increase the awareness of those video artists who create it.’’
On the main screen, a woman dances atop a bracingly beautiful mountaintop in Chopra’s work while Wang Jianwei’s comprises of individuals bowing to one another fervently in elaborate performance.
Though only eight of the works will be shown inside H Box, visitors can tour a selection of archives, to see works all the way back from the inaugural year of 2007.
Over at Comme des Garcons, the innovative seven-floor building houses not only the entire impressive palette of founder Rei Kawakubo’s collections, but also a variety of exhibition spaces. Though the flagship Seoul branch is only the second in the brand to include a gallery function ― and ``Time Train’’ only its third venture ― the exhibition proves a worthwhile visit.
Entering the basement gallery Six, the visitor is greeted with a short, cutout of a door, roughly half the height of a normal entrance (meant to resemble the entryway of a traditional Japanese tea house).
Inside, the installation piece by Tatsuo Miyajima curves roundly against the white walls: a minimalist 62-meter-long railroad track raised to eye-level, the sound of the small, early 1900s model locomotive wheezing along.
Miyajima, who represented Japan in the 1999 Venice Biennale, is known for his abstract pieces always integrated with the signature flashing lights of LED display numbers (one through nine, only). Inspired by political and environmental events such as Hurricane Katrina, the artist’s work brings to mind philosophical musings on life, death, and all of the painfully aware present in between.
``Time Train’’ takes on the concept of Holocaust Jewish prisoners being transported to Auschwitz, via that excruciatingly long, fatalistic journey. The model, a miniature of a train used around the 1940s, is piled high with the ``remains’’ of the digital numbers, blinking blue in the dark space.
Only a few sparse trees break the monotony of the looping German-made cars, which takes a little more than five minutes to complete, recalling the despair of those waiting apprehensively inside. Though the German-centric concept mingles with a sense of the Japanese, Miyajima finds a sense of relevancy within modern Korean culture as well.
In this universality comes the contrast in his work, the juxtaposition that results in a feeling of appreciation. Though often confronting the idea of death, the artist himself does not wish to convey it.
``I don’t use the number zero because it stands for death, stagnation’’ he said at the exhibition opening last week. ``Each number represents a stage in life; I want people to feel as if they’re living.’’
Art Sonje Center is located a 10-minute walk from Anguk Station, exit 1, on subway line 3. Visit www.artsonje.org.
Comme des Garcons is located straight outside of Hangangjin Station, exit 1, on subway line 6. Call (02) 749-2525.