Passage/s at Victoria Miro

Edd Elliott

One imagines for some the idea of going to an art exhibition about the home seems completely paradoxical. We came to this gallery in order to get out of the house: why are you dragging us back there?! Introspections into the domestic, however, have been an interesting subsection to contemporary theory since the 1990s, and the Victoria Miro’s latest exhibition is well and truly making itself at home in the home.

Passage/s, a temporary exhibition from Korean artist Do Ho Suh, opened in the Wharf Street gallery this month. The show combines a series of different media in a dynamic contemplation on “the idea of home as both a physical structure and a lived experience.” The Miro’s upper rooms house the exhibition’s most dramatic piece, Hub, a walkway of nine fabric and wire structures, formed into a series of colourful, yet translucent rooms, one after another. Visitors can walk through the rainbow-like corridor, and – predictably – pose for a cute Instagram pic.
Don’t assume, however, that Passage/s is all fun and games. The series of works examine what the modern household means to us, and how we have crafted it to our expectations. Hub focuses on doorways. The colourful polyester structures are all porches of different designs, arranged in a row. The opening collection of thread drawings, each named Entrance, also show a series of – surprise, surprise – entrances, glowing luminous from the canvas. “I see life as a passageway,” claims Suh, “with no fixed beginning or destination. We tend to focus on the destination all the time and forget about the in-between spaces.”

Passage/s, 2016 © Do Ho Suh Courtesy the Artist, Lehmann Maupin, New York and Hong Kong and Victoria Miro, London

The “in-between spaces” presented in this neon bright exhibition display notable trends. The doorways on show have a particular focus on security and technology. The Entrances Suh has chosen are dotted with intercom systems, cameras and double locks. Hub meticulously stitches together a fabric fire alarm and extinguisher. There’s also a brittle character to all the pieces. Each work is riddled with wavy lines and semi-transparent material. The slightest move, it feels like, could bring down the whole structure – maybe that’s why Suh’s constructions need so much security?
The Korean artist moved to London in 2012. Before that he had lived in New York and studied at Yale University. Suh’s experiences as an outsider making a home in the West feature prominently in Passage/s. The video installation My Home/s literally travels between various domestic environments, a scrolling camera flowing up like a ghostly lift through room after room. Another video, cutely named The Pram Project, shows Suh’s new British home through the eyes of his daughter, a GoPro strapped to the young child’s head as she moves through the house and surrounding streets.

Passage/s 2016 © Do Ho Suh, Lehmann Maupin, New York and Hong Kong and Victoria Miro, London

During a stay in New York, Suh created the ambitious project Rubing/Loving. Covering a whole apartment in paper, he continued to pencil electrifying colours across the surfaces, inventing a whole new, otherworldly environment. The work became a form of memorial. The apartment’s landlord, a good friend of Suh, passed away shortly before the work was started. “The whole process is to remember the space,” commented the artist. “Whoever is going to buy this space is going to renovate this space, and everything is going to go.”
Rubing/Loving was an attempt to commemorate and keep alive a room through which Suh’s emotional life had travelled, and many of Passage/s vibrant pieces cling to the same nostalgic sense of memorialised journeys. The exhibition’s final piece, the diminutive My Homes, presents a faux-architectural sketch with rooms placed end on end, in a spindly path, seemingly off to infinity. There’s not much to the work – large white spaces and a few faint coloured lines. It certainly doesn’t burst with life like Hub. This is Suh’s clear statement of intent, however: the home as an emotional journey, simple and precise, much like the artist himself.

Entrance, Unit G5, Union Wharf, 23 Wenlock road, London, N1 7SB, UK, 2016 Creative Workshop & Gallery, Singapore © Do Ho Suh Courtesy the Artist, STPI and Victoria Miro, London

Passage/s doesn’t quite hit the complexity or diversity of other of Suh’s works: the exhibition revolves around a fairly short list of questions. Tucked away in the twisting labyrinth of the Victoria Miro, however, this musing on our architectural journeys couldn’t be better placed. There’s a lot to admire in the Korean artist’s quiet craftsmanship – it’s hard to imagine how a near 20ft neon bright aisle could simultaneously feel understated. If you are looking for a quick, calming expedition into modern art, this may be your ticket.
Passage/s is on display in the Victoria Miro until 18 March. For full details, see the Victoria Miro’s website.

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