South Korean artist Haegue Yang joins forces with the Bass to bring a fresh perspective to issues of climate change in the world of art and science.
On the evening of November 2nd, 2019, the Bass Museum revealed its largest solo-artist exhibition to date. They partnered with none other than world renowned, South Korean Artist, Haeuge Yang, to present her broad collection titled In the Cone of Uncertainty. Spanning across two floors of the Bass, the exhibition includes complex instillations ranging from light sculptures to mural-like, graphic wallpaper. Yang’s work expresses her take on a range of topics such as Korean history, the horrors and tragedy of lynching African-Americans, and even isolation in the context of material and moral poverty. However, the prevalent takeaway from the collection as a whole is Yang’s experimentation with elements of nature and her concerns over climate change. “Human beings cannot influence nature . . . nature severely influences us, and we have to react to it.”
The audience’s experience of the exhibit begins in the first-floor lobby gallery, where they are greeted with meticulously designed wallpaper titled Coordinates of Speculative Solidarity (2019), depicting the point from which a hurricane forms in the ocean before hitting land. The first-floor gallery also includes powered, rotating steel sheets titled Rotating Notes (2013) and Yang’s anthropomorphic, light-series titled Strange Fruit (2012-13). The exhibit then makes its way upstairs to the artist’s distinct take on numerous food cans which she covered with handmade, intricate crotchet designs, titled Can Cosies (2011). Yang explained that this unique concept emerged from her fascination with the contradiction between the cans’ long-term ability to preserve food, followed by the need of immediate consumption once the can is opened and decaying process begins.
The next two major installations are Yang’s nod to political and social ruptures stemming back to early Korean history. Created with aluminum venetian blinds, Yearning Melancholy Red (2008) and Red Broken Mountainous Labyrinth (2008) are unspoken narratives about viewing history from different perspectives. The complex instillation uses choreographed lights and infrared heaters to convey a powerful historic message. This instillation also encourages the audience to participate by playing a drum kit which triggers spontaneous, flashing lights throughout the room.
However, the interactive aspect of Yang’s work does not take away from their contemporary form, which can be a concern to Yang. For instance, her instillation titled the Boxing Ballet (2013/2015) includes elements of movement and sound as well as spatial, sculptural, and sensorial abstraction in which the audience can participate. Interestingly enough, this remains a concept that Yang strategically works towards even though she admits she often faces institutional restrictions.
Another unique element, propelled by the strong sense of urgency in Yang’s work, is her ability to engage a diverse audience in an open dialogue over the ever-pressing concerns of climate change and global warming. So much so, that Yang, who normally shies against big press meets surrounding her work, participated in a panel with John Morales (chief meteorologist from NBC 6) to merge the expertise between art and science. The panelists discussed how the impact of global climate change trickles down to even local, remote communities. They expanded on the human inclination to predict and control catastrophes, and even touched on stagnant environmental policies during the Trump administration. By joining forces with climate experts, long-time contemporary art followers, and newcomers alike, Yang inspired a fresh perspective and emphasized to her audience that it is our individual responsibility to act towards this international issue. And what is that first step according to Yang? Educating oneself on the subject.
Overall, Yang’s global message in this exhibition will leave a lasting impression in the art world as her eloquent pieces of art are able to transcend culture and time. Yang’s work is concurrently being featured at the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) in New York, as well as museums in Hong Kong, South Korea, and London. A special thanks to the team at the Bass, including Julia Rudo, Communications Manager and Leilani Lynch, Museum Curator for allowing us this opportunity. Yang’s exhibit is on display now until April 5, 2020.
Maitte is an immigration attorney, with the focus on defending unaccompanied refugee children in removal proceedings. She is a freelance writer in her spare time, and you can follow her postings through her Instagram, @maitbarri and to see the stories of the opening night.