Artistic Practice of Genuine Touch

Fatos Ustek

Something always touches me, when I encounter works of Young In Hong. Diverse in their nature of expression and issue, Hong’s works span a distinct nature of sources and outcomes. In her latest work Where is Plin?, 2009 Hong initiates a one-to-one search in the streets of London for a 32-year-old female who has been missing for months. Printouts reading the description of the female under the captions of ‘missing’ are fly posted on common areas, used as a means of encounter with the passer-bys. Hong not only interrogates Plin’s unknown story through posting her portrait image in common places but also through approaching the people at shopping malls, bus stops, on streets and involving them in a conversation. Hong is looking for someone, not as an artist but as an anonymous person who seeks for a beloved. Her anonymity of searching for someone is a commonly accepted fact when it comes to living in cities. Cities, where masses reside, are unlike small towns or villages, where the unexpected, uncanny, unknown can take place. Hong is not directly pointing out the degradation of human relationships in a city or the fact that people tend to construct distances to one another for the sake of security and sustainability. Hong’s search is a poetic one: she almost seeks for herself, for her unknown other, through the responses of the people she encounters. The visible and invisible responses open up the sphere of the work into another dimension, where we start to question the nature of art work and the drawn parallels. Like in the case of an artist who cannot control the audiences of the art work, Hong allows her work to take part mostly in the invisible domain, in the mind of others as a question mark which they will evoke (possibly and preferably at some stage) in their daily.

Hong uses a variety of media; one of the prominent mediums we come across with in her works is the machine-sown image. She compiles, reproduces images through her sewing machine. Double Encounter, 2009 is an installation composed of a large curtain and light. The curtain carries portraits of various people, some of which resemble a familiarity. Transparent nature of the curtain influences the work to have a ghostly appearance; a stronger one with the reflection on the walls of the premises of its display. Among the reasons of Hong choosing a sewing machine to produce her works – such as sewing being the cheapest labour in her country, and the production of images is an irreversible process, her relation to the concept of time is significant. Hong, in line with Bergsonian time concept, initialises the condition of individualised time rather than the western conceptualisation of time as linear. In the making of her works, Hong signifies the space-place-time relationship: the piece is an outcome of the rhythm of the sewing machine as well as the imaginative entries of Hong. Hong’s relationship to her artworks recall Kantian concept of favour where the artist and the work of art are in a continuous encounter with each other influencing the process of production. Hong’s series of works introduced in the exhibition Fantasy Studio at A foundation, Liverpool is composed of large-scale collage works where sewing machines as well as digital printing are put in use. Her collages are not only the gathering of images from various sources but reproducing her own imagery based on her memory and experience.

In her recent collective piece Miner’s Orange Parade, 2009 Hong initiates a parade composed of locals from Sabuk Village in Korea. The village, specific in its socio-political and economic concerns, is currently under a regeneration process, where casinos have been introduced to town to attract wealthy visitors. The imagined plan of cultivating the economic state of the village has been pushed back via the locals attending to the casinos. The unexpected-expected outcome of the regeneration has taken the interest of the artist where she also has assigned a colour of protest to the collective parade. In the work, Hong is an artist who initiates the triggering of effect rather than the main protestor. In this sense she influences the becoming of the village.

Lastly, Young In Hong’s gentle interest in issues she chooses to deal with is highly influential. The genuine works of art that are formed as result of these variant processes, display a capacity of transcending their subject matter to their audience.

Fatos Ustek

Independent art critic & curator
Editor nowiswere