City Rituals (2012)

Young In Hong’s solo exhibition, City Rituals: Gestures, is conceptually and physically occupying the gap between city space and gallery space – Police Post is built inside the gallery, the graffiti wall is erected there while outside the ‘Artclub 1563’ sign is covered. Instead of the gallery sign, a neon light of an indecipherable image is installed at the entrance of the gallery. Together these pieces suggest a situation where our perception of aesthetics and our perception of ‘ritual patterns’ in public space overlap and entwine.

The new works introduced for this show, situated at both the interior and the exterior space of Artclub 1563, explore the multiple identities given to public space and city dwellers within the socio-politically complex modern city of Seoul. For instance, when police is invited into the gallery space to meet art audience, their duty and role becomes double, they are both part of a work of art and fulfilling their function as police officer by guarding the space and communicating with an audience. On the one hand this doubling might seem absurd but on the other hand it also includes the audience as participators in the artwork. For this exhibition the artist focuses on repetitive patterns that reflect possible collective expectations of the public, or collectively held wishes and believes of city dwellers. Thus each work deals with specific ritual patterns normally performed by different subcultural groups, based on those individual groups’ believes or values. For instance, graffiti is strictly prohibited in Seoul City. As a consequence, graffiti can be a forbidden beauty when it manifests as decorative imagery or it can be forbidden subjective utterances when it manifests as scribbled messages on the walls of back streets or toilets. If we consider that, in psychological terms, the word ‘ritual’ describes the repetitive behaviour systematically used by a person to neutralise or prevent anxiety; it can in this sense represent symptoms of the obsessive–compulsive disorder of a subject. The repetitive patterns of city rituals can then paradoxically be thought both in relation to actions confirming consensus among a majority or a marginal group as well as the pathological defence-mechanisms of individuals. City space and our psycho-physical states form an indivisible set of conditions. The space of the city is an experiential rather than an objective space. By transforming the repetitive patterns and signs of city rituals (such as scribbled graffiti, the act of providing security, purchasing flowers, or neon signs), into aesthetic vocabularies, this exhibition brings together the elements of different languages to create a situation where the experience an audience has of urban society cannot be comprehended anew without taking into account the complexity of the various temporal layers of contemporary city space.

Text from exhibition leaflet, Artclub 1563