Inadequate Metaphors, 2013
*The project title is provisional and can be changed
This project is related to my investigation on a 19th century poet, Emily Dickinson’s life and her poetic space that is interwoven with my own personal narrative. I am interested in the idea of the house as a physical and architectural space for dwelling and creating, and at the same time as a metaphysical space as the expanding labyrinth of the human mind.
About two years ago, I moved my studio to the empty house where my husband had lived for twenty years before marriage. His grand parents passed away while living in the house and all the family members including his parents and four sisters gradually moved out, and the house had been empty for a while. There are a lot more stories to tell but the fact is, one day I happened to be in that house.
From my mother in law, I had heard many stories about what happened while all the family members were living there, so I could say that I know about the house, its light and shadow. But as all the memories sunken into the interior are not part of my own, I am always the stranger, or the guest without the host. Now I am the only one left in the house, but I am still and always outside or on the threshold. It is inaccessible and I often get disorientated. I feel intimate and inadequate at the same time.
I have made most of the Still Life works using mostly existing objects in the house. I worked in an intuitive and not predetermined way, just letting things happen and concentrating on the perception of the objects in front of my eyes. As a result, works unintentionally revealed my unresolved thoughts and feelings about the space, and in this project, the house itself became a massive object for my work. I am within it.
Around the time I moved in, I came to know about Emily Dickinson. I was deeply drawn to her esoteric way of life and eccentric space of language. I often thought about the house where she locked herself for almost twenty years. In 19th century New England, highly patriarchal and puritan society, and under the conservative literary tradition centered on male poets, an introverted female poet’s withdrawal to the interior space could be a predictable scenario. She chose to stay in the house, and in this almost like a living tomb, she often lyricized the death. But she didn’t make a suicide like Virginia Wolf or Silvia Plath or many others. Instead, unnoticed by anyone, in extreme passivity and immobility, she created nearly 1,800 poems with extraordinary beauty and brutality.
They are complex and inextricable so much as her life itself. I feel intimate feeling of rejection from her poetry. But when I understand and respect this nature of inaccessibility, they slowly and cautiously allow me to enter in. Reading Dickinson, I find a certain kind of profound skepticism about the language as means of communication, as much as her sincere faith on the power of the lexicon which can creates vastness of images, and it has a sort of affinity with my own skepticism about photographic images as a way of conveying ideas or intentions. I recognize its limits and frustration, but try and allow these limits to be the possibility.
For the last six months, I have regularly visited a glass house where I took numerous photographs of domesticated plants. I was captivated by their state of passivity and immobility, like the way I was drawn to Dickinson. But there is something radical about it. They are so still and quiet, but if you give yourself enough time to look at them, you realize that they are growing. Growing is not visible but you sense it. It is uncontrollable and nearly animalistic. And one day I find the same glass house looks quite empty, and soon I recognize some of them are trimmed and removed for maintenance in order to keep the density of the plants in the space. The outgrowth of plants becomes a threat in this confined glasshouse. I find they are ironically beautiful.
These images of the house are for me, at the end, a way of thinking about the process of thought and creation, which cannot easily be deciphered and its circumference cannot be measured. In Berlin Chronicle, Walter Benjamin talks about his experience of losing his way in a Tiergarten, an urban park in central Berlin. He called this act of losing one’s way as ‘art’, which requires some schooling. My working process is not very different from this, getting lost voluntarily in the most intimate places in order to see things in a different way, or in a better way. To keep this sense of disorientation demands some degree of attentiveness and practice.
I deeply agree with Benjamin about calling it as ‘Art’.
Born in 1974, Seoul, South Korea.
Currently lives and works in Seoul, South Korea
2007 MA Photography (with Distinction), London College of Communication, London
2003-2005 BA(Hons) Photography, London College of Communication, London
1996 BA Painting, Hong-ik University, Seoul
2014 Heeseung Chung, PKM Gallery, Seoul
2014 Inadequate Metaphors, HADA Contemporary Gallery, London
2013 The 11th Daum Prize Artist Exhibition – Inadequate Metaphors, ArtSonje Center, Seoul
2012 Still Life, Doosan Gallery, New York
2011 Unphotographable, Doosan Gallery, Seoul
2008 Persona, Gallery Wa, Seoul
[Selected Group Exhibitions]
2014 Art Spectrum 2014, Leeum Samsung Museum of Art, Seoul
2014 Photography and Media: 4AM, Seoul Museum of Art, Seoul
2013 Heeseung Chung, Richard Kolker, Jochen Klein, Stiftung Ruoff, Nurtingen
2013 Chung Heeseung & Je Baak, Hada Contemporary, London
2011 Songeun Art Award Show, Songeun Art Space, Seoul
2010 The Triumph of Failure, South Hill Park, Bracknell
2010 I love your profile, Espacio Menosuno, Madrid
2010 Singapore International Photography Festival, National museum of Singapore, Singapore
2010 Divided Gaze, Kwanhoon Gallery, Seoul
2010 I love your profile, University of Cadiz, Cadiz
2010 Maden Pictures, Arario Gallery, Cheonan
2010 The Triumph of Failure, Noam Gallery, Seoul
2009 Photography as Contemporary Art, Doosan Gallery, Seoul
2008 Seoul International Photography Festival, Ancient Seoul station, Seoul
2008 4482_Emerging Korean artists in London, Barge House, London
2008 Photo España 2008 Descubrimientos PHE, Consejeria de Cultura y Turisimo, Madrid
2008 Sensibility of the Artist, Ssamzie Art Mart, Seoul
2007 Nikon Discovery awards, London Olympia, Conference Centre.
2007 MAP 2007 Final Show, London College of Communication, London
2007 Photography for Beginners, LCC Eckersley Gallery, London
2012 Daum Art Prize, GEONHI Art Foundation, Korea
2011 Souneun Art Award, Songeun Art Foundation, Korea
2008 Photo España 2008 Descubrimientos PHE, Short listed, Spain
2008 Critical Mass Top 50, Photolucida, USA
2007 Nikon Discovery awards, Short listed, UK
2007 ‘Sproxton Memorial Award’ for best in show, London College of Communication, UK
Art bank, Korea
Songeun Art Foundation
Doosan Gallery, Korea
Arario gallery, Cheonan, Korea
University of the Arts London
Roland Cowan Architects, London
Private collections – UK and Korea