About the Exhibition
Kukje Gallery is pleased to present [– verse], a solo exhibition by Jae-Eun Choi. Primarily based in Japan and Germany, Choi last exhibited in Korea at the Rodin Gallery in 2007. Working with diverse mediums ranging from sculpture, installation and architecture, as well as photography, video and sound, Choi’s practice fuses delicate techniques of observation with monumental subjects and scale, in works that evoke subtle and profound curiosity about the natural world.
[– verse] is mainly comprised of video and sound pieces that capture the night sky, photographs depicting the sunrise, and drawings with short verses of poetry on antique paper. Throughout her oeuvre, the artist has investigated and reflected on the accumulation of time and the life cycle found in natural rhythms. In this exhibition the art extends her focus to examine the firmament in various times of day, a subject that can be described jeongjoongdong, which translates as “subtle movements in silence”.
About the Works
Jae Eun Choi emigrated from Korea to Japan in the mid-1970s to study fashion design. She enrolled at Sogetsu School, a leading Japanese avant-garde art institution at the time. There, she studied Ikebana, a traditional Japanese art of flower arrangement, and became interested in space, and the vitality of plants which is borne out of the relationship between a plant and its vase. Her exposure to Western avant-garde art, including Fluxus and Minimal Art, through encounters with Joseph Beuys and Nam June Paik at the Sogetsu School, inspired Choi to expand her work by reinterpreting the sculptural qualities of Ikebana. Furthermore, it allowed the artist to begin to conceptualize a sculptural practice that explores time as well as space.
Begun in 1986, the World Underground Project is a body of work that frames the artist’s intense interest in the life and history contained in the earth’s strata. The project began with the artist burying many layers of paper deep underground, in several places around the world, and then unearthing them a number of years later. The subtle changes in the paper after their internment recorded geological time. In other words, the residue on the paper – generated by the earth’s structural heterogeneity – manifests and materializes the invisible concept of time.
A solo exhibition by Jae-Eun Choi held at the Hara Museum of Contemporary Art in 2010, [Forests of Aœoka], was inspired by the story of Emperor Aœoka, who established India’s first unified empire. The exhibition was based on Aœoka’s decision to classify trees for five different uses: for medicine, fruit, firewood, building material, and flowers. The exhibition included an installation of old trees arranged on the floor so that the audience could walk on them and hear their own footsteps. In addition there was a video showing a close-up of the roots of an ancient tree. Here, the artist again turned to natural phenomenon to symbolize life and the life energy that transcends time.
Jae-Eun Choi has continuously investigated natural elements such as soil and trees revealing complex and beautiful stories about the cycle of life. For this solo exhibition, Choi turns her gaze toward the sky and offers a fresh perspective on the relationship between humans and the heavens above us. Her interest is rooted in the ancient past and the history of humans acquiring knowledge about the world and keys to survival by interpreting the constellations and the weather. They were in awe of the ever-changing sky and some even regarded it as the realm of the Gods and absolute power. The sky is a universal space that is open equally to everyone from any place. It has long been a subject of contemplation as humans ceaselessly looked to the sky and established their coordinates as well as inquired as to the meaning of existence. Whether one looks to the cultures of the East or the West, the night sky is the subject of countless myths and tales, in addition to works of art and literature.
Installed in the first floor gallery is Finitude, a work consisting of three videos and sound. Finitude captures the night sky in Storkow, Germany as well as the sounds of the artist walking on a cobblestone street. Each of the videos shows the sky in three different directions, and they feature a recording of the movement of the sky for approximately eight hours, from dusk until dawn in real-time. Though the videos may appear like still images of the night sky, they slowly capture the exquisitely quiet flow of time and the subtle and minute movements of the moon, stars, clouds and air. Moreover, the juxtaposition of the artist’s footsteps receding and approaching alongside the recording of the night sky awakens the viewer’s senses, forcing us to listen and to perceive the subtle, barely perceptible elements in the night. As suggested by the title “finitude”, the footsteps evoke the journey of a pilgrim on their way to find enlightenment or the steps of a poet walking on a starry night; Finitude provides an opportunity for the viewer to ruminate on human frailty beneath the massiveness of the night sky.
When we look at the stars in the sky, we are seeing the light of stars that are many light years away and we literally are seeing the light of the distant past. Similarly, Finitude does not show chronically arranged, objective, and linear time, but instead reveals an overlap of the temporal qualities of a star that is of millions of light years away, the temporal qualities created by the artist in the process of filming on video, and the temporal qualities of the viewer who is looking at the work in present time. These slices of time endlessly repeat and circulate, each one creating a new moment. By allowing the viewers to become aware of the overlapping structure of time, Choi creates the possibility and the experience of a new visual verse.
The works on the second floor of the Gallery provides a dramatic contrast to those featuring the night sky. In these works the artist captures the sun at sunrise rising from the dark night sky till dawn. Verse_Puglia, Italy, 2012, is comprised of 50 photographs taken during sunrise in one-minute intervals. Portraying the transformation from the space of darkness—which is symbolic of death, to a space of birth—this work visualizes a single moment of the perpetual “cycle” of the universe. Consisting of 25 drawings, The Myriad of Things depicts words and sentences – similar to short poems – that the artist has composed while working in her studio. These drawings contain short, powerful phrases like “OLD PINE TREE THAT HAS LIVED 1001 YEARS”, “A GIRL WITH A NAME LUCY” or “THE HOUSE THAT CONTINUOUSLY CIRCULATES.” The artist has taken these word poems and written them in old, abandoned books that were found on the streets. Made on different papers and on top of faded blank pages, the drawings weave together the artist’s gestures with her unique language. The work simultaneously represents the accumulation of time and the uncertainty of life. It is also a vital link to the artist’s ongoing work World Underground Project.
With her attention to materials and the everyday rhythms of nature, Jae-Eun Choi continuously explores themes of the finite and infinite, the flow of time, the human perception of these complexities and the cycles inherent in life. In this exhibition, she integrates and expands on these seminal themes by visualizing our lives as being akin to poems in verse.