do ho suh Apartment A, Corridor and Staircase, 348 West 22nd Street, New York, NY 10011, USA, 2011–2012. Polyester fabric and stainless steel tubes.Apartment A, 271 1/3 x 169 3/10 x 96 7/16 inches. Corridor and Staircase, 488 3/16 x 66 1/8 x 96 7/16 inches. Courtesy the artist and Lehmann Maupin, New York and Hong Kong.
based on his personal memories of architectural spaces, both of his parents’ traditional Korean house in Seoul and his own Western-style apartment in New York. ‘The space I’m interested in is not only a physical one, but an intangible, metaphorical, and psychological one,’ he has said.
he covered every inch of the interior—walls, floors, ceiling, refrigerator, window air conditioner—with paper, then rubbed with a blue-colored pencil, the way a child might preserve the memory of a leaf in the fall. "Rubbing is a different interpretation of space. It’s quite sensuous—very physical and quite sexual," … Viewers were invited to enter some of the installations, heightening the sensation of being in a home, or the memory of one. Suh recalls how his brother, an architect, was disconcerted to see strangers wandering under a version of their family home at a 2000 exhibition at New York’s P.S. 1 museum. … "It’s intrinsically impossible to make them exact," he says. "I wanted to achieve something intangible. It’s about memory, time spent in the space." … For the 2012 Gwangju Biennale in South Korea, for example, Suh recalled the massacre of civilians that followed a protest there in 1980. “News was censored, so we didn’t know what was going on,” Suh says. “When I read the newspaper it was a patch of blanks—that never left me. When school started we students heard what happened in Gwangju from students who were there. Everything was fragmented. I was living only four hours away and didn’t understand what was happening—it made me think about the problems of writing history.”
In response, Suh made rubbings of three spaces around the city. “That’s a lot of rubbing,” he laughs. He and his crew wore blindfolds for one of the rubbings, both as a means of intensifying the already tactile experience of an unfamiliar place and as a metaphor. “I didn’t want to pretend to know about Gwangju,” he says, offering the analogy of tourists visiting a city’s standard landmarks. “You don’t pay attention to the space between the landmarks, and the way we look at history is the same—we only remember the so-called important historical events.”
Therein, Suh says, lies his challenge as an artist. “It’s an existential question of what we believe in this world—there are a lot of holes, but we try to believe it’s whole, the way a lot of people see the house [sculpture] as an exact replica. …”