By: Madeline Walsh
June 16, 2014
Space has a way of defining not only our behavior but also the different sides of our personalities. One simple example would be how the context of a space causes people to adjust the way they present themselves. When you are at work, you are professional. When you are at home, you are relaxed. Specific sites have the power to mold more than just your work and home selves. Spaces connected to your youth have the power to shape your understanding of self. Special spaces are often steeped in fond memories, or can spark new ideas in many people. These feelings and phenomenons are a universal side-effect of being human. Artists like Swoon and Do Ho Suh explore how to preserve these feelings and replicate them in different locales.
Contemporary artist Do Ho Suh, considers how constant relocation connects to modern ideas of “home” as a universal archetype. Do Ho Suh focuses on the nostalgia of home. The emotional connection we have with home is integral in defining personal identity. It is interesting to note that Soh’s pieces involve reinstalling a “site-specific” work within several different spaces over time. Travel enables many people like Suh to live a semi-nomadic lifestyle. Moving farther and farther away from home makes holding on to a kernel of your core identity all the more important. These pieces allow the artist to take his “home” and identity everywhere.
Do-ho Suh’s “Perfect House” and “Seoul Home/L.A. Home/New York Home/Baltimore Home/London Home/Seattle Home/L.A. Home,” were inspired by the his move from Korea to the United States. Suh immigrated to further his Art education at the Rhode Island School of Design and at Yale University. The transition made Suh feel displaced and home sick. As a result, Suh developed these fabric recreations of his childhood home. A key feature of both pieces are their adaptability. In an interview with PBS’s Art21, Suh explains the piece allowed him to carry his home and identity with him much like a snail carries its shelter on its back. The “Perfect House,” like Suh’s physical self, is installed in different locations and temporarily becomes an extension of its surrounding architecture.
Suh’s installations and artistic process mirror the way people adapt to their environments as well. How we change according to our surroundings says much about the tenacity of human spirit, as well as our desire for connectivity. Street artist Swoon knows all too well about this phenomenon. Almost all of her works center on bringing communities together by directly affecting specific landscapes.
Swoon got her start on the streets of New York City as an alterative graffiti tagger. Main themes that underscore her work today include, a focus on natural or found materials as well as community environments . Swoon began by tagging Brooklyn walls with her wheatpaste images and portraits of people. She credits this stage of her career for feeding her current artistic tract. Since her days of tagging, Swoon has built several alternative living spaces such as her “Swimming Cities of Serenissima,”, installations like “Submerged Motherlands,” and even new community spaces like her Konbit Shelter project. All explore identity through space.
Each of her projects touch upon the emotional, creative and intellectual value we attribute to space. With her Swimming Cities of Serenissmia, Swoon and her crew floated down the Mississippi River, the Hudson River and the Adriatic Sea. The journey attempted to understand how changes in environment due to changing climate would change the way we sustain communities. Swoon’s recent site-specific Brooklyn Museum installation, “Submerged Motherlands,” combines the rafts from her swimming cities with ideas of motherhood. The piece reflects on an emotional space we all share as people. While both these projects play with philosophical elements of human identity, Swoon’s space-based practice is best exemplified by her Konbit Shelter Project.
The Konbit Shelters aimed to provide a community meeting space for the members of the Haitian Cormiers village. The word konbit, literally means “together.” Such a name was quite fitting for this valuable village resource. The structure was built using sustainable resources and found objects in an attempt to support a community deeply affected by the region’s 2010 earthquake. What is most magical about the Konbit community space is its status as a physical manifestation of communal creativity and shared ideas. The project demonstrates how people can charge a space with creative energy or special significance through action.
While our interactions with space are often taken for granted, how we live, work and play in certain spaces can make a huge impact in changing our world.