siding with things at Subtitled NYC
Exhibition by Hyoju Cheon and Yixuan Wu
Curated by Yindi Chen
Three stacked stools, toddler’s wooden playset. Those were the first things I saw while entering the gallery space. I had an illusion of walking into someone’s home and immediately had the instinct to adapt my behaviors accordingly. It didn’t take long before I noticed the surreal texture and unusual movements of the sculpture pieces. The stools, coated with millet and rice, have unnatural lengths of legs that almost evenly hover over the floor while stacked. The wooden bin with a corner pad repeats a steady see-saw motion with its lid. The uncanny form of daily objects sets the tone for the two-person exhibition siding with things of works by artists Hyoju Cheon and Yixuan Wu in the gallery Subtitled NYC.
The word thing is used to refer in an approximate way to an object or to avoid naming it, according to Cambridge Dictionary. In a way, thing is how we relate to an object before recognizing it or after forgetting about it. The exhibition came to fruition from the artists’ shared interest in daily objects and interior space. The sculpture pieces on view utilize the form of readymade objects, such as a coat rack, lamps, and a seesaw, which bear our daily habits, norms, functionality, joy, and sentiments. However, the comfort of routine and intimacy with spaces are to be questioned in the exhibition. Through recreation and transformation of the objects, the artists find grounds between familiarity and strangeness.
It is like bringing us to relearn how to be in the company of things again, as children.
Hyoju Cheon’s motor-driven sculptures were inspired by children’s toys and furniture in the playground. Toomm Ta, a padded wooden rocker is set out to be in a constant gentle motion created by the motor within, placed in the center of the gallery. A boiled egg rests between the curve, a fragile being is falling asleep in repetitive, soft movements. Interested in the unnoticed corners of the interior space, Choen often creates unexpected relations between the existing spatial structures and her works, aside from the fact that they often already take form in building elements: they come down from the ceiling, stick out from a wall, or stand in the way, creating a gentle interruption and reminder of our movements within spaces.
Yixuan Wu sets her works into motion by reinventing themselves as everyday objects through their out-of-the-context texture, placement, form, scale, and combination and transforming the surroundings altogether. Kitchen sponges accumulated and placed on the floor, two wall lamps mounted on each side of the wall corners, and two socks made of soap; they carry counter-intuitive materialistic and cultural details and challenge our perception of domestic spaces. Wu’s works are influenced by the experience of living with a family member with memory loss, who lives by the mismatched memory of tools, furniture, and space. Thing, without a name, and with only approximation, again, becomes the most accurate word used to describe how one could associate life with objects.
siding with things is an exhibition that looks at the concept of comfort and protection in our daily life and reexamines emotional and habitual meanings endowed on materials.
Written by Yihsuan Chiu
Yihsuan Chiu is an independent curator based in Berlin and NYC. Chiu’s work focuses on contemporary artistic practice as an outlet to negotiate complex historical narratives due to immigration, warfare, modernity and a system of coercion. She holds an M.A. from the Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College (CCS Bard) and a B.A. in History from National Taiwan University.
*siding with things will run at Subtitled NYC until July 9. To learn more about the gallery at https://subtitlednyc.com/