Korean artist Donghee Koo's recent exhibition Delivery integrates video, installations, spatial aesthetics, and architectural design in her show at the Art Sonje Center in Seoul. The artist, who often works around issues of daily life, speaks to STIR - highlighting themes of migration, the delivery system in Korea, and the impact of technology on the pace and structure of our lives, in her latest show.
Sukanya Garg (SG): Why the delivery system? What was the trigger to work on this theme?
Donghee Koo (DK): I am the one who is a big consumer using the delivery system. So, how I came up with this idea was (that) I first received a map of Art Sonje building; the shape looks similar to a pizza from above, a slice of it. I tried to extend that idea and thought about how I can connect it with external ideas. A lot of my work has something to do with daily routine. So, I found an element because the delivery system is a big boom in South Korea because of the Korean temperament to push up everything in a hurry. I feel that’s how they develop high technology. I have been using the delivery app for five years, especially for food, and also while preparing for the exhibition for handling and shipping.
In a traditional sense, the concern of the art piece is very important in order to exhibit something. I was focusing on the ecosystem all around, and so while preparing for the exhibition, I thought maybe I should broaden the idea from one slice of pizza to the delivery system. But, to come up as an art piece, I try not to criticise society or the transportation system of products, but instead focus on how people are involved and that working harder has been problematic.
SG: How was your work influenced by the architecture of the place it is exhibited in? Could you talk about the spatial dynamics and design elements of the exhibition?
DK: Pizza could have been other foods or objects or non-objects, but it is something to do with the shape of space, where it is being exhibited. It has something to do with reality, who will walk inside the exhibition venue, their realisation about what is happening and then the duration of the exhibition itself.
However, it is not direct; while you see the process of how things are delivered, but it is like shifting the perspective. Sometimes the main subject could be the exhibition or the audience. So I made a kind of play.
SG: Could you share details about the exhibition view and its flow? Does it reference deeper societal concerns?
DK: It is not mimicking the whole process of what a delivery system is in reality, but it is some kind of meta-experience of what’s left. For example, there is a part where you walk in, there is a stairway, it doesn’t function. Architecturally it is a stairway, so once you go on, there is a siren that is ringing in the deepest side of the corner where the circular stairway goes on. So people have a tendency to watch inside, so it is something different from just looking around and going away outside the exhibition. It is like you have to find something and the form itself makes you feel like you will discover something. But that thought is very tricky because it could cause some accident; it is a bit dangerous to get closer, so on the one hand, I put the siren to prevent people from falling in and on the other hand it makes a ringing sound like the sound of a bell ringing and you hear the sound of the answering machine which says, “please leave it at the door”.
I took this sound from the writing brochures that I used when I ordered products on the internet because I live by myself without family. There has been an increase in Korean society of single people living by themselves. It’s been changing a lot as in Korean society, you usually belong to one family or live with family members. But these days a lot of young people live alone. There is nobody who is going to get your order in person from the delivery man. So it evokes some kind of thought like there is nothing or nobody. In this sense, I thought that the object to deliver could be the exhibition as a whole by creating some non-functional, pseudo-architectural parts that exist as elements of the exhibition. I put the flyer that’s sort of mimicking the delivery system but what you deliver has something to do with the relation between the audience and the exhibition as an idea.
There has been an increase in Korean society of single people living by themselves. It’s been changing a lot as in Korean society, you usually belong to one family or live with family members. But these days a lot of young people live alone. There is nobody who is going to get your order in person from the delivery man. So it evokes some kind of thought like there is nothing or nobody. – Donghee Koo
SG: Symbolically and subjectively, what is the intent behind this exhibition?
DK: It is sort of about the problems in catching up with technology in order to make a consumer get the service as fast as possible. But, at the same time, about people who put their labour in the delivery system. There has been a lot of news about how these people are having burnouts and some people have actually passed away from the overworking system. I, therefore, try to make some relation with the physicality of the exhibition itself as a disorientation. What I mean is, because your life becomes so convenient due to the development of new technology, such that everything is faster and faster and faster, that your body itself doesn’t move.
However, I try to make a shift through installations where the potential exhibition viewer should move their body around positively. So, I made a path. Once you walk in the exhibition hall, there are some choices where you have to decide which way you have to go, but once you go on some path, you have to go all the way around. So it takes a longer time. It’s more like a labyrinth. Also, there are some kinds of movements where you have to walk around in order to see something. I put really tiny little objects so you can have a closer observation than the usual speed of viewing art. Through this kind of material-ness of spatial perception, I tried to find the moment where the way you walk transforms where you see. I try to differentiate between the experience of the body itself and what you watch. So it’s sort of a mixture. The whole structure is a mixture so the audience can control their speed to be part of this exhibition.
Also, I try not to criticise in a social perspective with this exhibition, but I try to portray a visual reminder of where we are and what the situation is. There is a comparison with the nature of the art exhibition as a medium and approach.
SG: Lastly, tell us what STIRs you up?
DK: What’s going to be the next menu (laughs)!(Delivery was on view at Art Sonje Center until September 01, 2019.)