Do Ho Suh is not home. The corridor of an old apartment in New York, resurrected in a gallery across the Atlantic, has become a ghost architecture. What was a panel of oak, a beveled line of plaster molding, a metal drainage pipe, has reduced in material to yards of translucent chiffon organza blend; walls crafted of a dozen curtains and bridal dresses. Here, they are mint and coral sails of structural fragments, stretched taut against the breeze of a thousand viewers passing through the pulmonary artery of somewhere Do Ho Suh used to live.
This is how the artist reflects his movement: in imaging the places where he has taken pause. This was the corridor in his building in New York, the channel to In from Not In. A place to distinguish between In and Home. Originating from Seoul, Do Ho Suh’s migrations have relocated him much further afield: Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York. In Bristol, he is between homes, but that’s the idea.
When movement has been made by choice, we soak it in the language of agency – it is “an expatriation”. The work of Do Ho Suh diverges from this narrative, supplanting it spatially with installations that stand as markers of a more complex dislocation. New York City Apartment/Corridor/Bristol is a monument to displacement.
The gallery assistants enforce a rule of one in the corridor. I sense it is for reasons of Health & Safety and Not Touching the Art. But what this rule at once enables is a standard of participation in line with the original experience of this corridor. The visitor does alone what Do Ho Suh knew in isolation: the narrow hallway to a rented basement flat in a city not his own, pivoting around the knob of the low bannister, ducking to avoid the stairway overhead.
It is a corridor that has been carefully studied. Here is the light switch, there is the sprinkler head, here is the keyhole, there is the latch. Each feature of the corridor has been stitched in three dimensions onto the walls which drape down and across from a framework of rigid tubing, which is the corridor’s skeleton, running through the seaming of each diaphanous panel.
Visitors in queue outside the corridor are screened by the pigment in each fabric veil to the scene within. Outside, you wait apart from the figure who moves through the space, an apparition of apartment residents before and after the artist, occupying the same basement flat, pivoting around the knob of the low bannister, ducking to avoid the stairway overhead.
The floors above are only theoretical. The artist didn’t live there and besides, this installation isn’t about where he lived, but where he didn’t. It is a work of negatives: where he no longer resided, who no longer lived nearby.
Do Ho Suh’s corridor is a separation manifest in cloth and bean pole plastic boning. It is a conduit to nothing but the other end of the hallway. It is an entrance and an exit. It is a waiting room. It does not lead home. It is a space between.
New York City Apartment/Corridor/Bristol, Do Ho Suh
Bristol Museum & Art Gallery
28 March – 27 September 2015
Kristen Pye works across the arts in Bristol as a gallery assistant and researcher. As a migrant to the UK from Canada, she is interested in dialogues around displacement and belonging in contemporary art.