Kang’s praxis since graduating from Chelsea College of Arts has increasingly hinged on ideas of presence and dislocation, the personal and the ‘other’. Through the phase-transitions of disappearing and reappearing, ordering and re-ordering Kang offers the viewer a re-enchantment of the everyday: here art is alchemy - constantly in flux, always in the making.
In Nomadic Buoy #1 Kang plays both visible and invisible agent of change; an untethered marker at loose in the world. In the first of two videos the artist can be seen upending the contents of an anonymous apartment – rearranging furniture, books, artworks etc - a visible poltergeist jinxing the illusion of domestic bliss: in the second, a near identical disordering happens but by unseen, unheimlich forces. In both instances the resultant pell-mell pile of commodities resembles the everyday sculpture of the discarded, as regularly seen on street corners and at rubbish tips; the (in)visible fall out from over-production and consumer meltdown revealed in the process.
Similar themes of fragility and determination echo through Kang’s process – from the over-sized pink-paper blooms that carpet a gallery walkway in Azalea (2015) to You Are (2017), where a sapling, planted in a smattering of earth, on top of a side-table stuck in the mudflats of a coastal estuary faces, Canute-like, the rising tide that seemingly threatens its frail purchase on survival. In our concern for the ‘natural’ – as evidenced in the faces of visitors walking gingerly on the fake flowers of Azalea or our own as we watch the waters rise around a small tree - the third-nature matrices of our preconceptions and beliefs are often revealed and rent: nothing is as it seems - the mighty may fall, the weakest can survive. Yet there is no doubting that we all are adrift at sea now, desperately seeking even a nomadic buoy to cling to in our fears for the future and our ambitions for today.
For The structure of a History (2020) the artist is captured in the daily routine of eating and drinking during London’s extended ‘lockdown’ response to the Coronavirus pandemic. The detritus of familiar comestibles – croissants, juices, coffee, dumplings, soup - slowly grows, as plates and bowls stack one on top of the other, gradually filling the expanse of white table upon which she imbibes them. A still life spreading across 66 films and as many days, the structure of this ‘History’ grows until it fills the screen in a jumble of leftovers, a catalogue of what remains.
Through the constant repetition and re-tracing of actions and routines in her workings Kang offers us a broken mirror in which we are reflected grappling with our circumstances but through which we can also glimpse the redundancy that lies behind this beguiling silvered screen. In this spy-glass can be seen the daily grind of both Sisyphean and more earthly toils; humans of the 21st century sat befuddled by new rules and strategies for living, the consumer-spectators frozen in the cold shadow of a systemic collapse of ‘things’ as they were. And yet – amidst all the death and wanton destruction – beauty somehow maintains and abides.
That a relentless optimism persists (despite the Spectacle’s slow strangulation of the real) suggests a smile - not just a rictus grin - can still be located in the memento mori of our once-and-future-Spectacle. And Kang’s work - sensual, hypnotic, staccato, tracing transition and refashioning time and place again and again – aids us in remembering that life can still flourish in the cracks of the monolithic Now - and here Seulgi Kang’s art chimes with the motivations of many Fluxus projects - begs us question the orthodoxies and conceptual hierarchies of our everyday existence as we set-out in the search for our ‘truths’
By David Dorrell
List of main works
2022 The Court of Love, Peace, Gratitude, Patience and Justice, Jinju, Korea
The day before I left Republic of Korea, Seoul, Korea
Un-mindfulness Seoul Action, Seoul, Korea
2021 Lahore, Lahore Kebab House, Whitechapel, London, UK
2020 The day of doom, Sly St, London, UK
The structure of a history, Ashfield St, London, UK
The very special day, Ashfield St, London, UK
2019 Negotiation, Harlesden high street gallery, London, UK
HOME_No.4 Forest and swamps, Harjumaa, Estonia
One chair, Harjumaa, Estonia
Them, Gallery 46, London, UK
Nomadic buoy #1, Warburton St, London, UK
Nomadic buoy #2, Ashfield St, London, UK
2018 Unshakable comfort, Winsstraße, Berlin, Germany
2017 East End garden, Cavell St, London, UK
You are, Chilsan-ro, Yeonggwang, Korea
2016 East Garden (No Exit), Bucheon, Korea
퍼킹어노잉 Kensington Church St, London, UK
No One, Someone, Any signal, Egoist, Kensington Church St, London, UK
안녕하세요 Bupyeong, Incheon, Korea
2015 Relational Aesthetics, Chelsea college of arts, London, UK
사뿐히 즈려밟고 오시옵소서 (Azalea), Chelsea college of arts, London, UK
2014 Welcom project, London, UK