Intro Motion Ditch
March 6 - May 1, 2010
S1 Artspace, Art Sheffield, Sheffield, UK
Courtesy of Galerie Barbara Wien, Berlin
Photo: S1 Artspace
For Art Sheffield 2010 - Life: A User’s Manual,S1 Artspace has commissioned Berlin based artist Haegue Yang
to develop Intro Motion Ditch, a solo presentation of a new installation.
A key concern in Life: A Users Manual is the notion of ‘affect’. Often used interchangeably with the
experience of feeling or emotion, it refers more precisely to an intermediate state of being distantiated and fully
immersed, of perceiving and understanding. It has the potential of transition: when you affect something, you
are at the same time opening yourself up to being affected in turn, and in a slightly different way than you
might have been the moment before. Affecting or being affected are not two different capacities - they go
In Haegue Yang’s installation Intro Motion Ditch, the viewer is invited into a seductive setting in which to
encounter a number of objects. Three large geometric triangles divide the space acting as both a device to
obscure and reveal. The use of fog machines further act as a tool to conceal as forms submerge and the ground
slowly disappears - suggesting a place of fiction or myth. Mass produced household objects such as drying
racks, light bulbs, candles and vases are assembled in carefully considered configurations across the gallery. Her
carefully interwoven textual structure creates an underlying sense of unease and uncertainty. Yang transmits an
existential view on deprivation, vulnerability and recognised human condition, elaborated through an artistic
strategy of abstraction and affect.
Intro Motion Ditch evolved from a text Haegue Yang wrote in 2009 titled The Story of a Bear-Lady in a Sand
Cave. The text references two existential stories; the first Dangun is the foundation myth of Korea. According
to the legend, a tiger and a bear were instructed to eat only garlic and mugwort and remain out of sunlight for
100 days in a cave. The tiger gave up after twenty days, however the bear remained and transformed into a
woman who then married the son of heaven and gave birth to Dangun, the forefather of Koreans. The second
story Woman in the Dunes is a novel by Kobo Abe - later made into a film by Hiroshi Teshigahara (1964). It
tells the story of a young widow forced to live in a wooden house at the bottom of a cavernous ditch in the
dunes. There she is faced with the continuous task of shovelling falling sand to maintain her existence. In both
stories the place of ‘home’ becomes a site of endurance, routine and act of devotion. In Yang’s story the main
character also lives in isolation, in a dark cave with blocked vision. There she diligently shovels out sand to
survive, an act closely associated with life, but not necessarily a life without choice, it is a life by choice. As
she bails out the sand she creates a wave like pattern, which becomes an aesthetic act as well as an ethical one.
It is not understood by the others or adequately communicated between the two and is instead based on a
singular devotion for the world.
For Yang, the ‘domestic’ acts as a metaphor for existence. The ‘domestic’ in the more homely or task driven
sense is often thought of as a safe protective environment. It is less commonly associated with the tragic or
pessimistic. In her book Practicalities (1987), Marguerite Duras - the French writer and film director - reflected
on home as a place where people return to commit suicide. This characteristic of the home is a condition subtly
explored in her practice through an implied or precise critique of social and artistic institutions or systems.
Yang mediates a notion of abstraction that is underpinned by a rigorous conceptual focus even if underlying
sentiment manifests rather specific narratives. This particular language of abstraction often characterized by
sensorial devices, such as moving lights, scent emitters, fans and so on, enable the artist to translate her
narrative into physical experiences in space.
Press release, S1 Artspace, Art Sheffield, 2010
The Story of a Bear-Lady in a Sand Cave, 2009