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Hye Yeon Nam Solo show

  • Location:
    Buffalo Arts Studio, 2495 Main Street, Buffalo, NY, 14214, US

Place: Buffalo Arts Studio, Buffalo, New York
Date: Jan 15-March 12, 2011
Hye Yeon Nam: “Singularis”
Korean-born artist Hye Yeon Nam’s works, though largely based on her individual circumstances of moving to the United States, are universal in their exploration of cultural expectations, social anxieties, body image, and the boundaries between public and private space. Wonderland is a surreal video in which Nam wanders the sidewalks of NYC’s Times Square, dazing indifferently at passersby who all seem to be walking in reverse. As if caught in a dream or having momentarily awoken from one, she glides, somewhat awkwardly yet deliberately, through the unsuspecting crowd. Even after the viewer discovers the artist’s editing trick (it is actually Nam who is walking backward with the video played in reverse), what remains truly remarkable and uncanny is her ability to navigate one of the largest tourist areas in the world without so much as brushing up against another human being; the artist’s keen awareness of her body moving through space and the fact that others are so aloof and unaffected by her bizarre movements heighten the overwhelming sense of loneliness. The utterly minimal work, while lacking any semblance of emotion, conflict, or climax, nonetheless succeeds in epitomizing the inevitable feelings of curiosity, amazement, confusion, and isolation that result from significant cultural transitions. While Nam’s own vulnerability is portrayed in Wonderland, the gaze is turned back on the viewer in Please Smile, a motion-sensitive interactive robot that makes gestures such as finger pointing in response to viewers’ facial expressions. The work enables the viewer to empathize with Nam’s struggle to adhere to Confucian ideals regarding women’s role in society, as well as her experiences with prejudice and ridicule upon arriving in America. She explains, “The space of being neither here following correct rule nor there following
incorrect rule is precisely what I try to convey”; that Nam has selected neither a Korean nor an English title for her exhibition, but the Latin Singularis (“Solitary”) instead, further suggests this displacement. Self Portrait is a series of four videos in which the artist performs mundane tasks (eating, walking, drinking, and sitting) with unusual difficulty. By willingly subjecting herself to public humiliation and exposing her limitations and frustrations in witty and poignant ways, Nam tackles her adversity head-on, discovering solace and proving that “art can be a question, an argument, a proposal, a resolution, and, ideally, a nirvana.”
- Cori Wolff, Exhibitions Curator