Do-Ho Suh came to the attention of the international art world in 2001 when he represented Korea at the 49th Venice Biennale.
2010 Biennial Year Find out more
His life and art are split between two realms, Korea being his home country and America his adoptive one, and his practice continuously attempts to bridge these two cultural spheres or biographical references.
His interest in collective and personal space derives from his Korean upbringing. As the artist remarks, Seoul is a very crowded city. Because of this population density, it is completely acceptable for a person to invade the private space of another, and the perception of individual space is significantly different from elsewhere. In Do-Ho Suh’s case, the sense of unavoidable physical proximity that one typically experiences in any Asian metropolis was augmented by his undertaking two years’ compulsory military service. The army transformed the artist’s own body into a plural entity, following the basic military principle of cohabitation informed by the paradigm of togetherness, in consequence of which the Self is depersonalised in favour of the collective Us.
Works such as Uni-Form/s: Self Portrait/s: My 39 Years (2006) – a rack displaying all the uniforms worn by the artist throughout his life both at school and in the army – clearly address Do-Ho Suh’s concerns about the impact of the homogeneity enforced by uniforms on the personality and freedom of individuals.
Memory plays a key role in the artist’s work, as does nostalgia, most noticeably in his ethereal reconstructions of Korean buildings, transparent and evanescent as in a dream, suspended in a sort of timeless limbo. The artist, notwithstanding his longing for the past, is aware that nothing remains the same. His memories (although meticulously translated in his works) never match the actual state of things.
Do-Ho Suh has explored the possibility of coming to terms with his divided cultural background through syncretic elements that integrate eastern and western influences. Moving against the notion of cultural clash (that is to say two worlds or civilisations colliding), he envisions a new cultural and visual domain, which results from the fusion of his diverse and, at times, conflicting experiences. The seeds of the artist’s process of hybridisation fertilised the British soil with his commission for Touched, Bridging Home. Bridging Home was a scale model of the artist’s own Korean house from his childhood wedged between two buildings on Duke Street.
Bridging Home, 2010
Mixed media outdoor installation
Commissioned by Liverpool Biennial 2010
Exhibited at 84-86 Duke Street
The Henry Moore Foundation