Taking a Leap of Faith: Performing Suki Seokyeong Kang’s Land Sand Strand

Posted on 22 February 2019 by Liverpool Biennial

Activation of Land Sand Strand at Humber Street Gallery, Hull. Photo: David Cleary

Activation of Land Sand Strand at Humber Street Gallery, Hull. Photo: David Cleary

What does it feel like to become part of an artwork? Hull resident Sue Clark spoke to us about her experience of activating Suki Seokyeong Kang’s multi-media installation Land Sand Strand at Humber Street Gallery – from the initial nerves and subsequent sense of tranquillity to contemplating the space we occupy in society.

Suki Seokyeong Kang’s work employs multimedia techniques to create harmonic sculptural works that serve as a spatial translation of the Korean musical notation known as Jeongganbo. This simple form of articulating musical score uses characters referring to specific tones which appear in Jeongs, neatly gridded boxes, and whose singularity or repetition signifies the duration of each note. To activate the installation, a maximum of three performers execute simple movements inspired by the traditional Korean Spring Oriole Dance. The 15-minute performance takes place on intricately woven black matts – hwamunseok – representative of the minimum amount of space human beings need to live.

Suki Seokyeong Kang, Land Sand Strand, 2016–2018. Installation view at Humber Street Gallery, Hull. Photo: Rob Battersby

Taking part in the activation or physical movement part of the exhibition was definitely a ‘leap of faith’ – to say I was out of my comfort zone would be putting it mildly. After initial nerves the first time through, I felt calm and peaceful, almost tranquil.

I was the ‘Strand’element of the performance. This involved making simple line movements with my arms. Between the two arms – one straight and one at a right angle – my hands alternated being open and closed, as if transferring the focus from one to the other. One arm was then lowered, and the other remained straight in front, as I rocked gently forward and backward between being balanced and off balanced, which was then repeated.

I enjoyed the simple, straightforward set of uncomplicated actions and the repetition. The set of movements was in tune with the uncomplicated exhibition objects and seemed to add to their message. Each repetition added to a quiet and peaceful calmness in me.

The performance helped me understand my role, almost like notation on a piece of sheet music, but within the space. Looking back at images of the activations, I can see how the body fits within the Jeong squares. I felt the work related to mathematics in the way the performer fits within the grid naturally, almost as a repetitive sequence or pattern.

The hwamunseok we performed on is representative of the minimum amount of space human beings need to live. I would never have considered that as a human being I don’t need a huge amount of space to exist comfortably – and at 4 ft 11 it should be a doddle! It made me think how I live my life, almost demanding more space than I need, which relates to a lot of people. The work deals with the concept of personal space in a really unique way.

Land Sand Strand presents complex themes which most audiences in the Hull area would find unfamiliar and translates them into something accessible. It’s a great chance for participants to become one of the materials in Kang’s work, no matter their age or experience with performance and contemporary art.

Would I repeat the opportunity? Yes, I would, and indeed am.

Left to right – Land Sand Strand activation performers Adam Peckitt, Sue Clark and David Turner. Photo: David Cleary

Land Sand Strand was originally presented at Bluecoat for Liverpool Biennial 2018 and is on display at Humber Street Gallery in Hull until 31 March 2019, as part of the Liverpool Biennial touring programme. Activations take place bi-weekly throughout the exhibition run.

Sue Clark and fellow performers Adam Peckitt and David Turner are Absolutely Cultured volunteers – a dedicated group who have offered their time to support Humber Street Gallery since it opened in 2017.