Artists in Residence The Walker Art Center's Residency Program Wed, 24 Mar 2010 19:49:18 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Theatrical Workshop: The Malady of Death Thu, 28 Jan 2010 18:23:41 +0000 Justin Heideman As part of the second phase of her residency, Yang will further her in-depth exploration of Duras by developing the staged presentation of the author’s surrealistic novella The Malady of Death. Working with Jade Gordon of the performance collective My Barbarian, Yang will develop the play during a private three-day theatrical workshop at the Walker.

Jade Gordon, Photo courtesy the artist

Jade Gordon, Photo courtesy the artist

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Seminar #9 Self-Publishing Thu, 22 Oct 2009 22:00:08 +0000 Sarah Peters The table in the conference room was strewn with books, magazines and other printed matter for our last official session of the seminar. The subject was self-publishing and our guide for the night was Walker’s Senior Designer Emmet Byrne.

A fan of small press publication, artist’s books, design zines and all other forms of independent-publishing, Emmet gave us a jumping mini-history of self-publishing. Trolling through time, he started with Virgina Woolf’s Hogarth Press, founded in 1917 by the writer and her husband. According to Woolf, using a press made her much more conscious of the written word, enabling her to think of text visually, as in blocks of words to be arranged on the page.

Moving along, he showed images of different resistance newspapers published during WWII and then talked about a later underground form of publishing, samizdat, the practice of reproducing banned text in the Soviet Union leading up to the successful resistance in the 1980s. The term translates from Russian to mean “itself” (sam) “publishing” (izdatelstvo), yet former Soviet political dissident, author and political activist Vladimir Bukovsky defined it as follows: “I myself create it, edit it, censor it, publish it, distribute it, and get imprisoned for it.”

Emmet also talked about the developments in copy machine technology that yielded countercultural output starting in the 1970s, and then advances in design software that made publishing available to anyone with a desktop computer. The last stop on Emmet’s tour covered the newest trends in print-on-demand through sites such as

Another form of resistance publishing we looked at is the practice of leaflet bombs (or leaflet balloons in this case), where propagandistic messages are distributed aerially in places where crossing land borders is difficult. This tactic, practiced by entities ranging from South Korean activists to the U.S. Army, may have an uncomfortable place in a conversation about self-publishing. It begs the question about what “publishing” is and what comprises the “self” in such an act. Must it be an individual? Can it be an institution? What happens when it is the state?

This question of definition is pertinent to this seminar for another reason. This residency includes the possiblity of a publication to reflect on the project with contributions for those involved. Open-ended by nature, this component is still being determined. As a way into thinking about the publication and the roles different kind of print pieces play in museums (such as catalogs and gallery guides), Emmet presented this list of words for us all to think about:

Public Private

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Seminar #8: On Marguerite Duras (Part 2) Mon, 12 Oct 2009 20:23:54 +0000 Andria Hickey On Saturday, October 2, the residency group gathered for our second session looking at the work of Marguerite Duras. To prepare, the group read texts on Duras’ biography, her thoughts on writing and theatre, as well as a seminal critical text written by French feminist theorist, Julia Kristeva, (The Pain of Sorrow in the Modern World: The Works of Marguerite Duras , 1987). Part 2 of our discussion on Duras focused on film, so we began the day in the Walker Cinema watching a slightly grainy VHS copy of Moderato Cantabile, a 1960 film directed by Peter Brook, based on the novel of the same name by Duras. Despite the VHS format (screening copies of films written or directed by Duras that contain English subtitles are actually hard to come by), Moderato Cantabile was a beautiful film to watch that presented many of the recurring themes in Duras’ work: the impossibility of love, the characters trying to learn love, the violence of love, the boredom of petit-bourgeois life, and invented memory, as well as the presence of water, gendered gazes and repetition.

Our post-screening conversation wound through these themes with assistance by Anne-Marie Gronhovd and Joelle Vitiello, the group’s resident scholars on French literature and cinema. Anne-Marie talked about the novel The Ravishing of Lol V. Stein (1964) and the persistence appearance of female characters in Duras’ work who display a definitive solitude; a lonliness that cannot be solved by marriage or domesticity. Joelle dove into Duras’ biography to speak about three key themes: childhood, politics, and love and death that appear repeatedly in the artist’s work.

The afternoon concluded with a brief conversation about the series of public programs Haegue is working on for the second phase of the residency in February: a staged reading of The Malady of Death (1988)and a series of four films directed by Duras. As more details about these programs are determined, information will be posted here.

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Seminar #7: On Objects and Abstraction (Part 2) Thu, 08 Oct 2009 22:29:00 +0000 Sarah Peters There is a lot more to an art museum than what you see in the galleries, and in the case of the Walker, on the screen and stage. Behind every exhibition is a group of people that constructed the gallery walls, built the frames, hung the work, set the lights, figured out how to make the installation fit and on and on. This session took us to the basement of the Walker where this group of people, Program Services, or more affectionately, “the Crew” work their magic behind the scenes to ensure the successful completion of any artist’s work.

Standing around in the Carpentry shop, we listened to the members of the crew talk about the every-day tasks of their jobs, and in particular the little known role they often play in assisting artists (note: most of the crew are artists themselves). At the core of this work is problem-solving, which you could say comprises much of art making in the first place.

The example before us that afternoon was a work being made by Haegue with the assistance of Phil Docken, a master carpenter and painter. The materials for this piece range from a greeting card display rack to colorful lures and bobbers from the tackle shop–ound or purchased by Haegue, Phil, Andria, and seminar participant Joseph Imhauser in their explorations of Minneapolis. As Haegue determined how these elements fit together sculpturally, Phil has another very important task: weather proofing. After its completion, this piece will be installed outside on the terrace off of the Medtronic Gallery and will be up through the end of the exhibition in February. This means the work must be built to withstand wind, rain, snow and ice–an extreme environment that Haegue has not made this type of work in before. The piece has lights, so Phil showed us the weather-proof strategy he devised for the electrical wiring that keeps consistent with Haegue’s aesthetic of leaving all the cords and connectors exposed to the viewer. Titled Mill Town Dude (2009), this work has “sibling-like” relationship to another work in the exhibition, Hippie Dippie Oxnard (2008) which was made in Los Angeles from found objects in that city.

Here are some pictures of Haegue’s work space in the Walker carpentry shop. And also some photos taken of Haegue forging for fishing flies, and other foreign objects at Joe’s Sporting Goods in St. Paul…

(thank you Joseph!)

IMG_0016 IMG_0017 IMG_0020 IMG_0022 IMG_0011 IMG_0023 IMG_0027 IMG_0028 IMG_0035 IMG_0026

Through this example of seeing how ideas and objects come together to make forms, we also learned that the process of working with an artist to realize a work can be more like a collaboration than a service. The crew’s collective knowledge in all things technical, combined with their understanding of the impulses of contemporary art, bring more to art installation than hammers and nails. Their job is to suggest solutions that maintain the conceptual and structural integrity of a work (whether the artist is living or not), while making it safe for public display. In the words of department head Cam Zebrun, the crew are doing their best when “our work disappears,” leaving behind art installations with no visible evidence of the hours of planning that preceded them.

Stay tuned for more pictures of the final piece on the visual arts blog.

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Seminar #6: Knitting Tue, 06 Oct 2009 22:35:51 +0000 Sarah Peters
Knitting in the FlatPack
Knitting in the FlatPack yang_res_knit_1001_009 yang_res_knit_1001_011 yang_res_knit_1001_026 yang_res_knit_1001_041 yang_res_knit_1001_030 yang_res_knit_1001_040 yang_res_knit_1001_044 yang_res_knit_1001_034

Protected from the dampness of the autumn rain drizzling outside by the warmth of the FlatPak House in the Sculpture Garden, residency participants gathered in the appropriately cozy setting to learn knitting and crocheting techniques from enthusiasts Charisse Gendron and Isa Gagarin.

Unfazed by the potential of having their knitted or crocheted objects included in a forthcoming project by Haegue Yang, beginners and experienced participants alike dove into the process of creating small, geometric shapes from skeins of brown-toned yarn. The somewhat more formal instruction regarding how to hold needles, cast-on (and later off) and the different types of stitches gave way to a sharing of various techniques and relaxed conversation fueled by the activity.

Yet even with the exchange of ideas and practices enlivening the space through a type of communal domesticity, the practices of knitting and crocheting are both highly individualized forms of production. This subtle interrogation of interiority and the complexities of community are important motivations in Haegue’s work.

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Seminar #5: On Community (Bartleby supplementary) Mon, 05 Oct 2009 19:07:47 +0000 Andria Hickey Much of the discussion on community (by way of Bataille, Blanchot, Nancy, and Agamben) revolved, in the end, around the character, Bartleby, in Herman Melville’s famed short story, “Bartleby, the Scrivener: A Story of Wall-Street” (1953).

The text below discusses the figure of Bartleby in relation to Haegue Yang’s work. It was first published as part of the text, “A Small Dictionary for Haegue Yang” by Doryun Chong, in Asymmetric Equality, Los Angeles: REDCAT and Bilbao: sala rekalde, 2008.


A well-known and widely discussed short story by the American author Herman Melville (1819-1891), “Bartleby, the Scrivener: A Story of Wall-Street” was originally published in 1853. The story has been the subject of focused and intense philosophical reflections in recent years by a number of contemporary thinkers. In the story the narrator, an attorney, relates his encounter with “Bartleby, a scrivener the strangest I ever saw or heard of.” He hires the young, seemingly calm man, who joins a staff that already includes one who suffers from indigestion and is thus irritable in the morning (“Nippers”) and another who is a drunk and thus inefficient in the afternoon (“Turkey”).

Soon Bartleby starts to reply to the narrator’s requests with what will become his signature refusal: “I would prefer not to.” All attempts to reason with him fail, and the young man performs fewer and fewer tasks in the office until he does no work at all. The narrator also finds out that the young man has moved into the office and is living there, but the utter loneliness and isolation he senses in Bartleby stop him from removing or firing the young man. Ultimately, concerned about his reputation being ruined by a bizarre, nonworking staff, he is forced to move his office, but Bartleby even refuses to move out of the old office. When forcibly banished, he continues to haunt the building until he is put in prison. Even the narrator’s sympathy and reasoning with him are rebuffed, and in the end he finds out that Bartleby has died. He preferred not to eat. At the end of the story the narrator expresses his regret for providing an account that is “wholly unable to gratify” the reader’s curiosity and yet conveys a “rumor” that Bartleby had worked in the Dead Letter Office at Washington, which leads him to speculate on the world of misery and gloom that the young scrivener must have lived in. The story ends with the narrator’s exclamation of realization: “Ah, Bartleby! Ah, humanity!”

Bartleby represents an ultimate figure of nonconformity-maintaining all the potentials and problematics of a subversive way of existence and refusing to be instrumentalized by the machinery of labor and production. Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri regard Bartleby as part of “a long tradition of the refusal of work” and describe him as embodying “the absoluteness of the refusal,” noting that ” in the course of the story he strips down so much-approximating ever more closely naked humanity, naked life, naked being-that eventually he withers away, evaporates.” But ultimately the authors argue: “This project leads not toward the naked life of homo tantum [mere man and nothing more] but toward homohomo, humanity squared, enriched by the collective intelligence and love of the community.”1

This reading invests the notion of human will that is elevated to the degree that Bartleby becomes a revolutionary subjectivity. Perhaps a more revealing way of reading the character is that his refusal isn’t a violent, even proactive one. Rather, he accomplishes it through the polite repetition of the phrase, “I would prefer not to.” The expression isn’t synonymous with a simple “no,” because, as Gilles Deleuze lets us know in his reading of the story,”[the answer] hollows out a zone of indetermination that renders words indistinguishable, that creates a vacuum within language.”

Deleuze sees the expression as a “formula,” and responding to this analysis, Arne De Boever suggests, “to listen to Bartleby means to take him at his word-to go beyond the horizon of communication.“2 Life outside the law-and society-seems to have fascinated Melville, and this is echoed in an interpretation by Giorgio Agamben. For Agamben, the phrase is a reference to that “whose opposite could have happened in the very moment in which it happened.” Then his answer-Bartleby himself-stands for potentiality (of different forms of refusal) and potentiality for the opposite-”contingency” for Agamben, who also sees the character as a messianic figure who “comes not to bring a new table of the Law but . . . to fulfill the Torah by destroying it from top to bottom.“3
Bartleby asserts his humanity not through action, but rather through inaction, without defining or explaining his self: he chooses to be and thereby defines himself as a singularity that cannot be fused with a collectivity, a community. Bartleby is a scrivener-copyist-who forgoes writing, an act echoed by the flawed narrator of the story, who struggles to limn his subject. While the narrator observed nothing “ordinarily human” in Bartleby,4 by the end of the story he equates him with “humanity” itself. What does this mean? Is Bartleby’s undead life
-possibly the condition that may be termed “the malady of death”-the pure essence of humanity?

1. Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, Empire (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2000), 203.

2. Gilles Deleuze, “Bartleby; or, The Formula,” in Essays Clinical and Critical, trans. Daniel W. Smith and Michael A. Greco (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1993), 73; Arne De Boever, “Overhearing Bartleby: Agamben, Melville, and Inoperative Power,” Parrhesia: A Journal of Critical Philosophy, no. 1 (2006): 152, parrhesia01_deboever.pdf.

3. Giorgio Agamben, “Bartleby; or, On Contingency,” in Potentialities: Collected Essays in Philosophy, ed. and trans. Daniel Heller-Roazen (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1999), 262.

4. Herman Melville, Billy Budd, Sailor, and Other Stories by Herman Melville (New York: Bantam Books, 1981), 103.

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Seminar #4: On Objects and Abstraction (Part 1) Sun, 04 Oct 2009 22:45:48 +0000 Andria Hickey Surrounded by artworks from the Walker permanent collection installed in the Print Study Room for a lecture from Yasmil Raymond, Dia curator and former Walker associate curator, participants were seated at a table covered in stacks of colorful paper and origami accoutrements that supplemented a paper folding workshop presented by Margaret Pezalla-Granlund.

After a brief introduction to the theme of the seminar, Abstraction, the table was soon filled with multidimensional objects as participants transformed their flat papers into dynamic shapes. Learning that a simple, angled fold resulted in the redistribution of the structural integrity within the paper provided insight into the how simple abstractions of mundane forms results in something invitingly complex.

Yasmi’s lecture provided elaboration about deceptively simple forms of abstraction, focusing on how this manifests in work from artists like Josef Albers,Tomma Abts, Agnes Martin, and Daniel Buren and its implications for the process of viewing art. Taking cues from Pictures of Nothing: Abstract Art Since Pollock by Kirk Varnedoe, the discussion expanded to include questions about contemporary modes of abstraction, particularly the role it plays in Haegue’s work.

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The text below discusses origami in Haegue Yang’s work. It was first published as part of the text, “A Small Dictionary for Haegue Yang” by Doryun Chong, in Asymmetric Equality, Los Angeles: REDCAT and Bilbao: sala rekalde, 2008.

Origami: n. the Japanese art of folding paper into decorative or representational forms, as of animals or flowers. [1920-1925; < Japn,= ori fold + gami, comb. Form of kami paper].

Webster’s College Dictionary (1999 edition)

Although origami is usually associated with “representational forms” (the crane being perhaps the best-known example), as reflected in the dictionary definition of the term cited above, Yang has limited her use of it in her work to abstract, geometric shapes and polyhedrons. Origami initially appeared in three scenes in the artist’s video Unfolding Spaces (2004), which were shot inside her studio in London and in the building’s backyard. In the outdoor scene, wind blows the origami objects into a puddle. In the interior scene the objects are first placed against a white backdrop and get gradually “flattened” by powdered black paint showering them from above. Whether they are exposed to the natural elements or secure in a controlled environment, they are both rendered into signs of vulnerability.

Origami connotes for Yang a technique of form making that is magical and minimal as well as concrete and effective. It requires minimum dematerialization-that is, out of the minimal physicality of paper, three-dimensionality can be conjured and embodied. In origami a space is born out of almost nothing, and the simple action of folding creates a room. Furthermore, this art of paper folding necessitates no cutting, which is also the radical and challenging rule to which the practitioner must adhere. What also results from it is the creation of the binary of inside-outside from a flat surface that has neither, which secures a volume and demands spatial occupation. Importantly, Yang is interested as much in the “folding” of origami as in “unfolding.” More specifically, for her, unfolding is more than simple flattening of space, or returning of folded objects to their original state. In addition, there is yet another dimension, “nonfolding.” It manifests itself visually and physically as shadows or shades, which operate as autonomous, self-sufficient beings, banishing the original, positive shapes to the realm of the undetectable, as if the originals never existed in the first place, as in Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave.” Yang’s thinking around folding/unfolding/nonfolding finds another manifestation in the evolution of the Venetian blind in her recent works. The obscuration or semitransparency that is the function of the blind is also linked with the artist’s long-standing interest in making visible what is on the other side, as seen in Dehors.

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Seminar #3: On Resistance and Transnationalism Sat, 03 Oct 2009 17:10:45 +0000 Andria Hickey In an attempt to connect the somewhat disparate subjects of Resistance and Transnationalism, the seminar group met in the our guide study room, a small meeting room that can accommodate discussions as well as presentation. Haegue began by talking about what drives her interest in resistance and transnationalism. As a way in to these subjects, she showed images of two recent works, Mountains of Encounter (2008) and Lethal Love (2008). These installations are based on the lives of historical figures that were entwined in complicated relationships of passion and politics: the Korean freedom fighter Kim San and the American journalist Nym Wales (aka Helen Foster Snow) who wrote his biography, and Petra Kelly, a key founder in the German Green Party and her lover and former NATO General Gert Bastien.

Both installations are made using window blinds, moving lights, spotlights, and in the case of Lethal Love, scent emitters. The abstract forms and environments in each installation neglect to provide clues to the very specific subject matter that informed them. As Haegue said, all of the references are lost in the final piece. This kind of narrative-based abstraction would come up again in our discussion of what abstraction means, both as an art historical category and as an open, subjective way of describing forms and experience.

In this session, Haegue talked about abstraction in terms of potentiality; the way that an abstracted scene can be open to any interpretation because there are no signs, codes or political statements for viewers to immediately understand or to reactively resist. She spoke of not want to set up a situation with a work of art or installation where people can negate each other in their experience of viewing. In Haegue’s work, this opened space of shared perceptual experiences (heat, light, smell) holds the potential for social and political consciousness.

In the second part of the evening we shifted gears, and listened to two presentations on nationalism; one on histories of French resistance and the Vichy government by professor Paul Solon (of which Duras was a part), and another presentation on contemporary national identity in Korea by graduate student Na-Rae Kim.

Many ideas spun out from both of these talks, Paul introduced the notion of a historically constructed community, following Benedict Anderson’s theory of “imagined communities.” Using images of war-time posters, advertisements and propaganda, he described about how iconography helps build a picture of unity or resistance (whether or not a social movement really exists). Na-Rae discussed the historiography of national identity in Korea though minjok, a word that describes a folk culture or ethnic identity that originates in a mythical figure or folk story. This concept was popularized by a Korean historian at the turn of the century and the mythology is present today, perhaps functioning in a new way today.

Thorough-fares through these subjects are difficult to summarize , but by the end of the night the following threads had surfaced:

*Contradiction (in Duras, in Haegue’s work, in the French resistance, in politics)

*Understanding history through individuals often made caricatures by history

*The negative community; a potential community of positions that can exist out “appropriate positions’

*Unverifiable or uncategorizable experience; ambiguity

*Transnationalism as a kind of “international nationalism”

]]> 2 Seminar # 2: On Biography: Marguerite Duras (Part 1) Fri, 02 Oct 2009 20:20:23 +0000 Sarah Peters The first of two sessions on the life and work of Marguerite Duras, this seminar made a nice follow-up to the previous session on lighting by focusing further on techniques of the theatre. The lesser known works of Duras are her writings for the theatre, and prior to the meeting we had all read Duras’ The Malady of Death, a novella that concludes with directions on how it might be staged.

To begin the day’s conversation on Duras, theater and space, Anne-Marie Gronhovd talked us through a brief biography of the late French author/filmmaker. She outlined where Duras was born, her family life, where she lived and the socio-political contexts of those places and times. Woven into the account was a timeline of her various artistic outputs (writing, theater, film) and the intersections these have with Duras’ biography.

In the discussion that spun out of the biography/bibliography certain themes surface: repetition, contradiction, ambiguity, and desire. Or more precisely, Duras’ desire. This is central in all of her work; her writing is her desire and she writes to complete it, rather than being concerned about ours as the reader/viewer.

The second part of the session had us on our feet, moving around on stage. Galen Treuer began his presentation on “the body in space” with a performance of sorts, where he and a volunteer from the group read aloud a dialogue he wrote based on a conversation he had regarding his theatrical and dance practice. This sequed into several movement exercises in which the group experiences tension on stage, and in a leaderless game of “Red Light, Green Light” attempted to move together as a whole.

“The same as before, but now…”

The day concluded with a presentation by Sears Eldredge on his 1995 staging of India Song at Macalester College. Through images and video clips we saw how he and the students built up layers of sound, image and psychological space on stage. We discussed the way directors have to interpret the stage directions of a playwright and Duras’ unique take on acting: “Acting doesn’t bring anything to a text. On the contrary it detracts from it.”

Our fascinations with Duras have only begun…

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Seminar #1: On Light Thu, 01 Oct 2009 23:28:27 +0000 Andria Hickey This seminar took place in the McGuire theatre, and, after we introduced ourselves to each other, the participants took their seats both in the audience as well as on the stage to experience physically of the theatre and its relationship to the theatrical lights.

By presenting her project Sadong 30 (2006), a self-organized exhibition inside a dilapidated house (once belonged to her grandmother) in Incheon, Korea, Haegue explained her motivation for suggesting light as a theme to talk about. Her first minimal light sculpture in the Sa-dong house was reflected her recognition of the invisibility of the source of electricity. For this project, Haegue used electricity to ‘illuminate’ the house as an existential place. Please see the project on her web site.

The second part of the seminar was led by Ben Geffen, Walker’s Events and Media Producer. Ben gave multiple demonstrations of various lighting techniques and “to reveal how light supports, manipulates and changes the narrative and the figure in the stage.” The seminar group was later divided into two groups to experiment with operating the light board.

Lastly, we all sat together in the stage to discuss the extension and effect of light, such as shadow, darkness, etc. Many questions were raised to Ben how he works with/for theatre directors and choreographers, Ben remarked on the subjectivity of how we experience light, that the way one describes light is often very personal.

Light Source*

The text below discusses light sources in Haegue Yang’s work. It was first published as part of the text, “A Small Dictionary for Haegue Yang” by Doryun Chong, in Asymmetric Equality, Los Angeles: REDCAT and Bilbao: sala rekalde, 2008.

Various kinds of light sources have played a significant role in Yang’s recent body of work from her video trilogy (2004-2006) to the site-specific installation Sadong 30 (2006) and sculptural installations such as Blind Room (2006). For the artist, light embodies paradoxical qualities of universality and specificity and realizes its most poetic potential precisely because it insistently remains nameless and characterless. Yangs video trilogy features a number of scenes that capture various manifestations of light, such as streetlights, reflections of light on puddles in the street, and sunlight shining through leaves. While the images per se are derived from very different circumstances and origins, they all become nothing but light without an indication of when and where they were captured. Yang states that she is interested in light and shadow because they stand on their own and do not stand for something else. 1

In that sense, Whatever Beings DIN A4/DIN A3/DIN A2 (2007), while not incorporating or capturing light sources, operates on the same principle. This group of simple painted white wood objects, which are placed directly on the white wall of a white cube, become visible that is, come into existence through the shadow of the gallery lighting cast by the angled objects. Thus, the objects come to constitute sovereignty that gives life to standardized sizes and objects, which can be anything, but nothing else. 2

Light sources in the installation Sadong 30 carry an especially poignant poetic purchase, because of their site-specificity as well as the projects personal connection to the artist herself. Through a series of works, from the video trilogy to Sadong 30 to Series of Vulnerable Arrangements and Blind Room, light sources in Yang’s work have also gained a kind of autonomy, gradually emerging as almost anthropomorphic sculptural objects, which consist of stands overlaid with numerous light bulbs and looping cords, and thus even portraying certain existences. 3

1. Haegue Yang, conversation with the author, Mexico City, April 24, 2008.

2. Haegue Yang, e-mail correspondence with the author, March 2008.

3. Ibid.

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