10 October - 2 November 2014
There is a white-walled house with a grey slate roof, planted squarely in the centre of an immaculate lawn so green it appears hyper real. Instead of the prerequisite picket fence there is the next best thing – an equally immaculate hedge, rich in vegetal density. In front, sits a neat seesaw, a child’s red ball resting next to it. It could be a scene from any suburban American town – were it not for the billowing explosion demolishing the house next door. Or the dead deer in the middle of the street. Or the looming graveyard behind. Or the overturned ambulance. Or a myriad other elements that systematically seek to wreck this idyllic scene and tear it apart into a moment of absolute apocalypse. And then, as a final touch, colourful helium balloons, like those found in a children’s birthday party, drift across the canvas, a bouquet of Koons-like plasticity, icons of store-bought happiness. Home-Made Disaster, running from 10 October – 2 November at The Art Cabin presents this alternate universe, the the world according to Jaeyeon Yoo, in which the ground beneath one’s feet is ever moving, never settled: A world in which childhood trauma mingles with the innocence of Disney characters, where personal neuroses creep into everyday life like insidious tendrils and a sense of dystopia looms above everything.
At the heart of Yoo’s practice is an investigation into how we, as people, “perceive the outside world through physical and psychological windows.” Painting itself has, for centuries, acted as a window to the world, often depicting landscapes and vistas from faraway places, and, more recently, intricate psychological and emotional landscapes. Yoo plays on this in her Fragmented Town series of paintings, as well as the concept of the interplay between a child’s innocence and limited understanding of the outside world to present a series of paintings, along with a drawing and a single channel video, to create her own ‘magic windows’ which combine childlike awe at discovering the world as well as creating a strange double mirrored effect: in gazing out of these windows are actually gazing in, confronted with the chaos that resides in that most seemingly safe of places – the home. Yoo’s paintings act both as magic window and window on our current world and state of affairs of the 21st century.
This is most evident in the video work of the same name, Magic Window. As a child, Yoo recalls being too short to see out of the windows of the house, the ledge being too far for her to reach, providing only a limited glimpse into the world beyond. The surroundings of the home became her world, the limits of her existence. Looking back at how her personal imaginary world has been constructed in the real world, her surreal canvases are full of image-play, twisted narratives and manipulated images in an effort to reverse our desire to escape into fantasy: for Yoo, people actually escape into reality – the only cure in the battle against one’s deepest desires, fears and insecurities. These reconstructed childhood scenes manipulate the viewer’s emotions, tragicomic irony playing with the gap between the real and the imagined, the imagined and the symbolic. For Yoo, the very authenticity of the human experience is found in personal fantasy.
Here, we are presented with a home-made disaster of epic proportions. The notion of ‘home-made’ as something wholesome and comforting is stripped of its meaning. Home-made applies pies, crocheted blankets and jams are shoved aside and replaced with home-grown psychological angst and trauma, a reflection of the artist’s experience as a young Korean female of the X-generation, growing up in the United States. Finding her urban and international existence inhibiting when trying to maintain a definite national identity, she desires to escape her dissatisfying search for an authentic experience by entering an inauthentic world through her oeuvre. Our world may not be a comforting mélange of picket fences, cosy homes and cartoon-like security, but in the very stripping down and razing of these concepts, Yoo says we can build them back up and face our doubts and insecurities by diving not into a fantasy world, but into a renewed reality. “This identify of mine is problematic due to the cross-cultural circumstances that I have encountered, and also through a personal desire to escape my reality,” she muses. “It is in this sense that I collapse the social as well as the constitution of the self.” Indeed, it is in collapsing these distinctions that Yoo succeeds in creating a bridge between the self and other, fantasy and reality.