Do Ho Suh

Teaching Page

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Do Ho Suh, Apartment A, Unit 2, Corridor and Staircase, 348 West 22nd Street, New York, NY 10011, USA (detail), 2011–2014, polyester fabric and stainless steel tubes. Installation view, MOCA Cleveland, 2015. Photo: Jerry Birchfield. © MOCA Cleveland.
Do Ho Suh. Photo by Kisoo Park.

This teaching page provides analysis of the work of art, background information on the artist, key ideas, discussion questions, and online resources for additional learning. You can also download a PDF of this teaching page and a large image of Apartment A, Unit 2, Corridor and Staircase, 348 West 22nd Street, New York, NY 10011, USA. This work is on view in Do Ho Suh through May 14, 2017.

THE ART

Do Ho Suh’s art addresses contemporary globalization and resonates with viewers living in a world marked by population movement and relocation. Prominent among Suh’s works are translucent fabric sculptures that recreate in detail the buildings and passageways where he has lived in Seoul, South Korea; New York City; and London. His sculptures allot shape and space to his memories of ‘home’ and their influence on his identity as a person who has migrated between different cultures.

Apartment A, Unit 2, Corridor and Staircase, 348 West 22nd Street, New York, NY 10011, USA, 2011–2014, is an element of a multipart installation that fills the museum gallery, enabling visitors to be surrounded by spaces and objects similar to those that defined the artist’s residence in New York. The installation includes architectural structures, documentary films, and drawings that invite contemplation of the meaning of ‘home.’ The centerpiece is this full-scale model of the artist's apartment complex and studio. Assembled from translucent pink, blue, yellow, and red polyester fabric attached to a skeleton of metal rods, the re-creation of the apartment's details is idiosyncratic to the artist’s personal experience, but includes everyday elements, such as radiators, sinks, light switches, and doorways. Suh also replicated appliances, including a stove, and fixtures, such as a bathtub, and installed them nearby as “specimens” in illuminated vitrines, where they appear to glow from within. The familiarity of the components, the gauzy, ephemeral construction materials, and the enveloping architectural spaces create a dreamlike environment that can stir emotions and the viewer’s own memories of home.

Do Ho Suh considers the fabric he uses for the exteriors of his rooms and his domestic objects as a kind of clothing for space. He says that one’s clothes and the spaces of one’s home are surroundings that cover and represent one’s identity and that they can be carried around, physically and through memories. “You could think that they are the exact reproductions of the homes [where I have lived]. But, in fact, they are minimal representations created to evoke the memories, ambience and other non-physical aspects of the homes.” Specific living spaces have defined Suh’s experience of participating in the cultures of South Korea, the United States, and England, and he invites viewers to contemplate the possibility that they, too, carry with them the imprint of the places in which they have lived.

Apartment A, Unit 2, Corridor and Staircase, 348 West 22nd Street, New York NY 10011, USA, 2011-2014, with its surrounding drawings, paintings, films, and “specimens”, is an example of installation art, in which the viewer can enter the space of the artwork and engage with it from multiple points of view, rather than from a single perspective. The interaction of the visitor with the installation is important to the meaning created by the work of art.

THE ARTIST

Do Ho Suh was born in 1962 in Seoul, South Korea, and works in New York, London, and Seoul. He grew up in a traditional Korean house, a hanok, within a quickly changing cultural landscape and spent his childhood and early adulthood in South Korea, where he completed mandatory military service. He studied traditional Korean painting and earned a Master of Art degree before moving to the United States in 1991 to continue his studies. He earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in painting from the Rhode Island School of Design and a Master of Fine Arts in sculpture from Yale University. Suh first began rendering domestic structures in 1994, and he works primarily in sculpture, installation, drawing, and video. He represented Korea at the Venice Biennale in 2001. In 2010, Suh moved to London to join his wife, Rebecca Boyle Suh, a British arts educator.

KEY IDEAS

  • Addressing the common contemporary experience of migration between cultures
  • Expressing the concept of home as a memory that influences present experience
  • Using a spatial installation to express a spatial memory

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

  1. What are your ideas about using an apartment or a house as the subject of a work of art?
  2. How has Do Ho Suh’s use of translucent fabric in constructing Apartment A, Unit 2, Corridor and Staircase evoked the idea of remembering?
  3. Why might he have selected the colors of pink, blue, yellow, and red to render the rooms, hallway, and staircase of the building? Do Ho Suh has said that he used the color blue to render his first apartment because it expressed his mood at the time. What other moods might these colors convey? How might they combine to form new colors when viewed from different perspectives? 
  4. In what ways does the artist’s use of the medium of installation, in which the viewer can be surrounded by the art, fit with exploring memory and notions of home?
  5. What connections can you make between the artist’s representation of his apartment home and your understanding of the meaning of home?
  6. How might the place(s) where we grow up influence our thoughts of who we are? How does our culture impact our beliefs or values?
  7. With present-day cultural displacement, when many people move or migrate, how is the exploration of memories of home applicable to current events?

RESOURCES

On the Artist

Do Ho Suh interview, Art21  (text)

Do Ho Suh: The Fabric of Life, The Art Newspaper (text)

Interview in Korea Joongang Daily (text)

Do Ho Suh: Rubbing/Loving project (video)

Do Ho Suh on his creative process (video)

Art Methods

Installation Art

Context

Population numbers for people on the move, by choice and by force

Information about Korea