Blurring boundaries Nov 07 2013
Experimental artist transplants her studio into museum

Fences made of junk, outdated collectibles and weird machinery separate a dimly lit room. Blocked letters are scattered on the wall, conveying a thought that would be comprehensible only to the author.

Rhii Jew-yo’s “Fish Peddler” is one of her works displayed at the “Night Studio” exhibition at the Artsonje Center in Seoul.
/ Courtesy of Artsonje Center

This playfully strange space, titled “Night Studio,” at the Artsonje Center in Seoul, is the creation of artist Rhii Jew-yo, whose idea of art includes transplanting imaginative versions of her atelier into contemporary art museums.

Her current “exhibition” was shown at the Van Abbemuseum in the Netherlands and the MMK Museum fur Moderne Kunst in Germany before arriving at Artsonje last month.

She says the intention was to eliminate the boundaries between personal and private space, allowing the audience to engage with the artist and artwork at a deeper level. But the force of her individuality also seems to create a distancing effect.

“Typewriter for Love Letter”

Rhii said she developed the idea while working in Itaewon between 2009 and 2011, when her studio doubled as her living space. Other artists go to their studio to create art. For Rhii, the studio increasingly became the creation itself.

“The Itaewon studio was my first long-term residence in like 20 years as I had spent a lot of time overseas participating in residency programs and holding exhibitions. I hosted four open studio events during my time in Itaewon, which was basically me opening my studio to visitors,” Rhii said.

Rhii said Night Studio is a delicate expression of her personal realm, how her space evolved with her experience and thoughts.

“I felt anxiety and fear when I first moved into the studio in Itaewon, which was near a traditional market. I had to familiarize myself with the shouts of fish mongers, endless construction noise and the babies crying night and day,” she said.

“Big Black Man and Small Black Man"

“I grew up as a petite and sickly child. Even now, my artistic persona could be described as something similar. I think artists are weak and hesitant beings. I want to reveal that fragility in my work.”

The most notable element of Night Studio is the large, improvised typewriters installed against the wall, created by Rhii for the exhibition. Each of these odd and unapologetically primitive machines requires a different operation method and Rhii has to wear a helmet for safety before typing on any one of them.

The “Big Black Man and Small Black Man” typewriter was inspired by Rhii’s experience of witnessing an assault in front of her house. It’s a rather straightforward creation — Rhiii has to hit a wooden bar with violent force for the machine to leave a print on the wall.

The keyboards for “Typewriter for Love Letter” are hidden in a small, wooden box. The machine is incapable of producing words, just small ink spots.


“This is closer to the idea of love, at least for me,” Rhii said.

“Fish Peddler” is dedicated to the fish mongers, while “Dust Wind” is the typewriter that conveys her annoyance with all the construction work that bothered her in Itaewon.

Aside from the typewriters, “Moving Floor,” a mobile installation created from the floor of Rhii’s Itaewon studio, is a notable expression of uncertainty in modern life. “Undocumented Enlightening Object” is a collection of furniture, rubbish and unfinished art work covered in a layer of plastic.

“These things shouldn’t be at an art museum, but I brought them here anyway. It’s my bunker, here right at the center of the exhibit,” Rhii said.

Rhii’s exhibit runs through Jan. 12, 2014. Admission is 5,000 won. For more information, visit artsonje.org or call (02) 733-8945.

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