29 February 2024

Body and Bodies

Jaiyoung Cho casts the
figure in flux


by Kate Mothes

Taking an anthropocentric point of view, everything is ultimately either about or for us; human interests sit at the core of any decision, from social to environmental. We have tamed and bred other animals, colonized the entire planet, tapped into and depleted natural resources, and created a climate crisis of unforetold proportions. And yet, ironically, it is we who must handle the consequences of our own actions. We are but bodies—billions of them—in an increasingly tenuous relationship with the Earth.

In Seoul-based artist Jaiyoung Cho‘s solo presentation Body & Bodies at Carvalho Park in Brooklyn, the environment—both architectural and spatial—entwine with notions of the individual and collective ‘body,’ “(refuting) isolation, while also piercing hierarchical convictions of humans as the universal center.”

Circumambulating Cho’s vibrant, multi-compartment installation is an invitation to a kind of metaphysical playground in which the multicolored apparatus of arcs and panels serves as a network of connections between various shapes. The armature is metal, providing a strong fixture for polyhedral forms and geometric appendages like hands and legs, which take form from delicately folded paper.

In her essay accompanying the exhibition, So-La Jung, curatorial director of the Seoul Museum of Art (SeMA), examines the relationship between Cho’s lattice-like installation and study of disparate body parts in terms of the bodily relationship to one’s surroundings, positing that the word “intertwine” might best describe human existence in our post-postmodernist world. She says:

Interest in the connection between object, human self, and the other, has existed for a long time. This question, in essence, derives from a basic interest in human existence itself. How can we understand ourselves and the objects, the others, the world we perceive, and the invisible connections between them? The French phenomenologist Merleau-Ponty found the answer in the “physical.” Merleau-Ponty proposed that the self only exists in the environment through the “physical.” In his view, nothing exists in a completely disconnected, objective state; the self is always involved, connected, and therefore deeply imputed to the world.

Cho’s work in Body & Bodies investigates internal consciousness in relation to the physical or the external. As one walks around the work, puzzle-like connections begin to emerge. Yet unlike a problem to be solved, the sculptures reflect the fundamental nature of the pieces themselves and the complexion of their joints and separations—very much like indeed like the self’s rhizomic relationships with the body, with others, and the world around us.

Body & Bodies continues at Carvalho Park through March 2. Find more on the artist’s website.

All work © Jaiyoung Cho. Images by Se Yoon Park, courtesy of Carvalho Park

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