I don’t go to Busan that often. I usually need some sort of excuse, some event to call me south. This time was no exception, but it was a journey well worth my time. From Busan Station I take Line 1 south all the way to its terminus at Dadaepo Beach Station (다대포해수욕장역). But I have further to travel. Another fifteen minutes by a local bus, I travel through a quiet industrial zone and I’m there. My destination was far away from the city center: Hongti Art Center.
More specifically, I go there to see the work of Jurgen Dunhofen. Dunhofen is a South African artist, who has previously exhibited in Korean in 2015. This year, he has returned to the land of the morning calm to work on The See Through Project, his two part exploration of alternate visual conditions through artwork and workshops. This here? This is part one, Unfocused. I hope it gets you psyched to go see part two. Title TBD.
The bus drops my off near the art center. Playful sculptures are scattered on the surrounding grounds. Entering the building, the exhibit hall is ahead and to the left. The serene white walls remind me of a sacred foyer – only missing the incense. As I turn the corner and walk through the tall entrance, the exhibit hall expands by another floor. Like the interior of a romanesque church, the height and structural lines pull my view to the far end where a massive 16 piece polyptych looms as a reredos, inviting the weary in to commune. This piece at the far end is pure abstraction of movement and balance.
But before approaching, I take in the rest of the room. Like holy icons, images line the walls, and in the pewless nave three legged figures stand, looking about.
Are they focusing on something?
These figures are built from the lenses of surveyor equipment, perched on bodies of wood and plastic. I approach the first one, hoping to see what it sees. From this side it is black, so I go around to the other side only to find myself looking back. I move to one side or another to look past myself, but my image is always in the way, obscuring most of the far wall to my back.
The other denizens offer other strange reflections and distortions. It’s as fascinating to watch other people interact with them as it is to try to find something myself.
Eventually the images on either side grab my attention. They are variations of a circle in a field. Looking at one is like looking into another’s eye. They remind me of the problems of perception. What I see, I cannot guarantee that others will see in the same way, and the way I perceive myself is not how others perceive me.
…the way I perceive myself is not how others perceive me.
As I go deeper into the exhibit hall, I find myself standing directly at the base of the polyptych. It towers above me, but now I can see the ink up close. I can see the thick inky black brush strokes, and the tiny pen strokes that play with each other across the panels. The larger flows across the whole give way to smaller movements within each part.
After standing and watching the room look back at me, I join Dunhofen’s workshop for that day. The workshop deals with three different modes of perception. The first is a simple drawing exercise, to simple draw him standing. The second exercise has us donning goggles, the centers smeared with vaseline, and drawing him again.
In the third we wear blindfolds, though we do not draw him this time, but are handed tools to hold and attempt to draw from feeling only. While the exercise relies somewhat on the assumption that the participants are (relatively) able-visioned, it is still a way to be aware of ways of perceiving beyond what we take for granted.
While the first part of the See Through Project has finished, the second part is being developed. For part two, Dunhofen has gone to the Palbok Art Residency in Jeonju.