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13 Balls

Nov 11, 2012 – Jan 22, 2013



In his current solo show 13 Balls at artclub 1563, Jackson Hong presents yet another rendition of his worldview as being a superintendent of an unexpected ‘game,’ and his own way of managing it. He has already examined the rise and fall of the 20th century design that once seemed to last forever in this year’s Hermes Foundation Misulsang exhibition. In the show, he also studied the collapse of the 20th century design with his unique visual grammar. In the current exhibition, Hong creates a ridiculous and symbolic weather chart about humans and objects through his black humor and serious reflection. He puts the weather chart on a stage he designed, which does not stop at being an arrangement of strange objects: It goes onto making the ‘gestures’ of the game of balls, where the direction of a ball is crucial in deciding the win or lose, wander around their meaning. In the exhibition venue, a number of structures from different sports games will be stationed according to their own rules. This is an anti-rule that makes the rules hold back from their use and a device that displays the hearts of losers who cannot ignore the thrill of exclaiming ‘shoots and scores.’

Coming from a background of a car designer and realizing ‘the outer world’ of design, Jackson Hong takes the positioning of movements through a round object of the ball to be the frame of his game. Without entirely belong to any of the games, the balls are indeed ambivalent tools that are on the one hand most tormented by the missed kicks made by athletes and on the other hand most exposed to the enthusiastic shouting of viewers. Being a key to unpredictable results in the game of balls yet unable to move by themselves indeed, the feeble balls only play a role of an assistant character who looks nifty yet is useless in Jackson Hong’s frame of stage. Yet the balls in the exhibition become a strange game itself where the bewildered gestures are left as blank space. If one is to look down at 13 Balls, he would recognize that it is the Jackson Hong’s stage design and a bird’s-eye view of reality in which the artist has rearranged the size, proportion and function of movements allowed to human beings.

On the wall of the exhibition venue, Hong installs a pair of basketball rims placed on a single backboard. The rims keep a straight face at the situation, call out their partners and persist with their original function. An enormous ball is then placed between baseball bases and volleyball net. In these, the artist borrows the existing rules and court designs of sports games, then materializes the problematic of reality indicated in the start and the end of games, enemy and friendly troops, arrows and score boards. He does so in a seemingly simple way of ‘adjusting the frame.’ With their leading positions taken away, the games on this empty ground become unimaginably complex when the simple rule of playing with balls is bent and overlapped with a fiction of an unfamiliar game that seems impossible to learn. Thus, the frame of a game designed by Jackson Hong can become an image of an emergency situation where there is no chance to realize the rules of each sport with only ‘actions’ rampaging. What if someone the balls in the exhibition with dexterity and try to optimize his body to the new goal post? A metamorphosis in bits and pieces, or a catastrophe of a mental disorder might be waiting at the end of such a helpless question. There are also chairs in the court that observe the situation. The ten chairs face each other as if they are judges without heads. The ones that took the center have nothing to work on, but they show an empty showdown that is humorous and even innocently empty. It might be possible to substitute the confrontation with the success and failure at the end of year 2012, images of tools about redemption and punishment that were hung on the walls of Atelier Hermes earlier this year, or usage of objects that have been mentioned in the artist’s questions and the reaction from audiences (or users).

artclub 1563, where 13 Balls is placed like a scattered constellation, was indeed used as a church in the past. The artist appropriates the figurative grammar of the building yet unites the rules of games to reveal their fictional assumption in a site equipped with traces of the staircase of the church, podium and the arrangement of chairs along the pillars. Did the artist want to see a certain innocent gesture through the means, or, the sports courts that have lost their goals? What the artist wants might not be an interactive situation or the aesthetics of conversation. He has been trying as hard as possible to be away from the elaborate ways of social meetings: He created a mask to avoid conversation and even transformed a chair into a weapon to use when he feels desperate. With 13 Balls, Jackson Hong directs management of ‘reversing,’ which makes the choir of finding a game to play into a game itself. Although the artist’s unfinished tools in the exhibition lead the audience unable to play any game with fatigue and a problematic situation, it feels that the current show may become a brilliant match which boasts the golden rule that is way better than a fair play. Even there are no players but only countless gestures of practicing. As a matter of fact, nobody might know what kind of ‘game’ does Jackson Hong have in his mind for the current exhibition.

Text by Seewon Hyun
(Translated by Jaeyong Park)

Photo by Cheol Namgoong

This exhibition is held as a part of independent
guest curator program by artclub1563 with a
generous support from HANA Bank.