A Perfect Home: The Bridge Project, Yasmeen M. Siddiqui, ed. (New York: Storefront Books, 2010)
A Perfect Home: The Bridge Project was produced in conjunction with Korean artist Do Ho Suh‘s exhibition of the same name at Storefront for Art and Architecture in New York City, which ran from September 14 through December 7, 2010. Excellently edited by Yasmeen M. Siddiqui, the volume is more artist book than catalogue, less a document of an exhibition than an impressionistic take on an artistic effort. Intensively designed for maximum info and impact, the slim book is an unorthodox way to look at an exhibition, but its innovations end up making perfect sense for Do Ho Suh’s project, a part conceptual and part emotional attempt to bridge New York with Seoul.
The introduction to The Bridge Project exhibition stands at page 37 of the book. In one paragraph, we understand the artist’s gutsy goals. During a Berlin residency in 2008, Suh began to revisit earlier investigations of “extreme bridges and transportable, self-sustainable, emergency homes,” renderings of which sprinkle the book. This abstract idea ends up employed in a surprisingly literal way, rather than the thought exercise one might expect considering the norms of contemporary art today. The project that arises out of Suh’s imaginings is to design an actual bridge between NYC and Seoul, in one proposal over the Arctic, in another a straight line across the Pacific Ocean, in yet another through Japan to North America.
As an artist working across cultures, Suh doesn’t belong wholly to either Korea or New York. The Bridge Project is a way to circumvent that by actually being present between the two places, building a house at the exact midpoint of the proposed bridge, “equidistant between Seoul and New York.” Yet this work isn’t as self-serious an exploration of personal identity as it might be. The proposed bridge is ludicrous and impossible, but in its yearnings for a balance, its grandiose qualities and flights of fancy become poetic evocations of the difficulty of cross- and intercultural existence. The bridge planned for across the Pacific, for example, “uses a servo-mechanism, water jet propulsion system, and inertial navigation system to maintain the bridge’s linear route.”
An attendant rendering shows floating metal islands reminiscent of mines topped by AT-AT walker-style legs supporting a massive road. A single perfectly suburban house perches precariously atop the structure and in the background, a tidal wave mounts. It’s a difficult balancing act. But Suh doesn’t fail to take this effort seriously. Collaborating with architect and designers, technological diagrams and renderings abound in the book even as the project itself is positioned somewhere between metaphorical abstraction and reality. The lonely houses, set adrift in space and decontextualized on their bridge landing pads, come to symbolize displacement, the creative mind struggling to overcome, or adapt, the feeling of not belonging.
A blue-background segment of the book has the requisite documentary photos of the exhibition, installation shots and still images from the animations Suh produced with his team. But where the book really shines is in the mashup pages that mix up project statements, renderings and the essays of catalogue contributors, which run on the bottom of the pages but are oriented vertically such that one has to turn the book sideways and flip pages backwards to read them. The interactive nature of the book itself gives a density and heft to an inter-textual project that relies just as much on text as it does on images. Though the avalanche of information is a little hard to navigate at first, the effort is more rewarding than straight up left-to-right reading, and puts emphasis on the collaborative nature of Suh’s work and the inter-relationships it confronts.
In this book, it’s nice to see an editorial and curatorial effort that matches and plays off of the efforts of the artist in the exhibition. A Perfect Home could have been a regular catalogue with staid essays stacked before a compendium of images. Instead, it manages to become something much more engaging and dynamic, an art project in itself as well as a document worth owning.
A Perfect Home: The Bridge Project is available through Storefront’s online store.
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