from September 22nd to October 27th 2018

Hayoun Kwon’s plastic process often begins with an encounter. From this encounter, she is left with a story, a past experience that she seeks to translate into images. She works and shapes the spaces of memory by entering into a spatiotemporal territory of escape and forgetting, and thus also a territory of interpretation. Kwon presents impermanent memories for us to experience.

The Bird Lady is a video work featuring a virtual reality installation that is here presented alongside a series of screen-printed images. The work consists of an homage and a response to a man, Daniel, who was Kwon’s drawing professor at the Beaux-Arts. Over the course of a dozen years, Daniel shared his memories of childhood, of his friends and of his experiences with the artist. Before turning towards drawing, Daniel briefly worked as an assistant to a property manager. “In 1967, in Paris, Daniel’s job was to visit the apartments of all the tenants in an old building in order to measure their apartments and draw up floorplans. He told me that behind every door was a different world,” says Kwon. “When he entered the bird lady’s apartment, he was so amazed that he entirely forgot the purpose of his visit.

He left reality behind and plunged into a new and unique world. He spoke with her and left without taking any measurements or making any drawings, and that evening he had to make up a floorplan from scratch.” Kwon was seduced by the inevitably embellished story of this magical event – an augmented story1.

Kwon thus decided to reconstitute this spatial exploration and Daniel’s encounter with the bird lady. Augmented reality technology allows us to enter into the building and cross the thresholds into its apartments and the different universes that they contain2. Daniel’s voice accompanies our wanderings, as Kwon multiplies realities and our perception of this shared memory. In a new kind of roleplaying game, we settle in behind Daniel’s eyes and follow in his footsteps as the processes of reminiscence allow objectivity and fantasy to brush up against one another. The discovery of spaces is doubled, as “we visit the same spaces twice.” At first, illustrations and decorative elements are integrated into each scene, accentuating the idealized and enchanted dimension of our wanderings. We encounter shimmering birdcages which appear and disappear before our eyes, unleashing birds within the building’s interiors. In a second stage of the visit, the black lines of the building’s architecture form a mental space against a blank, white background. Our entry into the apartment of the (absent) bird lady appears as an epiphany or a fairytale hallucination, as flocks of multicoloured birds take flight in a floating, indeterminate space at once open and closed. In the final scene we come face to face with Daniel, who stands upright with his eyes closed and his arm raised. A small yellow bird settles on his hand for a few short seconds before taking flight once more, in a scene conceived as a metaphorical expression of the fragile, delicate and evanescent quality of memory. The mnesic space becomes a site for the creation of multiple stories: the story of Daniel, the story of the artist as she interprets an experience, and the stories to which we ourselves give form through our own projections. A site where reality rubs against fiction, where stories imitate the real. “The principal operative of setting individual and collective life into “fiction” is oblivion [...] the modalities of oblivion, the staging and the implementation that ‘mold’ time in life itself in order to make a kind of tale out of it that those who live it tell each other at the same time that they are living it.3” The installation centres on the fabrication of an experience lived by another which we are invited to enter visually and physically. Kwon thwarts the mechanisms of forgetting as she fixes a fiction of memory in time and in space, a fiction which in turn brings forth new projections and new memories.

Julie Crenn

1_ Quotes from the artist are drawn from an interview conducted on 13th August 2018.
2_ For her exhibition at Galerie Vincent Sator, Hayoun Kwon has chosen to adapt her work to the space, and will present the video work alongside a series of screen-printed images drawn from The Bird Lady.
3_ Marc Augé, trans. Marjolijn de Jager, Oblivion (Minneapolis, MN: University of Minneapolis Press, 2004), p. 34.


press release - FR (PDF)
press release - ENG (PDF)

press kit - FR (PDF)
press kit - ENG (PDF)