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Artists in Residence

 Sook Jin Jo (born 1960 in Gwangju, Korea, has lives in New York since 1988) spent the first half of 2010 in the guest studio iaab in Riehen. The Basel region international studio and exchange programme has since 1986 provided artists from around Basel, Solothurn and Südbaden the possibility to do a working stay over several months in one of ten partner countries. In return, artists are invited to the seven iaab studios in the Basel region. On the occasion of her solo show at the John Schmid Gallery, kunstbulletin presents Sook Jin Jo in the Gastlabor column.

Sook Jin Jo - In clean Switzerland my work seems more expressive

Photo caption: Sook Jin Jo in her exhibition at the John Schmid Gallery, Basel. A project resulting from her stay at the iaab studios, Riehen, 2010.

Baur: How did you, as a Korean artist who's been living in New York for years, come to be in Basel, Switzerland?
Jo: In 2006 I participated in the Fluid Artcanal International, an international co-operative project in Le Landron. The two weeks in Switzerland were too short, and I told myself I had to live longer in the country in order to understand the mentality of the inhabitants.
Baur: In Le Landron you showed a table floating on water with the legs pointing upwards. The work is called Walk On Water and was made for that place. The environment seems to be important to your work.
Jo: I came from New York unprepared and let myself be inspired by a specific situation, for example a stilt village on the lake at Biel. It seemed obvious to make an object on the canal that connects the Biel lake to the Neuenburger lake: a table that could also be used as a float. In addition to that, it also satisfied my interests in architecture and cultural roots.
Baur: You weren't in Basel back then. How did you find out about the iaab exchange programme?
Jo: That's an absurd story. I received an email from the Galapagos Art Space. At first I thought it was an art space on the Galapagos Islands, later I found out that it was the name of the iaab studio in Williamsburg. Through this email I found out about the studios and immediately applied for a residency in Basel.
Baur: You came with your experience of New York to Riehen, a village. Was it a culture shock?
Jo: Not at all. Of course, compared to New York it was incredibly quiet. And here everything was extremely clean. I don't mean just the streets and parks, but also the exteriors of buildings. In Riehen you'll find numerous white house facades. Something like this would be unimaginable in New York. Of course, my studio at home is white, but here it was as if buildings were turned inside out. The rural atmosphere has made it easy for me to think more deeply about my art. This also has an effect on the way in which I see things and my work, it seems so much more dense and expressive than it did in New York.
Baur: Have you been actively networking? How did the Basel art scene become aware of you?
Jo: No. Of course I realised that I was working by myself in my studio and that I had to give people an opportunity to visit. In New York, despite the size of the city, I'm restricted to my local area, and I often meet people I know. So for example the art critic Donald Kuspit lives a few roads away, and we see each other as we're out shopping or in restaurants. Here everything was new. At first I explored my immediate surroundings, the city and the nearby riverbank. From there I brought back driftwood with which I built a big installation in front of my studio, which reminds you of one of Mario Merz's igloos. I installed small pieces of work in the inner courtyard and these two works seemed like signposts telling people that there was something to see here.
Baur: How were you looked after by iaab?
Jo:A welcome drinks party was held for all the artists-in-residence in dock: in Klybeckstrasse at the beginning of February. At the end of May there was the open studios over three days, which not only numerous artists visited but also critics and curators. But I could also count on individuals to help, so the person in charge of iaab helped with transporting twigs and branches, and also the Riehen local authority supported me and my ideas. Even Sam Keller from the Beyeler Foundation gave me free reign to make my installation in the inner courtyard bigger and bigger. Through this lots started happening. dock: invited me to a presentation where new contacts came up. Katrin Grögel introduced me to Thomas Heimann of Ausstellungsraum Klingental, Sibylle Ryser showed me the garbage incineration and the second hand shops where I could find material for my work.
Baur: You could even show your work.
Jo: At Ausstellungsraum Klingental they've planned a performance with kold. I didn't know Tomek Kolczynski, but I met him on a car journey going to the museum in Bregenz by accident. With the wood that was lying around the inner courtyard, I built a bridge that went through the whole space. Then I was invited by the Palestinian curator Samar Martha, curator-in-residence at Krone in Aarau to be in an exhibition in the Schöntal nunnery in Aarau and there I started talking to John Schmid who is giving me a solo show. On top of this, another gallery in Basel is interested in my work. For the opening of the exhibition I can live in an iaab studio in the St. Alban valley near Basel, three minutes away from the John Schmid gallery. My stay in Basel has triggered a lot.

This interview is published with the support of the Swiss cultural foundation Pro Helvetia Moving Words for the Swiss advancement of translation.

Translation: Paul Harper

Deutsche Version


Anfang Zurück zum Anfang
Ausgabe 11  2010
Ausstellungen Sook Jin Jo [23.09.10-29.01.11]
Institutionen John Schmid [Basel/Schweiz]
Autor/in Simon Baur
Künstler/in Sook Jin Jo
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