By Kate Abercrombie
Linda Yun is an artist living and working in Philadelphia. I visited with Linda at her most recent exhibition at Vox Populi Gallery, and our conversation continued in her studio located behind the gallery.
Kate: The moments highlighted in experiencing your work, as well as the ephemeral nature of the pieces themselves, makes me wonder how you regard time in relation to your work and the viewing experience. Is time a side effect of the work or integral? Do you think that discovery by the viewer is linked with your thoughts on time?
Linda: I think time is present in many ways, revealing itself while experiencing the work, becoming a factor that guides my hand in the decisions I make in trying to understand the viewer’s movement or perception. It potentially lives on as a quiet relationship between the viewer and the work—something I cannot trace but can only hope for. We have these opportunities as artists to insert ourselves into the psyche of another. My hope is to have a presence beyond the gallery experience, affecting the viewers’ movements through the world, their perceptions, their thoughts and memories, or even something as subtle as noticing a particular color for the rest of their lives.
Time is integral to the work. On the surface there is often very little present; awareness develops through time spent with the work. For example, in It Is What It Is…, which seems to be a simple set-up of a silly party banner strung across the room blown by a fan, I’m sure many people feel they understand the piece upon first glance. But as you spend time sitting and watching, interesting things with depth of perception, line, pattern, color, form, rhythm, and sound reveal themselves. There were moments when the fan passes over a section of the banner, and the mylar strips slowly stop fluttering to a stillness, creating this razor-sharp edge of a line below, which suddenly flattens the plane in a way that was bizarre and beautiful. It would happen over and over, still holding my attention and interest. My hope is that my interests overlap with those of another person.
Kate: What do you consider the life of the work after the exhibition ends? If the piece is altered, or the material changes over the run of the exhibition, does this impact your relationship to the piece as a whole, or is it an extension of the original intent?
Linda: After an exhibition ends, some of the work just carries on in the way I described above: in the thoughts or memories of the viewer. There is nothing left per se. Documentation, the private memories of visitors, or the comments shared with me by viewers, are the only ways in which the work continues to exist. I believe this is a strength in the work. In my mind, everything is fleeting, whether or not you make sculpture, paintings, video art, big-ass buildings, or installations. It risks disappearing the moment one walks away. The only way to resurrect it is through the viewer wanting it to be so, wanting to revisit it, wanting it to continue on in their thoughts, and dwelling on its vague presence in their mind.
If the pieces are altered, or the materials change over the run of the exhibition, it serves as a lesson to me about the nature of what I am doing, the work I am making, and the qualities of the materials at hand. Some of the work I have done has compelled people to want to interact with it, which puts the work at risk of being destroyed. In thinking about these instances more and more, I try not to take it personally and want to believe it has something to do with the viewer wanting badly to be a physical part of something, wanting to walk into a misty rainbow created by Olafur Eliasson, wanting to touch a cube of ink by Charles Ray, or wanting to sit before Marina Abramovic and feel something.
Kate: How do you regard labor? It is ever-present in the finished pieces, yet they also can feel effortless at the same time. Can you speak to how you begin making? Are there moments when you know that you have lost the immediacy in the work? Do you think that the underlying labor lends specificity to the individual pieces?
Linda: If it adds a layer to understanding how a work came to exist or is functioning, I would like the viewer to comprehend the labor involved. There are works where labor is devoted to building something, yet that activity has no real importance in that particular work, so it depends. You bring up an interesting question regarding the immediacy of work; perhaps this is what I am trying to keep alive in working mostly on installations, leaving things up to chance. It puts things at risk of failing, but one way to improve or test your ability to make work dealing with observation and discovery is to leave room for this, and to directly face uncertainty. Matthew Barney’s Drawing Restraint series sometimes comes to mind in the studio, a series of drawings he did while thinking about the body, and how muscles improve with forces working in opposition to them (i.e., weights, etc.) He would do these performances, attempting to make drawings with difficult apparatus attached to his body, the point being that perhaps with self-imposed restrictions, better drawings would result. I like this idea of challenging oneself in the hopes that something more successful or new will result. Typically, I begin making work with an incident in mind, the parameters of which I find interesting: the scent of something, the flicker of light on a surface, or the movement of a specific material. I begin to think of ways to re-create it within the gallery, with materials that might function in a similar way. There are times when I sense I am losing the immediacy of the work, and that is usually when I force myself not to resolve it in the studio, but to prepare myself with what I know and have learned, and resolve it in the exhibition space. It is a bit stressful, but it is how I tend to work.
Kate: Your material choices are often familiar, with a twist. In your work is there an intent to elevate mundane materials? Do you consider the choice of material and its inclusion an act of transformation, or is it more often present to create a baseline for the viewer?
Linda: Materials are chosen for their physical and visual qualities, mostly collected from my life (meaning, I have stumbled across them and discovered something I find interesting), which might lend itself to feeling familiar, yet different. I consider the choice of material and its inclusion an act of transformation. Part of what I am trying to nudge viewers into doing is to slow down and pay attention, so that everything they confront is considered in the same way, and observed with the same set of eyes devouring and unpacking what exists before them. People sometimes ask artists how they are supposed to view art, what should they do in order to understand it better, or what books they should read. I always find those questions to be a little heartbreaking because they presuppose that one must be armed with certain things in order to be permitted to look, think, see, feel, and make sense of the world around them. You fill your life with objects and people and experiences on a daily basis, and you know more than you are possibly willing to admit. I pull everyday objects into my work in an effort to expand on viewers’ sense of what art can be, but also to build on how they view that object in the future. I often wonder if this is how the power of photography continues to persevere; the simple act of drawing a line around what you know to exist suddenly permits you to view and understand it differently. I just want to draw lines around things, like Harold with his purple crayon and to make present what was always there.
Linda Yun recieved her B.S. in Sculpture from The School of Education, New York University in 1998, and her MFA Sculpture from Tyler School of Art, Temple University in 2000. She is an active member of Vox Populi Gallery, and her show I’ll Follow You… recently closed at Vox Populi Gallery. Linda Yun has exhibited widely in Philadelphia area galleries and was included in the recent Community Supported Art project by Tiger Strikes Asteroid and Grizzly Grizzly. Yun was a finalist for the Pew Fellowship in The Arts in 2006, 2008, 2011, and in 2005 received an Artist Research Grant at the Eastern State Penitentiary Exhibitions Program.