“I am directly inspired by the Sacred Dances and Movements of the Russian spiritualist Georges I Gurdjieff (c1866–1949), who was of Greek and Armenian ancestry. These sacred exercises, intended as private rituals, display a fascinating quality of bodily co-ordination and aesthetic sensibility. My fascination lies in the observation of how movement evokes other sensorial effects.
In Dress Vehicles, I use a grid of rubber ropes full of bells to cause a sonic reflection of movement. I tailor the vehicles to ‘dress’ the audience, to transform them into different identities, and to create an extended body – which for me is something that always feels bulky. As a sculptor, I am interested in making ‘shells’, object forms that may resemble the geometric costumes of avant-garde artist’s theatre, such as that of Oskar Schlemmer, or the exaggerated dresses and costumes worn by drag queens. These theatrical forms are somewhat contradictory to the notion of the emancipated body as they each fix and lock the body within, and superimpose an identity on to the performer or individual. But they are also full of aspiration, a statement about what a person wants to present to the wider public, and this brings extra comic, dramatic and satirical aspects forward. The drag queen’s performance includes costume and persona, while Schlemmer’s theatre is almost like pantomime. Both forms of performance feel more surreal than real, and abstract rather than descriptive, closer to masquerade. This is another aspect of the vehicles that I am interested in, an identity hidden and covered through the commonality of a mask.”
Haegue Yang’s Dress Vehicles were first shown in Teacher of Dance at Modern Art Oxford in 2011 and are on display at Tate Modern until 16 September. Yang (Korea, b1971) studied at Seoul National University, Korea, in 1994 and Meisterschn Str Schule Frankfurt, Germany, in 1999. Recent exhibitions include Kunsthalle Lingen, Germany (2011), Modern Art Oxford (2011), New Museum, New York (2010), and the 53rd Venice Biennale (2009). She lives and works in Berlin and Seoul.