Hoyeon Kang
Hoyeon Kang's 'How to Shout YAHOO!' at the KCC

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Hoyeon Kang's 'How to Shout YAHOO!' at the KCC

Kang’s major preoccupation is with ‘authentic’ experience. In this rapidly advancing world, burgeoning with 3G, 3D, 4G, 4D, HD, Wifi etc., an enormous proportion of our experiences are ostensibly ‘virtual’.

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Hoyeon Kang, 'How to Shout YAHOO!', 2013 - work in progress.

In the unseasonable warmth of this April morning, I’m walking along The Strand, looking for the Korean Cultural Centre. I find it tucked down a side street off the main drag, and duck inside. I’m here to catch a first glimpse of ‘How to shout YAHOO!’, an exhibition from the winner of the centre’s Spring Open Call, Hoyeon Kang.

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Hoyeon Kang, 'Laundry Blossom', 2012 - work in progress.

Kang’s major preoccupation is with ‘authentic’ experience. In this rapidly advancing world, burgeoning with 3G, 3D, 4G, 4D, HD, Wifi etc., an enormous proportion of our experiences are ostensibly ‘virtual’. Kang, though, resists the common impulse to bewail a lost profundity of existence. His pieces suggest a playful blurring of the two categories of experience.

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Hoyeon Kang, 'How to Shout YAHOO!', 2013 - work in progress.

‘How to shout YAHOO!’, the exhibition’s title piece, is a perfect example of how Kang’s work melds the sublime/eternal with the frivolous/instant. Set up in the first space of the gallery is a desk, flanked by shelves that support a beam, allowing two iPhones to hang on their chargers over a magazine. This is National Geographic, open on a fold-out photograph of a mountain range. A phone number is written in permanent marker on the wood next to it. An explanatory video playing nearby explains ‘how to shout yahoo’; I’ll summarise. Find a picture of a mountain, use one phone to call another and set both to speakerphone. Then, holding them at about 20cm from each other to ‘calibrate’ the phones, shout YAHOO! and the noise you make will be amplified by distortion and echo as it would atop a ‘real’ mountain.

There’s a really charming current of synaesthesia running through the whole show. Kang is interested in ‘cognitive errors’ – slips in processing made by our brains when responding to potentially misleading stimuli – and chooses to embrace and even engender these errors rather than avoid them. His artwork is not tromp l’oeil. Rather, the artifice of his experiential works is crucially laid bare, and it’s your brain that does the backflips.

Here is ‘Campfire’, which crackles and shines, and is surrounded by logs to sit on. The sound of the sea can be heard to my left as I perch to inspect the ‘fire’ – composed of desk lamps and humidifiers. I’m sitting on a rolled up carpet, and sound of the ‘ocean’ is being emitted by an amp in the corner, attached by elastic to a fan’s head which manipulates the noise as it swivels.

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Hoyeon Kang, 'Campfire', 2015 - work in progress.

From the first room, I’m guided to a second. Here is ‘Campfire’, which crackles and shines, and is surrounded by logs to sit on. The sound of the sea can be heard to my left as I perch to inspect the ‘fire’ – composed of desk lamps and humidifiers. I’m sitting on a rolled up carpet, and sound of the ‘ocean’ is being emitted by an amp in the corner, attached by elastic to a fan’s head which manipulates the noise as it swivels. As much as we’re charmed by the flippancy and the faux-naivete of ‘Campfire’, there’s also a degree to which this set-up delivers exactly what the artist proposes it might: the experience of that very singular, perhaps nostalgic, certainly primal experience of sitting around a fire in the dark. It’s not a convincing facsimile, but it’s not supposed to be. It’s surprisingly evocative, and becomes complete with the application of the audience’s own memories.

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Hoyeon Kang, 'Radio Wave', 2015 - work in progress.

The third room elaborates on the second. It’s here we learn how the sound of the ‘sea’ is produced. A network of electronic appliances – radios, TVs, a hairdryer – are connected via two extension cables, and set to produce white noise picked up by a microphone connected to the amp in the ‘Campfire’ room. I’m interested to learn that white-noise is a distinct category, ‘a special type of random sound signal with a constant power spectral density’, and that this term we usually associate with static can actually be legitimately produced in nature. In this case though, it’s the other way round: our brains have computed the signified ‘sea’ from the signifier ‘white noise’.

‘How to shout YAHOO!’ is, on one level, a series of tongue-in-cheek proposals for enriching a life lived in front of screens and under roofs. On another, it’s an optimistic exploration of the potentials of experience, and a tentative essay on the subjectivity of joy.

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Hoyeon Kang, 'Laundry Blossom', 2012 - work in progress.

Lastly, we walk down the corridor of ‘Laundry Blossom’. White and pink articles of clothing decorated with floral patterns and scented with fabric softener are hung along two washing lines, gently rustled by a fan, evoking avenues of cherry trees in a Spring breeze.

‘How to shout YAHOO!’ is, on one level, a series of tongue-in-cheek proposals for enriching a life lived in front of screens and under roofs. On another, it’s an optimistic exploration of the potentials of experience, and a tentative essay on the subjectivity of joy; Kang seems to posit that happiness is not an objective phenomenon, inherent in only the grandest and most profound adventures. Rather, it’s something that comes from the individual, and can be provoked by something as trivial as the fragrance of a fabric softener.

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Hoyeon Kang, 'Laundry Blossom', 2012 - work in progress.

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