Choi Tae Hoon is a prominent contemporary artist in Korea. Not only did Tae Hoon study in Korea, but he was also a student at the Cité Internationale des Arts Residency Program in Paris as well as at the Vermont Studio Residency Program.
Tae Hoon works with steel sheet which he welds into different forms, working the sheet metal as if it were malleable like fabric. His favourite technique to use when working with steel is the plasma torching technique which uses compressed air to make holes in the steel plate; this is how the installation “Skin of Time” gets its unique texture.
“Skin of Time” is a giant tree laid on its side with punctured holes in its bark and engraved messages and memories that can only be seen at night. Trees represent multiple facets of Korean culture. According to the Vancouver Biennale, in Korea the tree symbolizes such things as the Shinsu or sacred tree, the tree at the core of the world, and the tree of life. The ability of the tree to embody so many different things yet still uphold its significance is extraordinary as though it may contain special values to each individual, the tree is representative of Korea nonetheless.
Tae Hoon’s sculpture represents parts of his life and his race against time. To me, it is as if he is solidifying his existence in the world and etching his memories into this permanent sculpture, effectively carving his life into his art. Lightbulbs have also been installed within the piece so that when the piece is lit up at night, light can shine through the thousands of holes in the sculpture. Light breathes life to the piece and gives the piece some dimension and movement so in this way, Tae Hoon is bringing time and life together through light.
For Choi Tae Hoon, this piece is in stark contrast with his other works from past seasons. Tae Hoon’s previous works included objects such as armchairs and telephones forged out of his signature material but in “Skin of Time’, Tae Hoon has created the natural tree out of a very industrial product.
At first, realizing that the tree was made out of steel warranted some mixed feelings but after some thought, I came to the conclusion that perhaps Tae Hoon is trying to illustrate the reality of society today: we have stepped so far away from our natural environment as to have almost completely immersed ourselves in industrial products for little of what surrounds us today is completely natural.
“Skin of Time” is exhibited in the same place the piece which became known as the ‘upside down church’ used to be. The ‘upside down church’ is still a very memorable piece for many Vancouver residents and I have encountered many who preferred the previous piece through my research. However, as we have been learning through the Walking Home Yaletown Project, perspectives of art change over time and perhaps Choi Tae Hoon’s “Skin of Time” will soon became as memorable to these Vancouverites as the ‘upside down church’.
By Justine Lee