Abigail Collins

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Stills from 'Framed', Video, 12min, 2011

Unforeseen Events, Wood story, inkjet print, 25x37cm, 2011

Space and Perception; Discussions on Their Relationship

Hong Gyeong-han(Art Critic)

1. Abigail Collins' work has the freedom of not being bound to any particular medium. Even her references to disparate places and times become unbound from their typical positions in history. Though the conceptual focus of the work is her subjective perception of particular spaces, the formal aspects of the work are quite practical, and this often creates conflict within language. Ultimately, the artist resists a succinct ending, but focuses on relative relationships.

The work is rather impressive in that it makes connections between a remote historical context and the present day material reality. In fact, the artist brings a new awareness to everyday subjects in contemporary society through her aesthetic decisions. Among the concepts that she is dealing with, there are several that could serve as the subject of this review: different methods of locating our current political situation, questioning our blind acceptance of the relationships between the past and the present, and utilizing the personal narrative of a foreigner to spotlight how the actions of our predecessors that have made an imprint upon space.

The series Due to Unforeseen Events (utilizing photography, sculpture, books, texts, etc.), shown this year at Seoul Art Space GEUMCHEON, stands out from the rest of her works. This
seemingly minimal series is an exploration of the relationship between the structure of Korean buildings and their surfaces. She draws attention to ways that the cement structures and the artificial materials used to cover these structures, both stimulate and radically alter our perception of space. This observation also indicates a very intimate connection between building
materials and the political history of Korea.

Our desire to experience architecture through our senses alone (without a consciousness of the structure underneath the immediately perceptible surfaces) has changed today's physical and psychological environments. This speaks of South Korea's modern history, which has focused disproportionately on development, materialism, and success; the subject of this work is political introspection, which takes form as a narrative. Although the work is primarily spacial and territorial in form, it seems to leave the form behind to speak to us of the internal index and icon of the political history. Therefore, we can say that Due to Unforeseen Events is questioning what enabled the current state of material normality, by interrogating the relationships between space and senses, historical and political reality, physical and conceptual understanding, and internal and external elements. Stepping outside of the limited binary of deficiency and surplus, the artist gives us a third way to look at the current understanding of urban space.

Actually, the artist's approach in Due to Unforeseen Events was already being developed in Constructure, an installation at Cooper Union in New York of 2008. At the time of the installation, she was interested in the psychological impact of the construction materials. The art work was created to observe what kind of psychological resonance was possible even after isolating the materials from their original functions and historical contexts (which were, according to the artist, situations of organized violence). In this way Constructure lays down the groundwork for examining Due to Unforeseen Events.

2. Her works open themselves to interpretation when we make the connections between the sociopolitical and psychological arenas. They transcend a schematic visual expression, instead working with multiple layers and varying frameworks. The intersection between the direction of the artist's intention and the physical realization of the work creates a bilateral cross, bringing the subject matter into sharper focus at this conjunction. Whether the particular work leans more towards physical space or a psychological zone, the work is continuously addresses these relationships in flux.

In the video work, Framed (2011), the artist uses two still cameras to photograph 360 degrees around the center point; the conceptual focus is on the relationship between the frame of the image and the political framing of the space. The filming locations were two abandoned army barracks in Paju, Gyeonggi-do (US military base) and the Geumcheon area of Seoul (South Korean military base). The artist installed cameras at each location and filmed two separate images at the same time. In the way she documents the site, she stresses what is outside of the frame, inferring what history leaves out of its framework. This work experiments with methods of representing "historical truth".

It is meaningful that the audience's gaze offers a third frame, or point of view; this position as a frame-maker opens a space to engage with the work. This third view-point substantiates the underlying bridge between visual image and political context. The relationships between these elements can be seen to some degree by viewing the video/installation Azimuth, presented at Houghton Gallery in 2009 . In this light, the Azimuth project, like Constructure, has a thread of connection to the later works Due to Unforeseen Events and Framed. In other words, these four
works are not so different in that they address the unseen spaces in between political, historical and spacial elements; the work draws attention to these gaps and the relationships between them persists as the subject matter of the work.

Abigail Collins' work doesn't reveal itself instantaneously, but can be appreciated fully only after approaching the works with an understanding of their roots and historical parameters. Basically, a certain level of rigor is required on behalf of the viewer. Because the images she is creating are informed by a wide range of personal and historical references, the compilation of these elements don't yet complete a clear and unique color of the artist; the artist is tasked with the strenuous work of struggling through disparate elements. Though perhaps these elements are the unique characteristics in Abigail's recent art, I anticipate further growth and clarity in her future works.