Frame 61

Tae Eun Ahn

Frame 61
Tae Eun Ahn

"I tried to produce something that could replace my fugitive body which will later, verify the fact that I was once physically alive even after my death."


Could you tell us a bit about yourself. How long have you been a practicing artist and where did you study?

I am a Korean born artist who studied BFA at Rhode Island School of Design in U.S.A. and moved to London for MA at Royal College of Art. I could remember that my artistic practices actually started from the time when I transferred to RISD. Before that, I was studying business administration in Korea. At that time, I was a student who was deeply interested in art but never could think of myself being an artist, as I believed that art was an exclusive thing that only gifted people could do. However, after consistently exposing myself to lots of different contemporary artists and practices whose works go beyond representative art, I eventually could be confident on my desire and such transition led my life to be completely changed.

I think that my experience living across Asian and Western cultures(South Korea, Japan, U.S.A and U.K.) has also made a huge impact on my inter-cultural artistic influences, providing an essential platform of my art. Highly influenced on cultural displacement that I always experienced whenever I moved into new cities and countries, it became critical for me to think of how to locate myself in this world. Staying in a vague position between a foreigner but a dweller, I tried to question myself who I am and how I can define myself. Along with these thoughts, I realised the role of my physical body and that became a reason why I started to use my body as the most critical medium to work with.

Could you tell us the reasons for the use of clay in your performances?

The reason that I use clay is its link towards our body. I mean, clay is made out of dust, soil and earth which could be the place where we all came from and head to. According to genesis 2:7, there is a quote (‘Then the LORD God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.’) It indicates that humans were made out of the dust of the ground. Also, when we think of a human body buried in the earth after death, we can easily realise that the body will slowly and gradually decompose to the earth. I actually do not have any religion and still not sure about bringing its religious context towards my work, but I am still interested in its connection towards our body. I, of course, at the same time, am aware of the fact that the clay that I am using actually contains other artificial chemicals—it is not as a pure dust as the earth. But because of its representative condition that reflects our existence and its nature, I use clay in most of my performances.

And of course, its responsive quality is also one another reason for me to use it. It is a great material to capture instant traces and marks of each action.

A Pot, 2014

Untitled, 2016, Clay Performance, 2 hours

Untitled, 2016, Clay Performance, 2 hours

Cycle, 2015, Clay Performance

In your performances you often use parts of your body to leave some sort of mark in the clay, could you tell us the thoughts behind this?

Most of my works as well as my performances explore how to release fear that has been derived from the ephemeral evanescence of life. It is a reaction to embrace the fear yet to resist decaying or to refuse time. Leaving marks is considered as one of the methods to protect myself from disappearing. By producing physical traces, imprints and metaphors of myself, I tried to produce something that could replace my fugitive body which will later, verify the fact that I was once physically alive even after my death.

What do you hope the viewer gains/reacts from looking at your work?

I hope my viewers could reflect back their own actions that they do everyday and re-think about its possibility. It could be different or similar form of realisation compared to what I have shown through my works. The thing that I would like to emphasise on my work is a way to perceive things

“as-it-is”. In removing any social, political, or cultural conditions from the gesture and repeating it meditatively, I hope that my work can provide a platform to reconsider the meaning of a given gesture and its potential to perceive the world through interactions that are derived from it.

You Walk Wrong, 2015

Tell us a bit about how you spend your day/studio routine, what is your studio like?

I don’t have typical routine. It really depends on what I need to do. When I have a huge project, I fully focus on my practices and spend all day long in my studio for several days and nights but I of course enjoy my time chatting with my friends, reading books and daydreaming in my studio. I think I normally use day time to deal with bank works, material shopping, and visiting museums and galleries and start my studio work afterwards. I mostly be in the studio from the afternoon till late at night and maybe that is why I cannot be an early bird but the opposite. To me, night time works better. It is easier for me to concentrate on myself during the night and lasts longer. I enjoy the moment when everything gets cooled down and becomes quiet.

At one corner of my studio, there are lots of bags of clay piled on top of each other. Most of them were used in previous performances but as I reuse the clay at each venue, I use my studio to cure it to make it back into a good condition.

What artwork have you seen recently that has resonated with you?

I had a chance to see an exhibition of Antony Gormley at White Cube Gallery last year. It was really impressive and filled with astonishing works. Gormley is actually one of my favourite artists so I was really grateful and excited to see his works in person. The show was arranged from his early works to recent ones and from objects to installations, lots of things to see and experience.

I remember that I first got to know him through his Ted Talk. Especially the part when he asked audiences to close their eyes to show the total darkness as a space which is objectless, dimensionless and limitless was really surprising, as the space that he thinks his sculpture can connect us with is quite similar to the space that I would like to encounter through my performances.

What does the future hold for you as an artist? Is there anything new and exciting in the pipeline you would like to tell us about?

One of the things that I have been longing for is to explore the world that I haven’t experienced yet. Seeing how different people live their lives in different ways and researching on how those differences may affect to their artistic practices and perspectives, I hope that I could further spend some time to expose myself towards the people and learn through them.

It also includes my plan to visit Asian countries next year to look around and learn about their art. As I spent most of the time in Western culture after I started my art, I rarely had chance to go back to Asia to get to know about my root. This is why even though I was born and raised in Asian countries, I, ironically, am much familiar about Western art. By studying and learning about art from Asia, I hope that I could have a better understanding on my art.

Images courtesy of the artist
Interview publishing date: 09/02/17