Upon entering Alternative Space LOOP the visitor is greeted by the exhibition’s information with the silhouette of a diver on the front glass door. This figure is derived from the image of the frescoes that decorated the walls of the well-known ancient Greek Tomb of the Diver found in Paestum, today’s province of Salerno in Italy. Taken out of context, the diver serves as a mise en scène for the exhibition, inviting to a parkour for an imaginary leap, from the first floor’s installation with oceanic-looking ceramics on styrofoam buoys, down the stairs to the main hall where the rest of the remaining works gather. Here, places, borders, objects, inside and outside, public and private, micro and macro, are staged as an archeology of fluid grounds.
Many of the works in Fluid Ground are based on my life, such as everyday objects, apartments, urban space, workplaces, being an artist, German, foreign, etc. This serves as artistic material for a more general exploration of an individual, collective memory, or belonging. Hand- or machine-made objects, videos, and images are intended to reflect the migration of forms, things, patterns, and living beings, with "fluid" implying that something is constantly in flux. Through various processes of media transfers, the works become a kind of collaged skin wrapped in new containers in which what and who contains whom remains open.
Through the use of physical as well as photographic imprints or „touch“ of various surfaces, the works negotiate sculptural presence and photographic absence. Just as cracks and fissures are part of the understanding of a photographic index, the works play with archival, historical, and anthropological evocations, but no longer provide evidence and could better be characterized “not as an index of a time past, but as a document in motion”. (Alena Alexandrova, Surface Structures: Memory, Mimicry, and the Non-Archive, Amsterdam 2018 )
All works are unique and together they form a collection of variations through repeating motifs. Each piece, whether ceramic, glass, print, or knitwear, is an experiment and is automatically included in the collection. And some of them usually don't rest but are further activated in performative settings that can unfold new narratives from exhibition to exhibition. Some of the work even flirts with fashion and design, and one could imagine that they would like to expand their role to other applied functions of daily life.
During the preparation of Fluid Ground, the image of the diver seemed to become a kind of artist's persona, a passing role that I remember also enjoying playing in The Swimmer (2002), an early video work, inspired by the 1968 American film with the same title. Burt Lancaster jumps into a friend's private pool in a pair of skimpy trunks, and after a few laps, a sip of the cocktail, and a cursory chat overlooking upper-class terrain, he formulates his quest to swim along an imaginary river from a series of swimming pools to his own home - “I can swim home” - a home he forgot was already long gone. My The Swimmer version is set in the context of global mass tourism, where I took on the role of the protagonist, adapting the actor's swimming performance following the page order of an ordinary travel brochure and their hotel pools.
But perhaps the image of the diver is only a paraphrase of immersion and the transition from foreign to home. In the basement of LOOP, a kind of antique- futuristic mural entitled Regardless of Nationality consists of various framed laser prints decorated with silver leaf, which could resonate with repair techniques such as decorating broken ceramics. The images show variations of maps and divers on different backgrounds with scrawls of unclear words in a fictitious Latin and Korean- looking alphabet, and stamps possibly indicating any contracts. Regardless of Nationality intends to provoke the question of what is homeland, nationality, and internationality and directly addresses the issue of the non-eligibility of foreign artists for public funding in Korea by asking for more “fluid“ and inclusive laws. All images were generated using Stable Diffusion AI fed with the figure of the diver and various prompts from The 42nd Session of the Universal Periodic Review Republic of Korea_Report on the Cultural Rights of Migrants by Park Kyong Ju (Founder of the DAKA, www.daka.or.kr) DAKA is a non-profit organization, in which I had the honor of being one among other directors helping to promote cultural diversity and protection of foreign artists, students, and art school graduates. Whether the exhibited mural speaks of the past or the future is still an open question. But maybe the diver could be anything that breaks water surfaces and draws unpredictable circles, cracks, and scribbles. Of course, the jump doesn't need to be a test of courage, because I can't remember that I have ever made it to a 10 meters diving platform.
Sascha Pohle, Seoul, March 2023