Fallen Star Stuck on Rooftop
Passersby are hoping the 35-ton house Do Ho Suh 94 PT has placed teetering off a seven-story building in southern California is more illusion than reality. But it’s actually a bit of both.
Called Fallen Star, the permanent installation has been seven years in the making, commissioned by the University of California / San Diego for its renowned Stuart Collection (two other RISD alumni,Richard Fleischner 66 SC/MFA 68 and Jenny Holzer MFA 77 PT, were previously invited to create work for the renowned 18-piece collection). The piece reflects Suh’s ongoing explorations of the idea of home, the meaning of cultural displacement and how we both perceive and remember the spaces in which we live – all stemming from his own feelings of displacement when he arrived in the US from Seoul, Korea to study at RISD.
Cantilevered on at the top of the Engineering School’s main building, the 15 x 18-foot blue clapboard house is fully furnished, replete with Adirondack chairs placed in a perfect little patch of front garden. It’s based on a classic New England cottage Suh remembered from his years in Providence. Inside, the place feels lived-in, with newspapers strewn around, a kid’s drawing pinned to one wall, an open bag of candy on the coffee table. Near the door a small needlepoint of a house offers a reinforcing image of domestic bliss.
“Everything you see is something you’re familiar with from your own home or your parents’ home or your grandparents’ home,” Suh told theLA Times. But because the house is perched on a 5-degree angle, walking into it feels odd. “You physically experience this instability while you’re surrounded by elements you’re so comfortable with,” he explains.
When Suh, a renowned artist who handles commissions around the world, first came to UCSD to develop a proposal in 2005, he was initially intrigued by the possibilities suggested by the nearby cliffs. Once he shifted his attention to a site on campus, however, “It never left me – the idea of a house dangling, holding onto the cliff,” he says.
Cultural, physical and psychological displacement had long been central to Suh’s work, which is widely embraced for its visual impact, conceptual strength and extraordinary craftmanship. In the past, he has created replicas of his childhood home in sheer silk, suspending the evocative structures in midair. He once cast a version of the East Side mansion-turned-apartment building that he lived in while at RISD in greenish resin, splitting it into quarters and pulling them apart to expose the domestic guts of the place. A major exhibition of these and other works are on view from August 4 through October 21 inDo Ho Suh: in between at Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art in Japan.
Though Fallen Star has landed and isn’t moving from its precarious spot on the UCSD campus, the installation isn’t static. Interior lights turn on and off – keeping with the late-night schedule typical of most students – and smoke rises sporadically from the chimney. The garden is filled with East Coast varietals, so it will continue to change – and ultimately, may not thrive in the southern California heat.
“That’s part of the process,” Suh says. “It’s part of the survival issue that all…students have to deal with on campus – in a milder way.”
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