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all our relations, 18th Biennale of Sydney

from Ntotemuk: Commonalities Among Great Differences

Gerald McMaster

"The principle of traditional Korean master crafts is to create flawless works, but when this doe not happen their work must be destroyed. Park Young-Sook is the foremost porcelain artist of her generation, and has collaborated with the likes of Lee Ufan.

She has mastered the fabled Moon Jar, renowned for its harmony of form. For a perfectionist like Park, inevitably there are several so-called 'failed' pieces that she will destroy by smashing them, the remains of which eventually end up as landfill on her property. This process is disheartening to her; lamenting the fact that it's like polluting, as she says, it would take 1000 years for the shards to be completely enveloped by the Earth.

The collaborative project that these two artists have worked on for all our relations is about death and rebirth- something re-formed into something new. In advance of the project, Park Young-Sook consulted a fortune-teller/seer to suggest a proper date on which to smash the failed Moon Jars. The famed Korean film director, Park Chan-wook- who won the Grand Prix at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival for Oldboy-- filmed the process. The younger Yeesookyung then re-formed the shards into an oversized sphere. In the installation, Park Young-Sook places twelve intact Moon Jars, each symbolising a month, around Yeesookyung's sphere. Park Young-Sook considers the changes of month as a change of 'Qi, the natural force'. Such changes can affect her work enormously, because she considers her practice her practice as the result of a 'combination between her technique and the natural forces'. Moving from failure to success restores the Qi indeed. 

Collaborations can be remarkable, particularly when artists who see the world from differing cultures yet are able to work out their differences to create an integrated work. Canadian curator Wayne Baerwaldt initiated one such collaboration. The result was a street-sized banner first presented in Basel, Switzerland, then at an indoor exhibition for Toronto's Nuit Blanche, in 2008, in which earth and sky were integrated. John Noestheden is a highly trained artist, who is well read on the history of the sky through historical texts. Shevinai Ashoona, on the other hand, has never moved away from her northern Arctic community of Cape Dorest, and her knowledge us entirely infinite celestial bodies drawn by Noestheden. Their collaboration resulted in Earth and Sky (2008). When viewing it, one is tempted to lie on the floor, looking up and imagining what it is like to stare out into space at the many celestial patterns. 

These collaborations are often undertaken with fellow compatriots; in the 18th Biennale of Sydney there are many more such collaborations, such as: Nina Canell and Robin Watkins; Bahar Behbahani and Almagul Menlibayeva; Postcommodity; Gabriella Mangano and Silvana Mangano; and Ed Pien and Tanya Tagaq. Monika Grzymala is the only artist to collaborate with artists outside her country; her installation is a collaborative effort with Euraba papermakers from the Australian Aboriginal community of Boggabilla."