Like a rectangle to a square, a house is not always a home. In the case of Do Ho Suh’s latest exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum, a home is not even a house. Constructed entirely by hand out of translucent nylon and fishing wire “The Perfect Home II” is a to-scale model of the artist’s former Chelsea apartment, where he lived for 19 years.
The labor of the work is front and center; every stitch clearly visible through the soft gauze of colored fabric. “Each brick is individually measured and traced,” notes our museum tour guide. The whole piece feels like an exercise in restraint and a lesson in patience. You can look, but don’t touch (the tour guide presents us with a swatch of fabric to feel). Imagine the hours spent measuring, cutting, sewing and constructing. Imagine the margin of error. Simply put, it’s overwhelming.
To call “The Perfect Home II” an interactive exhibition would be far too simplistic. Flipping the concept of site-specific work on its head, Do Ho Suh’s piece asks its viewers to imagine something else: that this work is in itself a specific site and we are only fleeting guests.
As our museum chaperone walks us through the exhibition, I’m reminded of a very familiar tour: the dreaded New York City apartment search. Like a good broker, she points out all the important selling points—full sized bathtub, radiator, intercom, fireplace etc. Each one literal and surreal. The use of materials is so vulnerable – literally transparent – that you feel simultaneously voyeuristic and exposed while inside.
Born in Seoul, South Korea, Do Ho Suh is no stranger to displacement or nostalgia. Much of his work centers around the longing for home and the logistical constraints of how to recreate that feeling. “Home is something you carry along with your life. I deal with that issue visually…. I had to make something that’s light and transportable, something you can fold and put in a suitcase and bring with you all the time,” explains Suh in part of the exhibition’s wall text. In this piece, color denotes both space and ownership: blue for the apartment, pink for the hallway, and green for the staircase and above-level flooring.
As the museum guide ushers us out of the space I’m struck with a sense of urgency. Two minutes isn’t nearly enough time to take it all in. I want to sit next to the fireplace and feel the metaphorical heat. I want to wash my hands in the bathroom sink. I want to count the outlets. I want to check that all the light switches are off. As we begrudgingly exit the pink archway I ask her “So, what’s the brokers fee? We’ll take it.”
Experience “The Perfect Home II” at the Brooklyn Museum (200 Eastern Parkway Brooklyn, New York) through January 27th, 2019.