On view now at the Redux Contemporary Art Center in Charleston, S.C., is “Tentacle House,” new works by Korean artist Si Jae Byun. Byun was the 2007 artist in residence with Redux, completing the program only five days ago. The work of Byun often revolves around the artist’s childhood experiences, focusing on inner conflict from social experiences, which are communicated to the viewer through the interactivity of her pieces. Using characterized images of human organs and videos that incorporate the artist’s own body, Byun creates vibrant youthful works using multiple materials to achieve her diverse ideas. Byun currently lives and works in New York City. She received a BFA and MFA from the Kookmin University in Seoul, Korea, and has just completed her second MFA from the School of the Visual Arts in New York City. The artist has exhibited internationally, including “Da-Da-Da-Da-Da” with the Shin Art Museum and installations with the Seoul Art Center and the Seoul Museum of Art in Korea. Additional group exhibitions include “kinaesthetics” at Visual Arts Gallery in New York City and “Dual Scenery” at Artcom Center in New Jersey. To read an interview with the artist, please click below.
DS: Si Jae, you received your BFA and MFA from the Kookmin University in Seoul, Korea, before obtaining a second MFA from the School of the Visual Arts in NYC. Why did you decide to come to the U.S. to further study, and how do schools in the U.S. differ from those in Korea?
Si Jae: The MFA courses are very similar in the U.S. and Korea. Both of the schools that I attended are very special and very free for the students. There are two teachers per student. We also have group seminars often. I can focus on my own work and group processing. I also came to the U.S. because it is the best art market in the world, especially in New York. My work is very hard to sell and is not very commercial, so I came to the U.S. to learn more about the business of art as well as the practice.
DS: How has your work evolved since you have been studying in NYC?
Si Jae: My mind has changed a lot; I want to do more commercial work right now. I read Christo’s book, and he finds very unique ways to support his non-sellable installations, by selling drawings and photos. I like this model, and it can help to support bigger projects.
DS: You are currently the 2007 artist in residence at the Redux Contemporary Art Center. What can viewers expect to encounter in your exhibition opening on July 7th?
Si Jae: Communication is the concept for this exhibition. I’m here now, and, because my English is limited, communication is very difficult for me. I want to create my art and open my mind. I want to open my mental space and offer this communication to the viewer and to hear the audience’s opinions as they interact with the work. Everything is based on my experience in the U.S. Viewers can expect to see five videos, an inflatable sculpture and drawings from my videos.
DS: Many of your installations are fabric-based and inflatable and require direct interaction with the viewer. How is the interactivity important in your work and to people’s perception of the works?
Si Jae: I want to show them my personal space without using language and allow them to come into this space. I want the viewer to be able to visually come into my world, to construct my world as a means of communication.
DS: What projects are you working on next, and where can they be viewed?
Si Jae: I have a project in the Bronx. It is outdoors, and the exhibition has a theme of using recycled materials. I will make an inflatable sculpture using recycled cloth. It will be one piece, one big dress, located in a park in the Bronx. From there, I will go on to another residency program in New York state.
DS: Why did you choose the title “Tentacle House” for your exhibition with Redux?
Si Jae: I named it Tentacle House because it conveys the concept of communication. The tentacles are like antennas that are reaching out and bringing the audience into my work and space.
DS: You often use diverse media such as video, drawing, painting, sculpture, sound and some performance to express an idea within a single work. How does the diversity of media in your art help to develop your process and final product?
Si Jae: I have a lot of good friends, a musician and multi-media artist that I collaborate with. Every show, they help me with my work, and, in return, I help them with their shows. I can do a huge piece utilizing many media because I have help from them. It is a collaborative social process.
DS: Which artists are you most influenced by right now?
Si Jae: I love a lot of artists. I love Louise Bourgeois and the stop motion animator Jan Svankmajer. Damien Hirst is also very interesting to me; his work is very powerful with a lot of energy. He uses the human body in his work, and that is very much related to my ideas.
DS: You have exhibited internationally with several solo and group exhibitions. Which show has been the most exciting and rewarding for you?
Si Jae: Before coming to New York, I exhibited at Seoul Art Center, which is the largest and most famous museum in Seoul. I made a piece with huge ribs and a heart. There were many people waiting to see the piece. It was very exciting. People were very aggressive in line. There was paper everywhere from the piece. After that show, I decided to come to New York — I wanted to make my work clearer and better express myself and my ideas.
DS: Do you have any dream projects that are too ambitious to be realized yet?
Si Jae: I want to build a huge building with inflatable fabric. The inside would have actual living space and a full gallery. I imagine it would be the size of a city hall. There would be many tiny videos, too, accompanying other larger pieces. I would like to show mass-media sources from every country in the rooms of the building.
DS: How does your role as an artist differ in the U.S. versus being an upcoming artist in Korea? Are there inherit disadvantages or advantages to each location?
Si Jae: It is not easy either way. Korea has a lot of artists right now, and they are very brave and only want to be artists. At the School of the Visual Arts in NYC, there were eight Korean students out of 30 people in the graduate program. I think Korea has a lot of artists right now, but everyone is an artist in New York. Even the taxi driver is an artist in New York.
DS: How long will you remain in the U.S. before returning to Korea?
Si Jae: I don’t know. I’m not so sure when I will have to go back to Korea. I would like to stay and work in New York for as long as possible. When I go back to Korea, I will most likely teach at a university.