The Cone of Concern
October 15, 2020–February 28, 2021
The Museum of Contemporary Art and Design (MCAD), Manila presents Haegue Yang: The Cone of Concern, the first solo exhibition in the Philippines of celebrated Korean artist Haegue Yang. The exhibition features her extraordinarily diverse and thought-provoking practice by presenting a number of new productions together with past work.
One of the most widely shown artists of her generation in the world today, Yang is known for her prolific production in conceptual language and hybrid aesthetic vocabularies that are uniquely interwoven. Evinced through her deft handling of materials which can be understood within the language of "found objects," the "ready-made" and everyday objects, she has further widened the vocabulary of form and scale from within the parameters of traditional craft production. Her interest in phenomena foregrounds her exhibition The Cone of Concern: a complex layering of elements from various periods— two sets of newly commissioned anthropomorphic rattan sculptures, light sculptures from 2010, rotating Sonic Sculptures, whirlwind-derived patterned wall structures, textile canopies, sound elements of bird song and the cloned voice of the artist—against a lenticular print backdrop of a digitally altered meteorological image.
The title of the exhibition, The Cone of Concern, refers to a graphic tool for weather forecasting which traces the course of an oncoming storm or tropical depression. By overlapping circles over the projected path of a cyclone, the resulting shape is that of a cone. What we learn from this forecast modeling tool is that the further we travel towards the future, the more our ability to predict it becomes uncertain. This fundamental view in chaos theory proposes that the degree of uncertainty increases exponentially within the parameters that dictate our future against our civilizational will. The artistic proposal in the midst of this constellation is to draw out the metaphoric towards a notion of solidarity amongst those of us facing difficult circumstances, and with human imagination, understand our very own condition in the universe.
Yang’s exhibitions are intuitively linked by specific elements that flow seamlessly from one exhibition to another despite geo-political differences, or seemingly irrelevant and remote circumstances. This method draws attention to the connectedness of things through shared uncertainties and concerns. The artist has paired The Cone of Concern at MCAD with The Cone of Uncertainty at The Bass, Miami Beach, Florida, last year. The two exhibitions allude to weather-specific phenomena that affect their regions and populations. As an outsider, she sees the possibility of collaboration and community built around difficulties that can be faced together.
Her multiple visits to Manila were also occasion for inspired encounters, observations and conversations. These instances resulted in a collaboration with a local workshop, producing two new ensembles of rattan sculptures, and learning about binakol, a Philippine textile characterised by a whirlwind pattern. Struck by the similarity of binakol to motifs found in many 60s Op Art pieces, she later used this pattern in four structures as wall dividers that formally delineate the museum space. This unexpected overlap of ornamental/optical abstraction both in Western art history as well as in a local craft tradition captured Yang’s attention: how established cultural constructs can exist as doppelgangers across histories and cultures, yet be entirely unrelated. She continues to be self-critical of her aesthetic orientation as tainted by a dominant Western perspective. This acknowledgement feeds her fascination with the pattern as a critically charged metaphor rather than a personal discovery of a Philippine cultural code.
The language of weaving is decidedly present in the two sculptural ensembles developed between her studio in Seoul and the workshop in Manila. The anthropomorphic-sized sculptures, The Randing Intermediates – Inception Quartet (2020) suggest hybrid creatures that appear animalesque, while another set The Randing Intermediates – Underbelly Alienage Duo (2020) hints at spores and sea creatures. These sculptures also incorporate artificial plants, and are adorned with capiz shells and colourful string, wound around fan-shaped frames, as well as rattan spokes that bring to mind fairytales, mythology, animism, Cuban Santeria and Haitian voodoo. For the series The Intermediates (2015-), Yang previously worked with artificial straw weaving as a critical inquiry into the notion of folk as a conventional term to define identity and belonging as being something fixed and given in her works. The Randing Intermediates describes a new sculptural category that hews closest to the traditional practice of weaving. The weaving terminology found amid the exhibition brings out, through the artist's complex intertwining of ideas, materials and traditions, the temperamental and all-encompassing natural phenomenon of weather that speaks a language understood across countries and populations. As she sees it, "phenomena are autonomous beings with their own logic of existence … imbued with powers of association."
Alongside the anthropomorphic configurations is her investment in geometry and ornamentation. Yang’s affinity for juxtapositions articulates her resistance to binary models, and considers these elements in modern and ancient thought, as having rational and spiritual orientations. Her wall-mounted sculptures of two circular shapes, Sonic Rotating Identical Circular Twins – Brass and Nickel Plated #1 (2020), for example, is activated through its rotation, and the numerous bells on the discs lend the sculptures a sonic effect. The metallic rattling of bells produces a sound that calls to mind a shamanic ritual.
The mezzanine floor presents her diverse graphic works, set against angled wall structures that appear set to tilt, threatening to topple a formal space into disarray. The space sectioned by slanted structures echo the folds of origami. Their angles unsettle our navigation through the exhibition and our encounter with the work, as the artist says of these structures, which were introduced in 2010 at Art Sheffield, and then at her solo show Voice Over Three at Art Sonje Center, Seoul, “...(it) enables a different type of hanging...there is an empty space below the work. Seeing this empty space and its effect was a liberating moment for me.”
Immersing the space is Genuine Cloning (2020) a sound piece transmitted through a polygonal fixture the artist calls a sound fruit. Working with sound has given the artist the opportunity to add her voice, albeit one cloned using AI technology. The sound thus takes on a whispering style known as ASMR. The voice then, is not her, but it is also no one, a disembodied articulation commenting on human behaviour, as it names typhoons, argues the legitimacy of this practice, and questions its own state of existence. A faint and fleeting identity of inorganic voices. This synthetic human voice is similar to her use of bird songs recorded at the historical Inter-Korean summit from the DMZ in 2018. Lifted from its original site, this, like the artist’s cloned voice, becomes a mechanical insertion into a space as a silent observer, an ever-present backdrop to the vicissitudes of the human condition.
In support of this exhibition, the Museum’s free, wide-reaching educational and public programs will take hold of a range of discursive positions that will explore themes presented in the show, and seek to engage a cross-section of demographics, irrespective of art knowledge, age or race. These programs will be accessible and presented through online platforms and announced through our social media and on our website.
Haegue Yang: The Cone of Concern is presented by the Museum of Contemporary Art and Design (MCAD), Manila, and supported by Goethe-Institut Philippinen, the Ministry of Culture, Sports & Tourism of Korea, Korea Arts Management Service, and Fund for Korean Art Abroad, Hyundai Card, and ifa (Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen).
 Doryun Chong, “A Less Small Dictionary (For HY).” in Haegue Yang: Anthology 2006-2018: Tightrope Walking and Its Wordless Shadow, ed. Bruna Roccasalva (Italy: Skira, 2019), 118.
 Yilmaz Dziewor, “Arrived, 2011,” in Haegue Yang: Anthology 2006-2018: Tightrope Walking and Its Wordless Shadow, ed. Bruna Roccasalva (Italy: Skira, 2019), 201.