You Are Not Alone

You Are Not Alone, 2013. Yarn installation. Dimensions variable.

 As the curator for Mapping Thinking Spaces, I wasn’t initially intending to be a participating artist. However, partway through the planning stages of the exhibition, my friends Eli and Oona alerted me to something strange about that this panel of glass in room 404C – which is not only the venue of the exhibition, but also the place where a group of us always do our work till late. This horizontal panel of glass is right above the blackboard surface, which corresponds to the height of the lockers on the outside, and we always thought it was sealed on the sides. Turns out it wasn’t – there were these inexplicable half-inch wide gaps on the sides, which in our moment of realisation shattered some weird illusion we had built up that the classroom was a completely sealed space.

In that moment, I thought it would be great to do a piece that somehow took advantage of those gaps. I somehow came up with this idea that since there were gaps on both sides, I could wrap the entire piece of glass with one “continuous” string. Even at this point, I had already decided to title it “You Are Not Alone,” as a humorous nod to the fact that the interior of the classroom was not so disconnected from the exterior as it had seemed.

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The proposal for the artwork. All participating artists in Mapping Thinking Spaces were asked to fill out a questionnaire.

It took me a couple of trips to the yarn store to get the perfect shade, but after consulting a number of people, I settled on this muted teal colour, which had a green tint similar to the tint of the glass. The installation process was much more arduous than I expected. Though the concept for the execution was simple, it required a lot of physical labour. Thankfully my friend Minhae was on hand to help me – we were working from 10 pm till 3 am.

Photo Apr 24, 10 59 15 PM

I had to unravel each ball of yarn and wrap it around a flat cardboard “needle,” which I would pass through the gap on one side to Minhae, and then she would pass it through the gap on the other side back to me.

Photo Apr 25, 1 41 55 AM

I used 6 balls of yarn to get to this stage.

The following is the wall text that I wrote for my work:

A classroom with closed doors is perceived as a safe space where one can share knowledge only to those within its boundaries. The piece of glass above the blackboard appears to be flush against the wall, but upon closer inspection, one finds that there are small gaps on either side — breaking the illusion of the safe space. The act of binding with yarn serves to make the broken illusion visible and tangible, creating a simultaneity of internal and external with a color that echoes the greenish-blue tinge of the glass.

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Instead of leaving the lines of yarn as one solid bar, I decided to tie the strings together at one point on each side of the glass. I enjoyed the effect formalistically, but it also served to expose the yarn on the other side of the glass, which could not be seen otherwise.

While I was happy with the aesthetic as a whole, I think it went so far beyond the initial trigger that many people probably did not notice the gaps. Of course, if I had wanted people to notice it, I could have easily placed a huge neon arrow pointing to the gap, and perhaps the fact that they still didn’t realise that the gaps were there is a testament to the exposed secrecy of this “architectural feature.”

I did get some really interesting feedback about the piece, including how the yarn recalls anything from yarn bombing to domesticity and labour to musical instruments, which is inevitable with more abstract pieces. I definitely see a connection to my own preoccupation with diagrams and linear structures. I personally enjoy this kind of openness, but maybe it’s because I don’t see this work as part of my “oeuvre” necessarily, but rather a sort of straightforward side project. There isn’t even much to say about the project conceptually – or rather, I’m not invested in it to the point where I would actually flesh out its intellectual basis. It has been pointed out to me, though, that the weaving together of interior and exterior and the mediation of this dichotomy is in line with many of my other works, and the way my mind works in general.

Anyway, here are a few more installation shots of the piece, with a couple more thoughts. The installation is still in the classroom right now – since it’s not really interfering with any surfaces/walking areas, I’m allowed to leave it for now.

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