Unfamiliar Behavior: Works by Hye Yeon Nam

Jepson Center Savannah Through April 28

By: - Mar 06, 2013

Nam Nam Nam Nam Nam Nam Nam Nam

Unfamiliar Behavior: Works by Hye Yeon Nam
Jepson Center
Telfair Museums
Savannah, Georgia
January 30-April 28, 2013


This first museum solo exhibition of videos and kinetic sculptures by Hye Yeon Nam, at the Jepson Center of the Telfair Museums in Savannah, was a refreshing surprise.


On the top level of the $26 million addition designed by Moshe Safdie are two special exhibition galleries. The larger one currently houses Il Pane Degli Angeli Paintings and Tapestries from the Uffizi. Across the hall is the smaller project space that features works by Nam a Ph.D. candidate at the Georgia Institute of Technology who holds an M.F.A. in digital media from the Rhode Island School of Design.


Despite the ambitious new building and  presence of Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) which has acquired some 60 properties in the Historic District, overall, The Telfair Museums, based on its founding institution, is conservative.


Which made the encounter with Nam’s witty, engaging work all the more shocking, delightful, and hilarious.


We were greeted by a wall with a series of skeletal hands. The accompanying text asked us to smile. A small camera read our jocular expression and responded by setting off a series of madcap, spectral waves. To keep it up I just smiled and smiled and smiled.


Now isn’t that fun. Laugh and the world laughs with you.


On the opposite wall a wave of my arms resulted in a row of robotic figures bobbing up and down.


I asked the guard who stands in the space for hours and hours each day if the kinetic actions proved to be tedious. That didn’t provoke much of a response. In these hard times it’s just a job you know.


We passed her Kiss Controller, hard to explain, on the way to the inner gallery which was darkened to display videos.


Nam is shown strolling through Times Square in New York. While she moves foreword everyone else is passing her going backward at the same pace. We were inevitably fascinated about how she accomplished this trick. Was she shot and pasted in separately? Not really, as there were no obvious borders as one would expect. That could, of course, just be superb post production editing.


Now and then as she moved along I tried to detect whether the flow of traffic disrupted her progress or threaded around her. Again there was no ready solution to the question. Of course the best thing to do is stop trying to see how it works and just enjoy the experience.


Another video entailed four equal sections. In each of which the artist is seen performing an absurd action. She attempts to drink juice out of a carafe which had a hole in its bottom. More leaks over her than ends up in her mouth.


Again I burst out laughing.


There appears to be an underlying theme about frustrations of eating. Like pushing food around a plate. Or trying to maintain balance while dining seated on a chair with extra long rear legs that make it difficult to avoid sliding off.


It would be nice to know what makes Nam tick. Just where is she coming from and what is the driving force behind her vision and persona?


Most likely it resides in the Dada trickster, tongue in chic, jokes and puns that started with Duchamp. Whatever the source Nam gives it a lively and well vetted update.  


While this was my first encounter with Nam she is no stranger to the art world.


Her work has been shown at New York’s Eyebeam, electronic art festivals and conferences worldwide including Conflux (New York, 2010), FILE festival (Brazil, 2011, 2012), SIGGRAPH (Los Angeles, 2008, 2010), ISEA (Istanbul, 2011), and others in China, Ireland, the UK, Germany, Australia, Denmark, and Switzerland.

Nam has been featured in print and broadcast media including the Discovery Channel (Canada), Leonardo Journal, Wired, We Make Money Not Art, Makezine, Business Insider and Engadget.

And now Berkshire Fine Arts.