Artists working in New Zealand who have come from Asian whakapapa express their creativity through using social, political, and cultural experiences. Engaging strongly with the idea of hybridity, the artists are able to critically represent the complexities of society. Korean born artist Yona Lee creates large scale sculptures that feel like a maze plucked from the industrial commuting society. She is able to communicate her social experiences with the viewer by making her artworks interactive. Politically Yona represents the confusing world we live in and how hard it is to make sense of it all. The overall cultural context is a “third space” where both her Asian whakapapa and New Zealand culture meets to resemble the identity of the world she lives in.
Yona Lee is able to reflect the social aspect of society by introducing the ability for her large scale artworks to be interactive. By creating a space that allows the viewer to engage with the artwork, it allows the people themselves to be considered part of the artwork itself. When there is an absence of humans in the artwork it doesn’t take away from the greatness of the sculpture, but in fact subtracts some of main representations of social context. The colossal size of In Transit (Arrival) by Yona Lee brings us the understanding that “social context of art is a crucial part of the relationship between art and culture, as well as that between art and society.”Pg. 9. Lewis, Phillip. Yona is both representing society but also communicating the relationship between society, art and culture. We see this expressed by the use of steel tubes. Throughout In Transit (Arrival) steel tubes have been used to create majority of the structure. What the railing represents is control, in society the railing is often used to guide people through a building or confine people from restricted areas. Though it might not seem too obvious to the viewer that they are also being controlled as they walk through Yona’s work. Yona has specifically designed the structure in a certain way that forces her viewers to see what she wants them to see, when she wants them to see it. This highlights that socially we are a submissive society without even realising it. “Not only is the social context of art the locus of the relationship between art and society, but it is a main junction point of the process by which the art forms are transmitted through time.”Pg. 9. Lewis, Phillip. This unravels the strong idea that core of the work revolves around how society is portrayed to Yona herself. It’s busy, compelling, cluttered but organised. Yona’s representation allows the outside world to come into the work and fill in the gaps of society; the people. Since people is what completes the work, her ideas of society will able to remain precent in time forever. This is simply because we can’t have a society without people.
The world we live in is very confusing, it’s loud and dangerous but it is also full of potential. Politically we can see how Yona’s work communicates ideas of the government and society as hole, but how? The government is a structure, it holds the people of society together and it is a representation of authority and control. By looking of how Yona has deliberately designed her sculpture with the ideas of government in mind we understand the reality of her work is to manipulate the audience to feel as if they are part of something. “To be effec- tive today, an organization must be lean, fast on its feet, responsive to its customers, capable of adjusting to constant change, able to improve productivity continually. In other words, it needs to be entrepreneurial rather than bureaucratic.” Yona’s work shines through the ideas of fast on its feet, and capable to adjusting to constant change by the way the structure feels and looks. Even though the structure doesn’t actually change but it never at one point feels like society has paused time, but rather it’s a sample of the pulse of society itself. You can understand this by looking closely at the objects you find throughout the structure, both domestic and industrial appliances are specifically placed continuously, and are purposely connected to the steel tubes. Yona has done this to highlight to the viewer how everything in society has a place and everything is connected together through a greater system. Just like how society is connected to the government system. The world we live in sometimes is hard to make sense of, but when you look closer at the details of the world; the systems, the networks, the organisation of everything. You begin to understand that all those things are essential to the progression of society. If you take away the steel tubes in Yona’s work all you’re left with is domestic and industrial appliances on the floor. If you take away both domestic and industrial appliances you only left with the steel tubes. Neither of them would be able to communicate the systems of government or society without each other. Just like government wouldn’t be able to work without essential key systems. “People might need to be “reminded” that they live in a society and were “confined” by law to their mutual obligations” Yona represents key systems to remind us that the world we live in is controlled. She is representing through confining her audience and choosing which way they should walk as an example of the world we live in. We are obligated to work and earn money, like we are obligated to walk in one certain direction through her work. Not only has Yona manipulated us to feel like we are part of something, she makes us realise that we were always part of something in the first place.
The cultural significance of In Transit (Arrival) brings together both Yona’s whakapapa of Asian Korean decent, and the culture of Aotearoa. When coming to New Zealand she studied Art and gaining a MFA from Elam School of Fine Arts. She also spent alot of time traveling in Seoul. “I started thinking about the development of the transportation and organisation and how people try to overcome the limit of time and space.” Yona Lee is expressing that she was inspired by how people commute in society. “When you’re in an unknown city you realise that you spend a lot of time on trains and buses just going somewhere.” The culture of commuting is very common on a global scale, therefore allowing people from all around the world to be able to find familiarities in the artwork. By looking closely at the artwork it is hard to isolate one culture, this is because you could call this type of art “the third space”. This space can be expressed as a hybridity of culture. It is a space allows two seperate cultures to come together “The process of cultural hybridity gives rise to something different, something new and unrecognisable, a new area of negotiation of meaning and representation.” We can see this throughout Yona’s work through how she draws from the private and public eye of the world, together they blur the representation of society and therefore transforms the idea of what we believe society to be, into something we don’t even truely recognise. Yona uses lights as a domestic symbol, along with coat hangers as well, keeping in mind she has chosen all objects specifically, she also pairs the same space with bus stop buttons, and train hangers. Overall the use of both domestic and industrial appliances creates a juxtaposition. This juxtaposition resembles how society feels so conflicting, so confusing, like being young in a new city. Yona is bringing through her experience with her travels in Souel with her experiences that she would of felt from her domestic life. “Utilizing multiple, diverse, and, even, conflicting mediational tools promotes the emergence of third spaces, or zones of development, and, thus, expands learning” This expresses that Yonas work is a symbol of the hybridity of both New Zealand culture and her whakapapa. To reinforced her New Zealand cultural identity she chose to locate her sculpture in Te Tuhi art space. “It works well with my concept because I’m collaging different spaces into one space.” the building is very special to her “If you walk along the corridor sometimes you will hear people dancing or a sermon of someone preaching, and then there are art classes.” Overall the choice of the building represents how art as hole is important to her and therefore apart of her identity. In Transit (Arrival) communicates a “Third space” for the combination of both cultures as one hole identity.
In conclusion Yona Lee has created a piece of work that is unique. Never before have I seen such a large scale sculpture that communicates strongly about social context, political context and cultural context. Yona is an artist who has let society play with the idea of society. Using steel tubes to confine us and lead us where she want us to be lead, and using domestic and industrial appliances to communicate both the public and private eye of society. She brings her audience into a neutral space, lets them adventure through the steel rails. Yona brings into her work the experiences of her life, her Asian whakapapa and New Zealand culture. Together all the ideas and symbolism generates strong representations of what she believes society to be. Overall I find Yona’s sculpture a great understanding of society, we simply can not have a society without people interacting with the systems put in place.