JUHEON CHO 조주현 曺周賢
5th SOLO Exhibition
Memories ; Obersee
Freienwalder Str. 17, 13055 Berlin, Deutschland.
Curator, Art critic : Bora Lim
Sound : Sang-min Lee
The exhibition is about bringing back the layers of our memories from the experienced reality and digital. The artist Juheon Cho is trying to bring her own sensations and experienced histories with the memories of Villa Heike and Berlin back to our reality. The memory of drawing coral reefs in her childhood at her father's boring laboratory, her Berlin home next to Obersee that has a beautiful scenery that changes every day and Berlin’s memories that are buried in the Villa Heike are continuously carried back with her sculptural painting. She says it was an experience of living the life of ‘Dr. Frankenstein’ that gives skin to the ghost of a memory, the production of the work as a body without organs. Her work is rooted in traditional Korean painting styles and practices. She wishes to invite you to see the traditional ‘Korean deep colour painting (진채화)’ and the ‘Ideological Landscape (관념산수)’ within the form of sculptural painting. (Juheon Cho)
Special thanks to:
Almut Koch and Sirid Amsel of Museum Lichtenberg im Stadthausdmf
and Villa Heike
A contemporary Korean painting artist JUHEON CHO (b.1987) is from Seoul, South Korea. She received two separate degrees in Korean painting, Fine art, and printmaking from Ewha Womans University in Seoul and studied her masters in Fine art at Goldsmiths University of London. After that, she worked as an artist traveling back and forth between the UK and Korea, she had four solo exhibitions starting with her first solo exhibition ‘The Little boy and a toxic Land’ in London in 2015 and was invited to ‘Tamed by spectacle - the opaqueness of image (The muse at 269 Gallery/London)’, ‘A spectacle fever ; media between real and digital (Gallery Dos/Seoul)’, ‘Flat digital (Chungmuro Media Centre/Seoul - Supported by the city of Seoul)’. She had invited and collaborated with Exhibitions and collaborations with other artists at ‘DIGITDISCO: THE BODY IN THE AGE OF DIGITAL (The showroom/London), ‘Media Ecstasy (Kyoungbook University Museum/Daegu)’, ‘Future with Arts (Daegu art factory/Daegu)’, ‘Geeky Zone (K Museum of contemporary art/Seoul)’ as well as many other exhibitions and awards. She is an artist who always raised a question on the sensual experience from the boundary between reality and digital based on Korean painting. After returning to Seoul from London, she taught contemporary art and Painting at Daegu University and Kyungbook University, and currently lives and works as an artist in Berlin, Germany.
The place I dwell and the things left behind.
We move towards the future, but what makes who I am today is made up of memories from the past and the sensations that are left behind. From a young age, I have been moving frequently around the world with my family. We were living in Seoul, Kang-lung, Newcastle and Oslo and after I grew up as an artist, I’ve been living in London, Seoul and now I arrived in Obersee - Berlin. As a consequence, I have left a lot of things behind, and the senses and memories I have are an irreversible experience that created a huge void filled with longing. We cannot bring it back, we cannot go back and cannot see the world through my younger eyes; this kind of sadness is deeply placed in our mind, generating emptiness. These feelings and appreciations can be shared by fellow millennials who were born when transportation became more convenient and when the internet/digital technology has changed the whole world. We observe the illusion that the world is getting closer to each other.
The smell of my father’s research laboratory, the smell of the chemicals and books, the softness of the brown wounded leather sofa, and the memory of my fathers posture when getting the green tea out for me from his pale green cabinet. The memory of drawing coral reefs at his boring laboratory, inside of my mother’s studio which always tickled my nose due to the fluff from the wool of her textiles. Listening to the Beatles and music by Yang Hee Eun whilst travelling through the snow-covered Misiryeong and Hangyeryeong Pass. Baby Uki’s damp and talc-like smell as he was held by my Grandma. The fresh air when Uki and I jumped around near the river in front of a cabin in Oslo as the sun dazzled on the water. The memory of skipping rope in front of my father as he was cutting the grass in a house in Newcastle.
The smell of trees that wrapped me around as I came out of Laurie Grove Bath studio on my way home at sunset. The sounds and the colours that surrounded me on New Cross Street. The noisy pub where I first met Warren and the loud chattering of people inside. The winter was viciously cold in London that year.
The scenery of early morning at Hayang Station after the blue dawn when I left the house in Apgujeong to catch the train to cross the country. The smell of the taxi to Daegu University. Watching the Muncheonji reservoir in a taxi with a fellow lecturer and the sight of the air shimmering above the water. The bench near the music department of Kyungpook National University reminded me of the steep path on the way to Ewha University’s art building that smelled of fallen magnolias that carpeted the floor. The smell of the grass and the gentle cool breeze that flowed through my hair at Champ de mars in Paris when we listened to our song, Eric Clapton’s Layla. The chattering sound of children at Dogok Elementary School when I opened the window after working through the night until the next morning in the Daechi studio. The foggy cool morning air.
Although several decades have passed, the experiences and places that I remember with my senses are clear to me; but they become transcendent entities without a clear trace, and even if I want to grab them, it’s not possible to. The justification for their existence is solely for my longing memories, and the fact that I am alive and breathing.
Experience and senses - Obersee and the Internet.
The physical existence of Obersee and the virtual realm of the Internet both have special places in my heart. Shortly after moving to Berlin from Seoul, the Covid-19 pandemic spread across the globe and during a long one and a half years; we spent most of our time in Obersee and on the Internet.
We live on the shores of a small lake in Berlin called Obersee. The lake is impressive for its sensory experiences that it offers me with different colours, smells, and swaying movements of each day; all of this makes me feel the change of seasons and that time is passing slowly. The warmth of the neighbours in Obersee made me forget about the less friendly atmosphere in the city and helped me forget that I am a foreigner. This place has given me many things, and Berlin to me is Obersee. I will leave Obersee one day, but no doubt I will long for my experiences here.
Sometimes images from five or ten years ago pop up on social media and make me face experiential places from the past or peek through someone’s experience or stories; they look like ghosts that are exhausted (L'Epuise) and only have the shadows remain. As these images flash by I am filled with a momentary joy, soon followed by unbearable emptiness and loneliness that is deeper than before. Why am I trying to seek something meaningful from the Internet that where time doesn't exist? The senses of the past get blurry every day, the existence of the floating shadow of the Internet, and the large empty space between them is the starting point of my anxiety and I would like to throw a big question mark towards the reality of digital and Internet experiences.
The Reality and Virtuality - The discontinuity of time built out of experienced moments.
We confirm reality with our senses and make it exist before us. The reality after that experience is of something that is far away and high up, out of reach. Hard reality becomes a transcendent being through the intervention of our perception and consciousness, and it is exalted to a more infinite and richer existence than reality. By our perception and experience, this reality is transformed into a multi-layered structure beyond the experience and becomes a fluid and liberal being. As time passes along with the selfless qualitative continuation of consciousness, only the 'ideal' is faintly engraved on the solid frame of reality through the strong yet delicate impression. The fading of this sensual experience, which was clearly anchored somewhere, is a process that proves the experiential existence gradually becomes a being of transcendence as time passes.
On the other hand, the images which are transferred to the internet contain many potentials, but they have a shabby quality that does not always necessarily lead to a true reality, they are mostly just flashes of light. The lines, dots and colours that images and experiences point to, cannot be turned into a real form. The visual forms that exist in the digital space, have eternal potential but they do not have richness, they are purely potential, and those forms are pushed to us through our senses and we are trained to allow them and have them drift, float and wander in us. The reason that the authority of these unreal and uninterrupted potentials is rushing to excess is that we are trainable beings. These forms on the Internet float as reflections of the real world, and we cannot control our mind. This is because, even if they linger inside, we adopt them at some incomprehensible level without us feeling them as a permanent and distinct threat. However, what I felt while living on the internet during the lockdown period is that the seeds of chaos have already been sown in abundance, and the anxiety that comes from them floating around in us makes us unable to stabilise ourselves. This insecurity made my senses and my existence small and insignificant.
The body of work and the memories for the exhibition is generated from Obersee that have formed from the physical experience of being here as well as the combined experience of the internet. With places being posted on social media repeatedly I was able to examine the physical Obersee and the virtual Obersee, seeing the differences and similarities in my experiences and the experiences of other people. The resulting fragments of memory forcefully summon the multi-layered structure of the experiential sense into reality to be recalled and re-experienced. Obersee's water, grass, wind, sky, trees, light, darkness, sway, and the rustle of its leaves return through the process of transcendence from a clear and solid reality; disappearing in shape, leaving only color, back to front, flat and swollen, and moving with unnatural electricity. In the three-dimensional painting, the shadow ghosts float around in my memory and bring them all into the real world. It is like Dr. Frankenstein's monster, whose organs have already disappeared and only the body remains.
Reality is a space where the moments of constant changes and movements are infinitely connected, and it is impossible to hold on to the moments because the physical reality goes through changes. The process itself of trying to bring back the infinite changes and transcendentally changing moments into our reality is my work.
Through the work, I tried to present an index of weighted thoughts and shapes that penetrate me and my entire memory. It’s still frustrating. Is an artwork just a snapshot of a memory and a thought? I hope that my snapshots can serve as an anchor for others’ thoughts.
The History of Villa Heike and Berlin, the things left behind.
“Hohenschönhausen is one of those areas in Berlin that one rarely traverses these days. Aside from the Berlin-Hohenschönhausen Memorial, a former State Security Political Prison there is a Villa Heike. An abandoned giant three-story Prussian Villa with the scars of east Berlin.
The Prussian Villa Heike and the area surrounding it once belonged to the industrialist Richard Heike - a specialist in Canned-Goods Machinery Production. Heike built up a large industrial site consisting of a Machine Factory (specialising in meat and canned goods), a living and administrative building (the Villa Heike) and a factory storage. Heike lived on the top floor of Villa Heike with his large family, while the rest of the building was used for administrative purposes as well as functioning as a showroom for his machines.
The Soviet Arrival and the liquidation of the Villa Heike
The Soviet soldiers gunned him down on the street in front of the building and liquidated the rest of the building. The Soviets seized the whole area and created the “Speziallager Nr.3”. The camp was under the jurisdiction of the People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs (NKVD) and served primarily as a collection and transit camp for over 16,000 men, women and young people.
The Stasi and 11 Kilometers worth of Nazi Files
The soviets handed over the area to the GDR in 1951, which continued to operate the facilities and prison. The area, which was also home to the “Operativ-Technische Sektor” – the unit which was responsible for developing all the technical gadgets any spy could need. The Villa Heike soon found itself being used for something even more secretive – it was to become the central storage and research facility of the Stasi for its secret nazi files.
The Reunification and Abandon
With the German reunification, the files moved into the German Federal Archives. With the files moved, the Villa Heike was left abandoned. And that’s how it remained for almost 25 years – until a group of 6 Architects and Investors bought the building in 2015 and decided to renovate it.”
( Seebode, Georg. “Villa Heike.” Digital Cosmonaut, Cosmonaut, 2 Mar. 2018 (digitalcosmonaut.com/2018/villa-heike/))
In this place where time seems to have stopped, I pondered a lot over the two years after seeing the exhibition space about what I could tell and what the story would mean to us and to the viewers of the exhibition.
I thought it was necessary to dig through and think about Berlin's complexity and confusion, which moves through collapse, increased openness, dismantling, and creation through Villa Heike, and the traces left behind with careful consideration. What kind of memory has been left behind in this place whilst the place was running towards the future? What was in its past? When people think of Berlin and this Villa Hieke, they think of East Germany. But what memories were there, what did people want, and what traces remain in this space?
After moving to Berlin in 2019, I heard for the first time about the history of Villa Heike building in the program of the Local Art Tour (Lange Nacht der Bilder 2019) held every September in Lichtenberg, where I live, and that I learned this building contained memories of all the modern history of Berlin. People on the tour, including my friend Christoph Duro, said the building was their favorite. It was the winter of that year that I first had an opportunity to look at the interior of the building, due to being offered the possibility of doing a solo exhibition here due to an introduction through Museum Lichtenberg im Stadthausdmf. Villa was such a beautiful and antique classical-style building that endured the pain of the Nazi regime, World War II, and division of the country due to the occupation and seeing this building it made me understand why Berliners think of it as their favourite. In the Korean education system, we usually learn about English, France and Italian history but there was not much emphasis on the modern cultural times of Germany. Not knowing where this style of architecture came from or developed I decided to look into the history of modern Germany and more precisely, Berlin.
Attila The Hun’s invasions and the Era of Barbarian migration.
The Slavic settlement of Berlin.
The Rise of the German Empire, the Holy Roman Empire and the Principality of Saxony.
The Thirty Years` War
The Rise of Berlin through Friedrich Wilhelm Der Große Kurfürst 17th Century
18th Century Friedrich the 1st - The declaration of Berlin as the capital of the Prussian Kingdom. During this period, a lot of Baroque and Classical style architecture were constructed, and many of the 'Altbau' that remain in Berlin to this day may have been formalised under its influence.
19th Century occupation by the French (Napoleon’s Army)
1871 German Empire - Berlin became the German Empire’s capital.
Expansionist Policy - South Africa and West Africa (Namibia), East Africa (Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi), Cameroon, Togo, the South Sea Islands, Northeastern New Guinea and the large and small islands ( Nasa Mark Islands), Samoa, and the Shandong Peninsula of China were colonised.
The loss of World War 1 and the collapse of the German Empire. (1914-1918)
The Weimar Republic and the German Social Democratic Party (SPD)
The End of the Weimar Republic and Rise of Adolf Hitler
The Nazi government of Germay and World War 2.
The 1945-1990 Division of Germany (America, England, France and the Soviet Union / FRG and GDR)
Looking back at the history of Berlin, the construction of Villa Heike started in 1910 and was completed in 1911. So this means that this building was made just before World War 1 and it endured and all the changing winds and blows that were subjected to East Berlin from that time. However, the affection for the building of the people who had been on the tour was not about the dark days, but about the beauty of the previous era in the building itself. Maybe to Eastern Berlin people the building causes them to remember the beautiful memory of the German or Prussian Empire that was hidden behind Villa Heike’s scarred history which I aim to restore.
The deep colour painting method and The Ideological landscape painting - Korean Painting.
The root of my work will be traditional Korean painting. In more detail, it is a 관념산수 genre that is painted with 진채화 method. Most German people don’t know about Korean painting. I particularly emphasize it as an important element of my work.
As there are various art trends and movements originating from Europe and Germany, various styles of painting have been developed in Korea from ancient times and the Three Kingdoms period through several centuries. Since the middle ages many cultural movements occurred amongst professional artists who were raised through the Kingdoms institute of artistic study called Dohwawon (during the Corea era of 918-1392). During the Joseon dynasty (1392-1910), a great Korean artist originated from the Dohwaso (a follow on from the Dohwawon) as well as the development of many important cultural movements. In particular, the changes in the painting style of landscape paintings are clearly distinguished according to the movements of the times, and their historical importance is significant. These genres of landscape painting started with the depiction of natural scenery on to canvas, but during the early modern time, it gradually took root as a genre called 관념산수 (觀念 山水) or ideological landscape painting that depicts the landscape as it is viewed from the artist conscious and unconscious mind. After the early modern period the genre of 관념산수(觀念 山水) has developed alongside korean history, depicting representations of the late, modern and is still practised in current times.
The deep color painting method
The deep color painting method (진채화법) is a traditional Korean color painting method that I learned from teachers during my time at Art middle and high school. I learned from contemporary Korean painters who have inherited the tradition. It is a method of adding several layers of paint until the color develops clearly on the paper. The characteristic of this method is that it can create a matte surface without reflecting light no matter how many times the pigment is applied and that it can create depth on the screen without expressing the contrast separately.
Ideological landscape painting
관념산수(觀念 山水);ideological landscape painting is considered as the way the human beings accept the senses from the outside of their body and was a natural way of transferring the process of the visual forms and memories from our mind to a painting. If surrealism is a trend that has turned its eyes to the deep and large realm of the unconscious hidden beneath the iceberg, then the 관념산수(觀念 山水) is based on ancient times, has gone through various cultural movements to the 10th century, and along with the flow of history. The style of the paintings always introduces us to the possibilities of the world behind the phenomena, dreams and helps us to think about the layers of consciousness.
In many cases, The beginning and end of my work is that it reconstructs the experiential reality and the things that have become transcendental beings after the sensory experience, and in that way images in different spaces or layers are expressed all at once on one canvas (similar to a collage), some link between the surrealism can be found, but the roots are not the same.
The splendor of the waves, the cold autumn wind interrupting the warm sunlight, and the smell of the swaying lawn; the ambiguous state of these things float around on our minds. The exhibition was born out of the hopefulness of reality, and the narratives that enforce meaning in our lives.