Journey through Passage/s by Do Ho Suh at the Victoria Miro Gallery

Exploring ideas around migration, and shifting identities, Passage/s is Do Ho Suh’s his first exhibition at the Victoria Miro Gallery, and the most extensive presentation of his work in the UK since his 2001 Serpentine Gallery exhibition. Born in 1962 in South Korea, Do Ho Suh received a BFA in painting from Rhode Island School of Design and an MFA in sculpture from Yale University. He has worked in New York, Berlin and recently moved to London where he lives with his family.

Housed in the Wharf Road location of the Victoria Miro Gallery, Do Ho Suh’s encapsulating and colourful works were a much-welcome addition to a grey week. Upon entering the exhibition, we decided to head straight to the main attraction in Gallery 2. Visitors are greeted by a tightly enclosed room displaying a video – a series of clips of corridors and passageways digitally stitched together to create the impression of a never-ending tunnel of discovery – setting the scene for what was to be revealed around the corner in the main gallery.

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In this space, Passage/s, a series of nine jewel-like architectural hubs, occupy the 25-metre long gallery, meticulously replicating the structures and architecture of the places in which Do Ho Suh has lived. Created from stitched planes of translucent, coloured polyester fabric, each capsule is self-contained, yet connected through a series of intricately detailed doors that lead the visitor through a passage of colour, texture and memory. From afar these structures are bright and attention grabbing. Up close they are subtle, delicate and grounding.

Do Ho Suh’s passageway through the middle of these architectural hubs was abuzz with people. I followed a family of four children into the gallery, where the children’s excitable hubbub of chatter meant the subject matter – the transience and permeability of ‘home’ – immediately hit me.  The structure’s intricate detailing of light switches, fire alarms and lock mechanisms reminds the viewer of the lasting mental impressions our homes make in our minds. Yet their weightlessness serves to highlight the fragility and temporary nature of ‘home’ – a place which holds a strong emotional tie throughout the highs and lows of growing up, leaving home and eventually starting our own.

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This exhibition is extremely timely given that, due to daily stories of refugees having to flee their homes for safety, we have a heightened awareness of the fragility of ‘home’. The combination of both a very personal reflection on the meaning of home for Do Ho Suh, and a wider statement about migration and the crossing of geographical boundaries is a re-occurring theme that permeates the artist’s international career.

This idea of transience is further explored in Passage/s: The Pram Project, 2015 on display in Gallery 1. By strapping three Go-Pro cameras to his daughters’ pram, Do Ho Suh has documented his travels through both London and South Korea. The young girls’ innocent chatter and singing in both English and Korean further reinforces Do Ho Suh’s theme of crossing cultural and geographical boundaries, and highlights the human experience of and transgressing passages of time and space.

Do Ho Shu: Passage/s is on at the Victoria Miro Gallery until the 18 March.