Wednesday 21 April 2010

Ghost Bar: Yuk King Tan and Jooyoung Lee (updated)

Ghost Bar

Yuk King Tan and Jooyoung Lee 
    The Ghost Bars perform as a ‘conceptual wake’: the ability to recognize the importance of something, celebrate its existence, lament its disappearance and, in doing so, enact the ability to move on, not as an act of leaving behind, but of carrying forward.  
    Given the state many of the apartments were left in (several seeming to have been abandoned without a chance of salvaging possible objects of sentimental value) the artwork seems to have taken on this ritual that those displaced were unable to perform. This ‘operating in the absence of the other ‘(which is neither for nor on behalf of the other) raises relevant questions regarding notions of memory, interference and engagement, archiving, and interchangeability of experience while testing the value of artistic activity.  
The Ghost Bar ironically links the supernatural elements of Buddhist mysticism, framed by the symbolism of the mountain and the spirits of the past, with the psychological states of disavowal: the phases of intoxication, hallucination, stupor and transformation that occurs from either hard liquor or a more pervasive politically sanctioned obliteration of memory. The Ghost Bar is a free bar, offering snacks and winter’s ‘last shot’. 

Built in an exposed window of an apartment in Okin, the functioning bar’s counter-top teeters over the edge of the building, inviting traffic to stop and linger in the dramatic stetting of a half destroyed home under a beautiful mountain landscape. Any drinking establishment is a repository of secrets and unfulfilled dreams. The watering hole, made from collected detritus and material, refers to the past life and memory of Okin’s former occupants and the political act of the area’s destruction.  

One of the most interesting and voyeuristic parts of Okin OPEN SITE is the ability to see the remnants of peoples home and their belongings, furniture, and personal accoutrements left behind. Seven further ‘satellite’ Ghost Bars are placed throughout the Okin Apartments. These bars serve to punctuate the viewing of the deconstructed Okin area, and give pause for reflection and contemplation of abandoned homes and half-demolished apartments. The bars focus attention on the diverse categories of people living in the housing block and their style of living.  

The memories of past occupation and the ghosts of the recent past concentrate the idea that art created inside Okin is also a ghosting: an ephemeral presence overlaid onto the physical drama of destruction. The Ghost Bars are artworks about disembodiment, the negative space of removal in spirit with the intoxication and separating tool of alcohol.  

White porcelain cups and bowls are collected throughout the apartments as dishes for the bars. They refer to funeral rites in Buddhist and Taoist tradition, serving, like the wooden doors set up as elaborate dining tables, as devices of exorcism where one can drink a wintery ‘last shot’ to the many histories of Okin. Transgression and encroachment is an important element to the installation - the artwork and even the presence of the viewers has not been granted permission even though the area is a public walkway. 

Okin’s destruction is still contested by the few remaining residents and local action groups and many homes are occupied even as the construction crews take apart homes. One of the most heated points of Okin’s residents protest is that settlements are done on an individual and not collective basis, leading to secret and greatly different rates of compensation. 
The well-known apartments, built in as an ideal example of modernist style living in the seventies, have the advantage of a mountain view and stream weaving between the different apartment blocks. This prime location lead to a variety of people living in the apartments over the decades, from the working to middle class, elderly and nature lovers attracted to the mountain location and artists drawn to it’s cheap apartments and history.
The Ghost Bars, and all the Okin OPEN SITE works are activities engaging with the space in a variety of different strategies, but the primary focus of the event is to invite people to Okin in a gesture both playful and pointed.

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