Haegue Yang is known for genre-defying, multimedia installations that interweave a range of materials, historical references, and sensory experiences. Handles, Yang’s immersive installation commissioned for MoMA’s Marron Atrium, features dynamic sculpture, daily activation, the play of light, and several kinds of sound to explore the way performance creates rituals with both personal and political resonance.
Handles imply attachment, a point of contact with the material world. Yang’s work magnifies this everyday interface between people and things. Metal grab bars are mounted on the walls in a decorative pattern, and put to functional use in her six sonic sculptures. These monumental works come in distinctive shapes: some are inspired by the work of early 20th-century figures such as artist Sophie Taeuber-Arp and mystic philosopher G. I. Gurdjieff, and others use open-source designs for door handles to produce freestanding bodies at once futuristic and prehistoric. Mounted on casters and covered in skins of bells recalling shamanistic rituals, the sculptures generate a subtle rattling sound when activated by performers. The ambient noise of birdsong also permeates the space, recorded during the historic summit between North and South Korea in 2018. Reporters strained to hear the private conversation between the two nations’ leaders, but audio devices only picked up the chirping of birds and the faint click of cameras.
Handles draws on Yang’s in-depth research into various sources, ranging from vernacular craft traditions to the historical avant-garde, esoteric spiritual philosophies to contemporary political events. She integrates these disparate narratives into a visual language uniquely her own, offering a fresh take on modernism and a critical reading of its legacy.
Organized by Stuart Comer, Chief Curator, Department of Media and Performance, with Taylor Walsh, Curatorial Assistant, Department of Drawings and Prints; produced by Lizzie Gorfaine, Producer, with Kate Scherer, Manager, Performance and Live Programs.