The Korea Herald


Memories of a childhood home

Installation artist Koo Hyun-mo presents wooden installations inspired by his childhood home in Sajik-dong

By Lee Woo-young

Published : Feb. 10, 2014 - 19:40

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“Philadelphus,” Single-channel video by Koo Hyun-mo. (Courtesy of the artist and PKM Gallery) “Philadelphus,” Single-channel video by Koo Hyun-mo. (Courtesy of the artist and PKM Gallery)

For installation artist Koo Hyun-mo, art is a record of memories and scenes that linger in his mind, rather than a portrayal of the present.

He recasts his childhood memories and presents slices of them as installations.

In his latest exhibition in Seoul, he showcases wooden installation pieces that were created to preserve memories of his childhood home in the old area of Sajik-dong, northern Seoul.

Always attached to space, the artist focuses on certain features of his childhood home, such as the narrow gaps between randomly built houses in the densely populated neighborhood.

“The tiny gaps between houses were an important world to children. The gaps, which came about as a result of random construction, used to be a playground for children,” Koo said at PKM Gallery, where his solo exhibition is being held. 

“Village” by Koo Hyun-mo. (Courtesy of the artist and PKM Gallery) “Village” by Koo Hyun-mo. (Courtesy of the artist and PKM Gallery)

Koo assembled wooden blocks that represent houses in his old neighborhood and left tiny gaps between them. He planted narrow trees in what’s supposed to be the garden.

Houses have intrigued Koo since he was a little boy. “A house is the first universe that man encounters when he is born. The world that man sees is defined by a sight visible through a window or a door,” Koo explained.

While his works lead viewers to recollect their old homes, Koo gives a twist to the fixed concept of the components of a home. He disassembles the home into roofs, walls, windows and doors ― the parts that he says served for him as “windows” to the world ― and then modifies their roles by placing them in unlikely spots.

Among the installations being exhibited is the wooden “roof” that rocks back and forth on curved steel bars. The “roof” functions as a roof for those on the same level with the installation but becomes flooring for viewers on the second story.

Koo has also expressed a brief special moment which can be felt by anyone spending an ordinary day at home. For him, the moment came when he looked at Philadelphus trees through the window of the house where he lived in Germany. He replays the moment on a single channel video showing the trees moving in a breeze with Bach’s Cantata escalating in the background.

To refresh his memory of the spaces he lived in, Koo said he tours his old homes in his mind ― starting from the front gate, moving to the front door and then concluding with the living room where he used to play.

His childhood home in Sajik-dong ― a one-story house with a rooftop ― remains his favorite space, as well as a great inspiration for his series of installations. The artist has vague memories of places he lived after that during childhood. He said he has little affection for the modern apartment in the affluent district of Gangnam and no extraordinary memories of the neighborhood.

“I still dream of the places I have been to. When I wake up, I can clearly see the space in my mind. I don’t remember what happened in the dream, but vividly remember the house, the classroom and the alleys that appeared in my dreams. I think my dreams are about space,” he said.

The exhibition “Koo Hyun-mo: Sajik-dong” continues through March 7 at PKM Gallery Temporary Exhibition Space in Yulgok-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul. For more information, call (02) 734-9467, or visit

By Lee Woo-young (