Jieun Lim Ermes-Ermes / Vienna by

by May 1, 2019
Jieun Lim, “RGB: Return to the gate following B”. Exhibition view at Ermes Ermes, Vienna 2019. Courtesy of the artist and Ermes Ermes, Vienna.

With the exhibition “RGB: Return to the gate following B,” Korean artist Jieun Lim does a lot with very little. Her use of gallery space, materials (both the literal, physical stuff the works are made of and their connotations), and even the title of the exhibition make for a complex proposition. What it means is far from obvious.

Ermes Ermes is located in a peculiar two-level space: a dark, slightly dingy disused stable with a small anteroom upstairs, looking out onto the courtyard of a glorious Viennese townhouse. The exhibition comprises an installation on the brick floor downstairs, three photographic prints, a sound installation with a recorded voice reading an excerpt from “The Cat Inside” by William Burroughs, and a cryptic text that is as much a piece of poetry as it is a press release.

The installation, At the Gate, is a combination of semi-spherical and cuboid shapes covered in lambskin fabric. It could be many different things. It looks like an uncomfortable seating unit in a harshly lit shopping mall or airport departure lounge. It could even be a booth at a trade fair or a diorama in a science museum — both suitable associations, since the artist’s text is perched on the structure in a Plexiglas display.

Behind the installation, placed directly on the enamel-tiled wall, are inkjet prints on photographic paper of dead insects that have appeared in the artist’s studio. The same photograph reappears upstairs, bathed in eerie green light. The title refers to two things. One is the RGB color model, in which red, green, and blue light can produce a broad array of colors. Combinations of these colors flood both rooms, each with its own horticultural significance. Blue light, Lim’s text tells us, helps plants’ vegetative growth, while red makes them bloom and bear fruit. The other reference comes, she tells us, from her experience of having her name called out (and mispronounced) over an airport public address system and being asked by a fellow passenger if she speaks English. “Nope,” she lies.

“RGB” is not simply about finding things where you would not expect to find them, as in the artist’s airport experience or the short life of the deceased insects. It is a suitably mysterious work in what is probably Vienna’s most elusive and compelling space.

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Max L. Feldman