By Evan Moffitt
With work in the Liverpool Biennial and ICA Philadelphia, the Seoul-based artist reanimates an ancient Korean musical system
The Golden Ratio might summon memories from an early art history or biology course: the geometric rubric for natural symmetry printed over photographs of a fern leaf or the face of a marble kouros figure. The ancient Greek measure of aesthetic ‘perfection’ profoundly affected Western art, calcifying biases for certain physiognomic traits in plants, animals and humans. What would a more inclusive system of measurement and notation look like – one that could also transcend the world of appearances, to structure sound and movement too?
That question appears to drive the Seoul-based artist Suki Seokyeong Kang, who has a new commission in the 2018 Liverpool Biennial, which opens to the public on Saturday. Central to her practice, which spans sculpture and installation, film and video, painting and performance, is jeonggangbo, a unique system of musical notation invented by Sejong the Great (1397–1450), the Choson dynasty king who also invented Hangul, the modern Korean alphabet. Hangul employs phonemes rather than the orthographic symbolism of classical Chinese characters. Jeonggangbo was also designed to be easier to learn and interpret: characters referring to specific tones appear in neatly gridded boxes, called jeong, whose singularity, or repetition, signifies the duration of each note. These can be multiplied endlessly, in a pattern both mathematical and pleasing to the eye...