HappyHappy by Choi Jeong-Hwa

By Ingrid Fetell Lee


HappyHappy is a site-specific installation designed by the Korean artist Choi Jeong-Hwa for the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, as the prelude to an exhibit entitled “Your Bright Future: 12 Contemporary Artists from Korea.” Choi is considered the father of Korean pop art, and over time has demonstrated a strong interest in creating art from recycled plastic materials, though the containers used in this installation are from local 99c stores. Near the entrance to the museum, visitors can walk through the installation and are free to touch as they pass by. You can see a slideshow here.

Being free to touch makes things much more joyful. Deepening the sensory experience ensures that people relate to an object or a space in a more immersive, complete way. And of course, in a museum, there is always the transgressive pleasure of touching the artwork, as this commenter notes. It’s also telling the way people react in the space, which in at least for the person above is with a joyful exuberance seemingly absorbed from the bright, saturated colors. I love the whimsy of the way ordinary objects (like the wiffle balls, below) are transformed by abundance and scale.

My only ambivalence is plastic. The benefit of plastic is that it allows for such wonderful colors and is relatively lightweight. But aside from its environmental negatives (like the fact that it will be around forever), it’s also remarkably asensory. It has a superficial kind of molded texture, but no deep, innate tactility (like ceramic, glazed or unglazed, for example, or metal, or wood). Its temperature is unremarkable, its luminosity changeable but somewhat flat. Of course, many many joyful things are made of plastic, and its infinite malleability does lend itself to joy in some sense, but I wonder if a deeper level of emotion could be invoked with a different material.


HappyHappy appears to be a theme for Choi, who has created other artworks under the same name, such as this installation at a Seoul stadium (more photos here) and many participatory HappyHappys filed here under Public Art.

Top image: jek in the box, Bottom image: LACMA

Tip via Virginia Postrel

July 1st, 2009


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