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Works > Free The Bone From The Flesh (2023)

Diploma Graduate Exhibition at Akademie der Bildende Künste München
Munich’s cold February air holds the smell of meat grilling and the dripping sounds of fermenting rice wine emanating from Kay Yoon’s installation Free the Bone from the Flesh (2023). While this multisensory experience serves to ground the viewer in the present time and space of the cooking and winemaking processes taking place in front of them, the promising smells and visuals of food and wine being prepared for consumption are less significant within the context of Yoon’s conceptual artwork. Rather, the material transformation of raw animal flesh into cooked meat and rice into wine functions as a representational technique to make the abstract concept of process and its (de)constructive nature visible.

The Korean artist’s emphasis on the liminality of process rather than its final objectual outcome materialises the body as a state fluctuating between corporeal functionality and breakdown without making the artwork figurative. For Yoon, Free the Bone from the Flesh represents an incomplete body because it thinks about the body’s functional ideals and operative failures as a continuous process that occurs between a body’s birth and death. One strategy she uses to demonstrate this is the reading performance that accompanies the installation to challenge how speaking and language represent both the functionality and inadequacy of bodies and their subjects who seek control over them.

The title of Yoon’s graduate work describes her reaction to the Biblical narrative of Eve’s female flesh being created from Adam’s rib bone. She questions the making the first woman’s body by means of a man’s and how dismantling the result of this process could allow a woman’s body to exist independently if Eve’s flesh was freed from Adam’s bone. But the artist’s installation neither seeks to perpetuate this gender binary in the Book of Genesis, nor to anthropomorphise the installation’s two sculptural bodies with the iconography of these Christian figures. Instead, the transformative cooking and wine processes occurring inside the industrial metal barrels interrupt the dichotomies of binary states like raw versus cooked, alive versus dead and male versus female. The artist emphasises the processes occurring between these dualistic states instead of their results through the time-consuming production of converting flesh into meat and rice into wine. In Yoon’s hands, the processing of these materials become the conceptual vehicle to examine her existential idea that by freeing bone from flesh, existence is continuous – even in endings as final as death. 

Created specifically for her graduation exhibition, her awareness of Free the Bone from the Flesh as her final work for the Academy of Fine Arts adds another layer of meaning to the installation’s thematization of process and endings. The work sees a maturity in Yoon’s signature use of spatial, material, and sensory elements like fire, smoke, wax, and metal through its totalizing treatment of the terrace’s Deconstructivist architecture. The rectangular form of the meat and wine coffers are extensions of the tunnel’s structure and length. As opposed to the connecting function of this metal passageway, the installation’s metal vats are long enough to accommodate a human body and narrow enough to provoke claustrophobic feelings.

Floating over these casket-shaped sculptures filled with flesh, bone and wine is the artist’s voice singing a single line from a traditional Korean funeral song, further emphasising the installation’s coffin-like structures referring to bodies and the process of decay. Buried in the interaction of space, form, sound, smell, and performance, Yoon’s representation of process as a ritual. The simultaneously destructive and creative process of bone being freed from flesh seems to represent emancipation as much as death, exhibiting the artist’s disposition that an ending is also a beginning. 

Text: Zakirah Rabaney


Photo: Kay Yoon
Sound: Emre Zaim Demirtas
Text: Seunghee Oh, Kay Yoon
Text Proofreading: Pauline Stroux, Zakirah Rabaney
Performance: Shiyu Gu, Noe Leleu, Kay Yoon
Performance Photo: Chaeeun Lee
Performance Video: Nikolai Gümbel, Adam Verab

Graphic: Sohyun Lee