Ham Yang Ah

Ham Yang Ah works in Amsterdam and Seoul. Having also worked around the world, the artist employs various media ranging from video to sculpture in addressing the nature and society that she has witnessed and dreams of. For the Seoul exhibition, she presented a rocking platform that constitutes one part of a video, photo, drawing, neon installation and sculpture composition which are based on a surreal narrative of a fictional space called "Nonsense Factory". While other segments of the fiction convey various contemporary issues such as competitiveness in a development-driven society and the precarious state of idealistic values, the rocking platform is an architectural visualization of the democratic system. Thus the artist focuses a keen eye on numerous mechanisms of society and has produced a series of projects that depict various individual lives and social systems. In Hiroshima and Taipei, Ham introduces the next step of her endeavors. In light of today’s failing social system, which has proved itself incapable of keeping its members safe in critical situations and disasters, she reexamines her role as an artist. An attempt to capture and represent what marks the history of her times, Ham’s new work The Sleep is the first stage of her development of a social critical mode that does not neglect people’s emotional and psychological responses to society. Using sleep as a metaphor for the relation between people and their society, The Sleep reflects the contemporary response to current fears and the inability of the social system to assuage them.


Nonsense Factory is a surrealistic narrative written by the artist, which depicts a fictional space of the 'factory'. The space is composed of six rooms: Central Image Box Control Room; Welfare Policy Making Room; Coupon Room; Artists' Room; Factory Basement; and Blue Print Room for Future Factory. Each room respectively represents the following issues in the complex society of our time in a metaphorical manner: the issue of controlled images; happiness as ideology; capitalism and the monetary economy, the cultural snobbery; the failure of idealistic values; and the infinite competition inherent in the pursuit of constant growth. Based on this story, Nonsense Factory consists of complex media such as video, photography, drawing, neon light, and sculpture.
For Discordant Harmony at Art Sonje Center, Ham presented a teetering platform. It takes its motif from the underground plaza in the basement of the factory, visualizing the democratic social system in an architectural form. The working desk and a chair, fixed at the corner of the platform, raise questions about the value of labor and creativity, which function as the weight that balances the center of gravity in the society in the age of uncertainty. In addition, two videos are installed along with the platform; one of the videos shows a group of people doing a performance on the platform, and the other the representation of masters and their craftsmanship, their skills and thoughts, and issues of contemporary life. Through Nonsense Factory, the artist invites audiences not only to witness the absurdity of the represented reality and the discouragement from it but also to think about how to find the potential to change the reality.

The Sleep shows a hundred people gather and sleep together in a gymnasium. Ironically, a gymnasium, a facility to promote public health is often used as a shelter in times of crisis and disaster because of its capacity to accommodate masses of people. The most recent memory of this use for Koreans was when a ferry sank in 2014 in the West Sea of Korea, revealing the absurdity of the social system. Using sleep as a metaphor for the relation between people and their society, The Sleep reflects the response to current fears and the inability of the social system to assuage them.

Yang Ah Ham received her MA in Media at New York University after taking a BA and MA at Seoul National University and its graduate school. She participated in a Rijksakademie residency in Amsterdam from 2006 to 2007. Ham has been working on a series of projects that depicts the lives of individuals and social systems. With a wide range of media, such as sculpture, performance, installation and video, she repeatedly discusses questions of great social concern affecting the intricate relations of nations and their peoples, both locally and globally. Her works have been presented in exhibitions such as Adjective Life in the Nonsense Factory (Art Sonje Centre, 2010), Transit Life (Kumho Museum, 2005) and Dream…in Life (Insa Art Space, 2004). She co-organized the artist-initiative project, be mobile in immobility (DEPO, Istanbul, 2010, Total Museum of Art, Seoul, 2011) with artists from the Netherlands, Turkey and Korea. She has exhibited the Nonsense Factory project at the Korea National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art as part of her nomination for 2013 Korea Artist Prize.