Artsy Insight: Ran Hwang on 9/11, Repetition, and Self-Meditation

Korean artist Ran Hwang has used buttons and other similar materials in her works since the late 1990s. It was only in the aftermath of 9/11, however, that she gained a greater appreciation for the important role that individuals play in contributing to the whole, thus attaching increased significance to each of the thousands of pushpins, buttons, sequins, and other materials that comprise her intricate installations, as in Empty Me and Ode to Fantasia. “The process of building large installations [is] time consuming and repetitive, and it requires manual effort which provides a form of self-meditation,” she explains of her labor-intensive practice. When asked about the physical and emotional toll of such a process, Hwang answered that “[you] may often see some people doing three thousand bows in the temple. It indicates that enthusiastic desire for something can replace physical agony. My feelings after accomplishing the project is just as the three thousand bows; it’s like emptying my mental journey from physical exertion.”

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