Terry Border - Eat · Play · Love

Savina Museum of Contemporary Art
Nov 22, 2017 5:10AM

                                            Why Terry Border?

       Savina Lee, Director of the Savina Museum of Contemporary Art

  Many people are wondering about the background of the American artist Terry Border’s exhibition at the Savina Museum of Contemporary Art. Perhaps it is because Border's work has never been formally introduced in Korea until now. There are four main reasons for us to present his first solo exhibition in Korea that includes his objects, photographs, and animation.


  Terry Border's works primarily focus on foods and items that are common in our daily lives, such as bread, sweets, eggs, fruits, spoons, nail clippers and lip balm. He gets his ideas from these familiar objects and uses his creativity and imagination to make us realize that the wisdom of life is hidden in these ordinary things. In the field of art, there is a term called ‘bisociation’ that describes the phenomenon of linking elements that are seemingly unrelated to each other to create a novel and insightful combination. Border's work provides compelling examples of bisociation. For example, The Sneeze combines cake sprinkles and pepper to demonstrate how men and women of different temperaments who fall in love with each other may find an unfortunate end. In The Marilyn, the cupcake wrappers and the white dress of Marilyn Monroe are linked to a famous scene from her 1955 film The Seven Year Itch. Toast Toasting portrays a delightful scene in which two slices of toast in a toaster are toasting each other with glasses of wine. This work was created based on the idea that the word ‘toast’ has two meanings in English: ‘toasted bread’ and ‘the act of drinking a toast to something or someone.’ I am reminded of what poet Chang Seokjoo wrote in his book The Things of the Philosopher, which was that, “we will be born in things and eventually die in things. Life is indeed a journey with things.” Therefore, the works of Terry Border, which break the boundaries between art and objects by connecting unrelated elements, leave the viewer with the joy of discovery and an insight into life.

Bent Art, the Power of Personified Characters

Bent Art, the most prominent feature of Terry Border’s art world, arouses the viewer’s interest and forms a consensus with them. Terry Border is an artist and a character maker who uses wires to create personified characters by attaching limbs to foods and everyday objects. What is even more amazing is that he produces new work daily. Though personification is a familiar technique in the field of arts, his bent art is unique because he thoroughly grasps the characteristics of objects and bends wires every day to create personified characters. Indeed, he has generated many exciting episodes using only creativity and bent wires. For instance, in Mr. Kiwi Getting Ready for a Day at the Beach, Border made the observation that kiwis have lots of hair on their skin, and depicted a scene where a kiwi is engaging in body hair removal. Here, the kiwi’s efforts at shaving are compared to modern body hair removal trends. In Bruised, he observed the fact that bananas bruise easily and portrayed the brown spots of the banana as a bruise on the body of a boxer who had been knocked down by a heavy punch. Even though his characters are made of simple wires, they maximize creativity and imagination and add richness and depth to meaning by combining rhetoric, metaphors, and symbolism.

Visual Storytelling and Black Humor

 Border is an artist who is skilled in visual storytelling, which uses images as a communication method in the era of digital media. He directs his own experiences and various stories related to objects like a situational drama and delivers these stories through visual storytelling. In addition, he employs black humor to surprise viewers as an effective device to address the absurdity of life or to ask fundamental questions about the human existence. One representative example is The Shameful Practice of Eggregation, which satirizes the injustice of racial discrimination in a scene where a little white egg with a sad look is standing in front of a colorful Easter egg basket with a ‘colored only’ label. This work is based on the idea that Christians give each other baskets full of colorful eggs on Easter, and the label ‘colored only’ harkens to the ‘White Only’ and ‘Colored Only’ signs of the past.  Through this black humor, he reminds us of the dark history of racial discrimination in the U.S. Another instance of black humor is Exposing Himself, which portrays a peanut ripping himself in half to show someone his insides, which exquisitely ironizes the human condition of trying to prove innocence or guilt. Kurt Vonnegut, an American novelist famous for being one of the funniest and most cynical writers of all time, said that black humor is, “a literary technique that makes us laugh so that we don’t cry.” Border's black humor, which emphasizes tragedy by twisting heavy and serious subjects in a witty and joyful manner, gives the viewers an opportunity to gain wisdom and insight into life and death.

Now it is time to answer the question of why we present Terry Border exhibition. Who, instead of Terry Border, would be able to create a world full of metaphors, rhetoric, humor, emotion, playfulness, and imagination with just some bent wires and invite us to such wonderful place?

Savina Museum of Contemporary Art