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Do-Ho Suh: Some/One

Updated on January 29, 2014

Looking at Some/One

Iconography in art about war, studies identification, description, and the interpretation of the context in an image. An artist who has explored war through his art is Do-Ho Suh. In his piece "Some/One," constructs a sculpture made up of thousands of dog tags, which are circulated through every soldier in the U.S. and beyond. Observers first identify a fish scaled garment, made from thirty thousand dog tags, which is too resemble a soldiers garment. Suh's sculpture conveys the dehumanization of a soldiers role in society, but how can viewers put his piece into context, and understand it by connecting to their own experiences in order to relate it to their own knowledge and understanding? What do dog tags mean generally in art and to the artist himself? Suh''s interpretation is more than literal.
Before any other research was conducted I could not connect this piece to any of my own experiences. The only knowledge I could connect the piece with was war and a community of soldiers somehow formed into a rope.

An article from the online journal base called "Home in The World: The Art of Do-Ho Suh" was helpful to some questions posed before determining the guiding question. Suh's works have a lot to do with experiencing space and identity. In "Some/One," the sculptures back is turned to entering viewers. Viewers are invited to walk around the piece and soon stand face to face with themselves, when they discover that the garment has an opening that is line with mirrored foil. Like in Suh's other works viewers have to walk over the bridge, across the floor, or under seoul home. They all have double meaning concerning the construct of identity. This identity focuses on the importance of the individual as a single representative of a greater entity, such as a nation. Instead of being viewed as multiple individuals, viewers see the greater body.
In "Some/One," the gallery floor in New York City is covered with a blanket of shiny military dogs tags, bringing to mind, all the shadowed identities. Each single soldier is part of a larger military body, deprived from individual human qualities. A quote by Sollins about dehumanization of soldiers in Suh's work is present in how the dog tags used,

"swell to form a hollow, ghost like suit of armor at the center of the room. Whether addressing the dynamic of personal space verses public space, or exploring the fine line between strength in numbers and homogeneity, Do-Ho Suh's sculptures continually question the identity of the individual in today's increasingly transnational, global society," (Sollins).

Finding Some/One

The piece draws attention in a way which viewers are welcome to occupy and inhabit the space. As they walk over the piece and face the front of it they are able to see the inside of the piece, which has mirrors embodied inside the stainless steal garment. That moment is symbolic because the viewer is experiencing the piece physically by stepping on the dogs tags, and also when they see their reflection inside the front of the garment.

Shu earned a BFA and MFA in oriental painting from Seoul National University. After fulfilling his mandatory term in the South Korean military, he immigrated to the United States in 1993. There he attended the Rhode Island School of Design and later received an MFA in sculpture from Yale University. "The materials he uses, such as small figures, dog tags, beads or items of clothing, are often personalized and refer to the self as much as to their expanded function within a group or community," (S.A.M.). Shu intentionally tries to blur boundaries. When starting a piece he says it is all about him in the beginning, but eventually becomes for others. He explains that people from different cultures need to take off there cultural glasses, and allow themselves to build meaning in a different sense.

Suh's work 'Some/One' clearly addresses identity. Dehumanization is not what Suh was primely symbolizing, but made this more about self and ones place in a community or body. The elements of Suh's works are subjective to his own personal metaphoric spaces such as his own history, his own culture, and his own memories. The aspects of history and experience can be shared by multiple people, each from their own individualized perspective. The series of events that inspired Some/One are relative to more than the artist’s personal experiences. Some/One, like each of Suh works, makes a statement about how an individual can be part of a large whole. He also stated that Some/One is a piece in which he, "allows people to make multiple associations to the work. He really likes it when that happens. He doesn't know whether it's simply coincidence or not, but he thinks his careful management keeps the work open so it can be read in different ways," (Sollins). It is not easy for viewers to understand his works but if I were to guide someone to understand it, one should become acquainted with Suh's biography. With a better understanding the viewer can connect with Some/One, and incorporate aspects of their own life to Suh's unique experiences. Furthermore, his work does not hold the meaning for anyone more than is does former members of the Korean military.


"Some/One 2001." SAM: Seattle Art Muesem. SAM, 2009. Web. 21 Nov. 2009. <,/is/,/29208/,/false/,/true&newstyle=single&newprofile=objects&newsearchdesc=&newcurrentrecord=1&module=objects&moduleid=1>.

Sollins, Susan, and Marybeth Sollins. Art 21 : Art in the Twenty-First Century. New York, N.Y.: Abrams,Harry N, October 2005. Print.

D'Alleva, Anna. Look Again!: Art History and Critical Theory. London. UK: Laurence King, 2005. Print.

Richard, Frances. "Home In THe World: The Art of Do-Ho Suh." Artforum Internationl 40.5 (2002): 114: Expanded Acedmic ASAP. Web. 9 Dec. 2009. <>.


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    • kennynext profile image


      4 years ago from Everywhere

      The more we learn about and accept other cultures will perhaps bring peace to the world where armies are no longer needed.


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