27 November 1998 – 30 January 1999
Michael Joo presented a work entitled Conserving Momentum (Egg/Gyro/Laundry Room) (1998), a freewheeling gyroscopic structure consisting of five concentrically arranged stainless-steel rings. Together, these described the form of a sphere, each part of which could be manually rotated into different positions on a series of separate axes, or collapsed together with others. The work, like a drawing in space, is seven-feet in diameter and houses a urethane plastic cast of a fried ostrich egg. A dome made of hand-blown glass replaces the yoke of this oversized, sunny-side-up egg; in turn, the central nucleus of this dome contains a sculptured tableau: a miniaturised world occupied by intricately-detailed washing machines, as well as two pairs of starched adult and child-sized jeans. As the rings of the structure are turned, the egg inverts, releasing an artificial snowstorm inside the water-filled egg yolk.
This work suggests a world of circles inscribed within circles; the relation of cycles within cycles. As the ‘wheels’ of the gyroscope turn, the relationship between the themes in the piece—the potentially circular nature of personal memory, the cycle of life inherent in the egg, the larger physical and spiritual principles potentially embodied in the steel casing—are reinvented and transformed.
There are two interrelated themes that consistently recur throughout Joo’s oeuvre. The first is the rift between Eastern and Western ways of understanding the world—as an Asian American, a cultural division that is embodied in Joo himself. The second is a concern with how the Western search for identity manifests itself in a continual demand for the expansion and extension of the self, whether through sport and plastic surgery or ‘prosthetic’ extensions such as cars and aeroplanes.