New York City – For 15 minutes one afternoon last October, artist Kyungwoo Chun gave literal meaning to the phrase “lean on me.”
The performance installation, titled VERSUS, featured 50 volunteers sitting face-to-face across from someone they didn’t know on two benches shaped like half moons in Times Square in New York City. Each volunteer then leaned in toward the person opposite them and rested their head on the stranger’s shoulder for 15 minutes. No talking was allowed.
The original inspiration for the project came when Chun was contemplating the Chinese character for “human being,” which looks somewhat like an upside down Y—a shape that might also conjure the image of a standing person. That led to ruminations on how humans need to lean on each other to remain strong and the inevitable existential act of dependence on others. The piece also explores comfort and discomfort and how at ease (or not) we feel relying on others.