Stray Thoughts on Everyday Conditions and Extraordinary Images
KIM Sung woo | Independent Curator
#1 From the Quotidian Order to What Lies in the Blind Spots, Hidden and Behind the Everyday Life
I’m trying to remember the first time I saw her work. I don’t remember exactly where and how I came to see her work, but I do remember being moved by the way the artist dealt with the image as a photographer. Frankly put, I saw a certain work by the artist and I felt a strange sense of fascination in the way she structured the image within the visual language of the subject or the rectangular frame. This impression was not so much due to the ostensibly interesting visuals achieved through adept photographic technique as it was from a certain sense of tension generated by the figures (people and objects, and even the space they inhabit) positioned within the rectangular frame. I later learned
that this work is part of the IT: Art School Project (2015-2016) series. In this series, she captures scenes from art schools by focusing on the certain ‘gaps and blind spots,’ the hidden ‘back side’ of events, or ‘beneath the surface’ of objects where the truth is not immediately visible to the naked eye, in a psychological sense. For example, the artist captures scenes of disorderly placed chairs and canvases (which, however, may be a deliberate set up tailored to the user’s preference), bags of plaster likely used in some sort of sculpture work, and the spaces wherein these objects have been placed in ways that best meet the users’ convenience. She also captures scenes like traces of residual paint left on partitions that once likely served as the backdrop behind someone’s painting. Whether she focuses her lens directly on the objects or captures the spatial picture of the scene in a more holistic fashion, her photographs mostly fall under the ‘orderliness of daily life’ that often do not
come under the spotlight. These are objects like coats hung about by whoever inhabits the space, wine glasses that hint at what happened the night before, and at best, art materials that appear to be in their natural habitat albeit placed in an unorganized manner. Thus these scenes appear quite distant from the notion of an artwork, if artwork is meant to represent the time and efforts of the artist spent in a studio (or art school) in the name of art. Even the people captured in this series lack any sort of dramatic miens, expressions, or poses, occupation of the models. At best, their somewhat shy
and moderate poses go along with their attire to create certain ambience or impression. As can be seen, a perusal of the works in this series may lead one to even say that the pictures appear unrelated to ‘art,’ if it were not for the fact that the photos were taken at an art school. However, this is the very fact that leads to very interesting questions. For example, by framing beings that would traditionally not pass for art in the context of art photographs, the artist challenges the contemporary notion of ‘what is art.’ In addition to asking such fundamental questions, she points her camera towards objects that inhabit the same space-time as art but do not direct art, thereby encouraging the viewers to face the boundaries between the private and public domains that exist within the creative process of art.
#2 Surface of Present–Landscape Through the Subversion of the Function and Value of Objects
BACH Heeza captures the ordinary conditions and environment surrounding our daily life in an extraordinary composition rather than exploring the object to give a huge illusion on ‘artist’ and ‘art work’ under the pretense of art. And the artist’s focus shifts from the abovementioned art schools to Eulji-ro. Once the center of manufacturing industry and a mecca of technicians and tool shops, the landscape here is one that’s familiar and frequented by the artist, as well as a place now in decline and fallen out of the loop of the speed of reality. It’s also a landscape of coexistence of values that are continuously renewed according to its use and values that are discarded or left as inventory because they’ve lost their function. In art Things – Object from Scenery (2018), the artist explores the unique visual moment where the compatibility between this usefulness and uselessness becomes a possibility. Such moments are, for example, pieces of wood that are unnaturally placed (or discarded) next to flower pots in front of a store, fluorescent lights randomly stacked across a shopping cart in a bizarre way, and blue tents draped in front of a closed store to ruggedly mark the territory. These images best capture the epidermis of Euljiro as it stands today, as well as the intimate personal histories accumulated in these spaces. However, these photographs rather diverge from the formats of perceiving objects that we are most accustomed, given their lack of any noticeably defining characteristics. Yet it is such apparent banality that enables these scenes to best characterize this neighborhood. Moreover, such structures absent of conventional functions or formats perhaps best highlight the hues of the Euljiro scene today. In art Things (2018), the artist goes a step further, taking on experimentations to elevate such quotidian objects to an artistic realm. For art Things (2018), she collected all sorts of discarded objects around Euljiro such as scrap wire fence, tiles, acrylic shards, and cutup metal frames. What is most important here is not the act of collection, but the theory of reconstitution. The artist deliberately removes the original purpose and function of the collected objects, attempting to imbue them with a new sense of aesthetic formality based on their material, colors, and shapes. However, as indicated in how the artist capitalizes the word ‘Things’ but not ‘art’ in the title of the series, she seeks not to re-purpose these objects for the sake of art but instead elevate the objects themselves as beings filled with artistic potential, based on the time and history seeped within them. Such tug-of-war between ‘objects’ and ‘art’ twists and overturns the status of the technician’s ‘production’ and the artist’s ‘creative work,’ thereby enabling one to critically ruminate over the boundary between technical production and artistic endeavors.
#3 Media Environments for Dealing with Objects–From Physical Spaces to Digital Environment
Things created for specific function are often discarded without a second thought when they are no longer able to serve such purpose. Meanwhile, photographs serve as archival media that resists against such limitations of objects’ lifecycles, as they manage to concentrated time, space, and all events associated therewith into flat images in perpetuity. Thus insignificant beings that often went neglected can become the subject of such record, the main protagonist, and the monumental existence that marks the start of a narrative. Objects can thereby serve as the testament for its own existence and material reality, instead of remaining a passive thing that was merely put where it is found. However, the artist adds another layer of question to this fundamental power of photographs. She asks, ‘is being merely photographed enough to prove the value of something’s existence?’ Such internal query leads her to actively allow the intervention of a third party before and after the creation of her works, veering from the conventional arrangement of fixing the artist as the sole, absolute authority on their artworks. In Performer (2018-2019), the artist attempted such intervention of a third party in the relationship between the artist-and-object, and between objects-and-objects. Normally when an object is photographed, it takes on a special meaning as the photographed object, especially following the inevitable artistic process of incorporating the photographer’s perspective, combination, and composition. In turn, the journey of the object ends when its image is recorded as a photograph. She, however, enlisted the help of a performer to physically interpret their impression of the photographed object. This added another layer of vitality to an otherwise immobile object, allowing it to live and breathe. Meanwhile, the artist’s most recent work Born Studio (2019) features images of a photography studio printed out and plastered onto the wall like wallpaper, creating an illusion of transplanting the studio onto the exhibition space. Then she overlaid this space with 3D VR imagery created by taking 360-degree footage of the performer’s movements alongside flat photograph of the object. In turn, she encourages the discourse on perception by transposing the environment (or object) from reality onto a flat image; introducing a new perception on the object driven by the interpretation of the performer; challenging the ways in which viewers interpret images in the physical space of an exhibition; and expanding or reducing users’ senses through a digital environment. She also challenges her viewers to think about how to perceive artworks that have now become flat material-images so easily distributed and consumed due to the advancements in modern digital display technology. Finally, the artist asks us how we can continue (or deviate from) the production of meaning as it was done in the past.
#4 Extraordinary Images Shaking up the Conditions of the Ordinary Daily Life
In her works, she challenges the fundamental meaning of art by bringing into focus the things that often sit outside the main focus in photographs. She then proceeds to the next chapter of this story. The faithful implementation of her identity as a photographer makes one amply question the relationship between the images itself, as well as the materials that contain or those that are contained by the image. This in turn is expanded to the interest in the environment that structuralizes the artist’s life, leading to the things that underpin the order of the quotidian yet going voiceless. It prompts the artist to explore the formative order that builds the scenery of material reality, and sometimes develops into deliberations about the appropriate media and environment for dealing with these images. In her works, the statuses of the photograph and the frame are sometimes flipped, while the borders between ‘technical production’ and ‘creative production’ are blurred. Unnamed objects are named, and dead, unseen spaces or blind spots become locations. The quotidian that were once imperceptible due to its familiarity now become glaringly noticeable events. Thus the conditions of the quotidian (objects, space, time, and environment) go from merely existing to actively occupying spacetime to unveil their own existence. The pettier an object’s quotidian standing, the greater the value of overturning its status in art. Ultimately, this begins to crack and shake the reasoning and perceptions we have always taken for granted.
KIM Sung woo directed and operated curatorial endeavors at Amado Art Space as the chief curator (2015-2018). In 2018, he curated the Gwangju Biennale as a curatorial collective. He focuses on demonstrating the potential of contemporary art to serve as the catalyst for the democratic production of knowledge, capable of operating dynamically and horizontally through autonomy. Rather than racing towards a conclusion, he seeks to ignite new questions in his exhibitions, thereby creating a chain reaction of new possibilities that expand our understanding of the space-time. He has curated exhibitions such as, Nobody’s Space (Amado Art Space, Seoul, 2016), Shot Blank (Art Sonje Center, Seoul, 2017), sunday is monday, monday is sunday (Space Willing N Dealing, Seoul, 2018), Black Night, VIDEO NIGHT (d/p, Seoul, 2018), 2018 Gwangju Biennale: Imagined Borders (Asia Culture Center, Gwangju, 2018), and MINUS HOURS (Wumin Art Center, Cheongju, 2019).