emptiness and fullness
Seonyoung Lee, Art Critic
Even though Jaiyoung Cho majored in sculpture, her works mainly deal with extremely light materials such as letters, money, fingerprints and leaves. Embroidered and engraved symbols on canvas or tracing paper in her works depart from pathos of traditional sculpture which utilizes heavy and big materials such as loft monument erected on the ground. Rough surfaces of her most works which is integration of her sculptural labor tell that her works in this exhibition are in line as in her previous pieces, she uses rough surfaces to emphasize the tactile quality of the work. In this exhibition, she includes three dimensional works as well but most of them are two dimensional, basically starting from plane. The function of plane is to make an artist to absorb in the work more easily. Tension and sharpness happen from delving into the work tenaciously.
Empty Material, the subtitle of this exhibition suggests emptying materials, reducing dimension and inner-fulfillment increased contrary to emptying and reducing. Here the inner-fulfillment, however, is something produced by repeated labor as cultivation so that it is distant from expression of the sculptor's mind. It is because burying herself in work such as emptying materials which can be a symbol of objectivity is a process of emptying the subject as well. For example, a work which shows simply arrangement of dry and meaningless numbers has a start but does not demonstrate an artist's intention to systematize and complete it. It is the similar pattern even if several days pass. At such work only a process of rigorous labor to create the work simply remains as marks. However it cannot conceal the artist's intention to fulfill every moment of daily life with the work. It corresponds to the order of life in which emptiness and rigor cross each other. Unlike life, fulfillment instead of emptiness is possible in art but rigor cannot be exempted from art.
The method of her dimensional work using paper is first to type letters using a computer word program and then erase all the spaces between the letters and the symbols, copy them on paper, and finally build them up letter by letter, until at last only one letter remains. The surface which shows only one letter becomes the bottom of the work and plays a role as the center of the work. However the letter does not imply any essential meaning of the work but is just decided randomly through the mechanical process of piling up papers. The process such as this is just repetition which makes a subtle difference and disintegrates function of language which designates things. An isolated signifier becomes materialized. A sentence or a word embroidered with black thread in her works includes from a profound and abstruse question such as who/what am I? to a word like coca cola which implies lightness of daily life. All the letters are mechanically put into the 33 centimeter by 33 centimeter square panel and are treated with equal importance without emphasis on one over the others whether it is a metaphysical question impossible to answer correctly or a simple word signifying culture of consumption. It is found here as well that labor of each stitch as cultivation is emphasized rather than transmitting the message of the letters or objects.
In her work, Scan, she copies images of herself who involves a rigorous labor. She says that she intended to scan her body without thinking, only with the feeling, as if her body had been put on a scanner as the title of the work indicates. Like her works regarding numbers, her works concerning images consist of intervals between times. The method of this work is first to duplicate ten fingerprints, magnifies it and engraves them into tracing paper using a printing needle. This work which is possible to express light and darkness only with pressure of the needle, without adding other materials looks flat but the sculptural process is inherent in the work. The fingerprints have function of representing self-identity but are not expressions of the subject. They are not only a series of trace but also something like a bar code which recognizes an object through a mechanical process. The processes of emptying both the subject and the object according to repeated labor as cultivation are maltreating or being maltreated. They eventually lead to vandalistic behavior even chopping money. The pieces, Blue and Green Paper are the ones in which three or four 1000-won or 10,000- won bills are used. First the bills are cut with regular size and then are woven like a fabric. In these works, 1,000-won bills and 10,000-won bills turn into just blue and green paper respectively. She zeroes out the invisible social order which is summarized by money by deleting the function of the symbol indicating the value corresponding to the reality.
Jaiyoung Cho, pretending to be orderly, turns the laws of the letters and numbers which tight up our life into the rules set up by her. By doing this, the real is emptied and the pleasure of imagination starts. She might have wanted to shake off solidity and weight of the reality. Then there remain only the momentary acts consisting of each stitch where the subject and the object are emptied. It has the tendency of cultivation pursuing direct experience which goes beyond the realm of materials and languages. In term of the cultivation such as this, repetition is not only breaking-up but also completion. Her works are close to repetition compulsion which Sigmund Freud conceptualized in his Beyond the Pleasure of Principle in that she demonstrates repetition almost close to obsession. According to Freud, repetition, in order words, wanting to experience again what one experienced before is definitely an element of pleasure in itself but is more fundamental and instinctive than the pleasure principle. It is against the law of Kant who claims that time and space are essential mode for thinking and illustrates that unconscious mental process in itself is timeless. The timelessness is accordance with the desire of death rather than life and every creature has a fundamental tendency to return to an inorganic matter.
The methods by which Jaiyoung Cho deals with numbers or letters are close to an impulse to scatter them up like death instinct rather than to combine and systematize them as unification like life instinct. It implies an inorganic base from which an organism arises. It also entails fundamental emptiness and loss innate in self. However repetition in her works goes beyond the negative concept of death. It is because it is not a repetition of the same aiming at reappearance of the sameness but is a repetition of the difference. In his Difference and Repetition, Gilles Deleuze points out that repetition is the difference without concept. He suggests that the reason that Freud cannot go entirely beyond a model of physical or materialistic repetition is that he interprets the death instinct as a tendency to return to the state of inorganic matter.
Art is not imitation but repetition. Art is false image and its purpose is to turn an imitating image into a false image. The more daily life becomes standardized, the subtler the difference that art drags out from it and enjoys. In this situation, life and death are rather a co-existing and complementary relationship than a contradictory relationship. According to Deleuze, repetition is difference without negation and such difference develops into endless decentralization and movement of multiplicity. Difference makes possible to move from an order of repetition to another order of repetition. Repetition as the unique power of difference affirms unlikeness, consecutive discordance, fortuity, diversity and formation. Repetition in her works is not difference with concept but aims at difference without concept. Repetition in the works in which a signifier without signified drifts away dismantles the system of reappearance. Plan of Realism or modernism which tends to unify or free all the reality or language can be an object to overcome. Oscillating symbols are not to expose a hidden meaning but to break up reappearance of meaning itself. Repeated labor as cultivation questions the indicative action itself.
Symbols in her works give up the function of language as designation that controls things. In order words they dismiss the function of language as logos. They are languages as a material rather than a means of indicating or communicating. The sewn points or lines show letters, numbers, or sentences but appear to be just traces if one takes look at it more closely. Traces without the correct locations demonstrate difference. Only infinite repetitive acts supplement absence or dearth of reality. Here insecure and inconsecutive movements replace secured self identical uniqueness. She carves traces of others inside of something which appears to be self identical. In addition, others' enter self changes the position of the subject as well. Here it is not just losing the self identity. But the self identity goes to innumerable pieces and scatters. Self exists and can be found everywhere. There is only thin film between the limited self and the unlimited others, and needles come and go through the thin film repeatedly. She accepts innumerable others through emptiness, baseless, inner-fulfillment and disappearance, and aims at freedom which its center is emptied. She seems to wait for a moment when time and space disappear to come while doing repeated labor as cultivation