The Realization of an Equal and Autonomous ‘State’
Jeongyoon Choi ( Independent Curator )
You began working on the Monster series since 2011. What is it about? I like the word ‘realization’. It means to transform something you imagine into a different form which can be experienced in reality. In English, another word for it would be materialization. Sculpture or installation works are fascinating because they create a certain subject that can actually be touched and seen. In my case, I don’t limit my work to material and prioritize the concept I wish to deliver. I aspire to create works which resist conventional ideas of sculpture, such as permanence, absoluteness, authority and originality. Monster series sprung up based on my skepticism towards the idea of originality. People see things or people as singular units and each unit having its own strength. I look at objects as a ‘situation’ rather than singular units. I wrapped up a situation as if to make an outer shell, removing the sense of singularity by connecting an object to the objects next to it. And by doing so, the state or relationship itself becomes important. The material of paper is a very suitable material in making outer shell. I drew lines that connect many objects, and captured the situation delicately and slowly. After making a shell of a particular state, I cut out a part of it after a period of time. Then I continued to change its form by making new parts and attaching them as in a cell division. Therefore, a single work holds layers of years in it.
You wrapped it up in sheets of many colors. Is there meaning in the colors you put in the geometric forms? For me, color means differentiation. Painters often endow meaning in the selection of colors, but this isn’t the case for me. I use it as a simple means of differentiating. After making the outer layer of a situation at first, I wrap it up entirely in one sheet of the same color. If a part is cut up and another part is attached to where it’s been severed, it’s wrapped up in a different color. Although it’s not intentional, color was used as an element which differentiates the year. But recently, I’ve also been using color to add visual effect in a more active sense. The fact that the final outcome of the work is in a geometric form means that it recognizes the subject as numbers. Language plays a major role in the process of perceiving a subject. Language itself must be neutral if it were to play a pivotal role in the construction of recognition, but it often isn’t. judgemental qualities are charged in adjectives like ‘beautiful’ or ‘ugly’. On the other hand, words like ‘there is 1cm between the two’ or ‘the angle is 30 degrees’ mean ‘difference’ and are not charged with ‘judgemental’ qualities. Human beings commonly recognize the world based on the language structure, as they have never been trained to recognize a subject beyond such range. My interest lies precisely on this realm beyond the range of language.
Your works seem to require a long time to be produced. How are they produced? I put actual objects like flower vase, books and computers, and I gauge them so that they can be connected by a line. While actual subjects exist, their forms are partially mutated in the process of forming relationships between them. Paper is material which most appropriately expresses such concept. However, it can just as easily crumple up if the humidity isn’t right. Because it can be cut right through if too much pressure is put on the blade, it requires a lot of practice. And as it’s all hand-made, it’s impossible to receive help from others. I use thicker corrugated paper, and even if I take exact measurements and make cuts, there are often errors and I must make them again. It takes weeks, sometimes months, for me to finally glue everything and coat it a few times over with varnish. There is a great performative meaning in taking a long time to create one single shell. It’s as if I myself becomes a subject of experimentation in my work. The only thing I can do in dealing with the issue of recognition is the act of selecting the subject of observation, and in this work, the subject is myself. Because the living form, or human being recognizes, the recognition process of someone else might be assumed but is hard to be precisely interpreted. As there is limitation in the subject of experimentation, what appears in my work is simultaneously myself as the observer and myself as the observed. My work is the outcome produced between the tension relationship between the two.
The work is very light since it’s made of paper, and the pedestal has wheels on it which makes it mobile. It seems that you are using the meaning of pedestal in a different way in your work from its conventional sense. Are you trying to reverse the invisible system of authority as you mentioned above? It’s hollow inside, so it’s light enough to be lifted alone. It’s also made of dot, line and plane, so it can easily be cut and pasted. It’s an equal object without a front-back, top-bottom, and centralperipheral. I wanted to show a sense of neutrality that’s as mechanically cold as possible. In the case of the pedestal, I made it to prop up the shell of a situation. Because it was made for a particular form, the pedestal is also rendered useless when the form is removed. In this exhibition, I produced a structure which mixes the work and the pedestal in a more dynamic way. In traditional sense, the pedestal was a subsidiary element on which the more important ‘work’ was placed. The structure in itself establishes hierarchy. Thus in Alice’s Room (2017), I converted the position of the pedestal and the work, and produced an object which wraps the two into one form.
Anachrony (2016), shown in Kumho ArtMuseum, was an open space without an entrance or exit, and Through Another Way (2016) showed the negative space of a certain site. Do they reflect your interest in the architectural aspect of space? When you go to the department store, you can see that it’s designed to move people in a way that’s beneficial for the people who constructed it. We can also see how people are instructed to walk on the right side of the halls in subway stations. While these are appropriate and obvious regulations in public spaces, what I’m focusing on is the idea that we are being controlled and regulated through someone else whether we know it or not. Through Another Way roots from my personal experiences of when I was living in an office apartment, and all the rooms had exactly the same layout. I felt suffocated, living as an individual in standardized space. Although we live for convenience and rationality, space can appear violent at times. I wanted to transform space freely. I once saw how around column located right in the middle of a lobby left people no choice but to walk around it. So I made that empty space into a lump, and made people penetrate and walk through the location of the column. The work may seem to tell narratives about space or architecture, but it’s essentially about the violence of the society or collective that’s practiced upon the individual.
Alice’s Room, which you presented in this exhibition, seems to have developed through the integration of concepts dealt with in your works Monster and Through Another Way. That’s right. it’s in the same context in the sense that it also deals with the outer shell. While Monster focuses on specific objects, Through Another Way and Alice’s Room shed light on space as the subject. While working on this piece, I felt that objects proliferate with continued connection, and then at one point, comes to involve the concept of space altogether. While I make the shell for a part of architectural element of space, I cannot deal with the entire space due to physical limitations. So it came in the exhibition space in a larger form based on the scale of the human body. The standard scale is created through the process of ‘space becoming object’ and ‘object becoming space’. Alice’s Room is a mixture of certain parts of space, such as the stair cases or the ventilator in Seoul Art Space Geumcheon where I am currently residing. It was an attempt to create ‘a third space’ through the shell of an actual space or object. I also sporadically inserted rectangular forms in between in order to connect the different objects. While the spaces are composed of elements that exist somewhere, it’s a space which actually doesn’t exist. Each element is removed of its inherent meaning, and only the cold remaining structure is transported into the exhibition space, hollowing out eventually led to a state of ‘emptiness.’
A part of Alice’s Room looks like book shelves or a desk. When I talk about objects, I wish to create ‘a third object’ which hasn’t been named yet. It could look like a book shelf or a desk. However, upon closer inspection, it might not coincide with such functions. I wanted to create a form that’s nothing specific, something which looks like a desk but could also be a chair. I could name it if it’s necessary, but if I were to name it, it would be a number. Removed of the original function of the chair or a desk, and eliminated of color, it’s reduced to a structural lump which cannot be named. People are usually uncomfortable or insecure about states that are difficult to be defined through language. However, this is precisely the state I am directing at through my work. It’s an empty, meaningless state that’s always in limbo. We’re all used to a recognition system in which everything has a name, language and color. Human beings ultimately live and die in languages and names. I continuously strive to hollow it all out.
As your work deals with the negative space, works by other artists are visible through the empty space of your work. This seems to illustrate an in between situation of some sort. I think that the partially empty forms in the work emphasize the meaning of ‘space’. While it has a spatial meaning, it’s also a structure. I coated over an wooden object with white paint in order to emphasize the concept of structure. I wanted it to seem like one structure made of separate units of lumps like pieces of lego blocks. It emphasizes the idea that it’s not a lump of wall but individual units in a large structure.