self-mortification toward freedom and pathos, here and now
Jungju Choi, curator of Seoul Museum of Art
Jaiyoung Cho is an artist who practices mortification seeking the metamorphosis of pathos that destroys logocentric notions and regulations on existence. She also searches for the essence of freedom. Have all those notions and realities, which have been woven, defined, and conventionalized in the human cognitive system, been reflecting and projecting the essence, forms, and characters of objects as they are? The artist now answers this question of profundity: 'All those notions and realities we've made are valid only in the network of inter-related cause-and-effect, inter-dependence, and mutual complement. They have no absoluteness. They can only be recognized right here in every moment we're awake, free from the conventionalized concepts.'
"SCAN" is the title of Cho's exhibition this time. Beyond the usual meaning of copying the form of an object, Cho focuses on its meaning of close examination and deep appreciation. She does 'scan,' that is, carry out a thorough inspection of existence by way of sewing, perforating, repousseing, and metal welding. In this way, she arranges deconceptualizing and antidefining creating performances and their traces.
First of all, the artist carefully scans her own body: face, eyes, nose, mouth, ears, eyebrows, fingers, and so on. She especially scans her face and fingers tenaciously by spreading them as if to engrave those three-dimensional forms on a plane to show as they are: curved, wrinkled, pressed, and squeezed. Every body part -eyes, nose, mouth, ears- is present before us taking up large space respectively. By way of montage, as if in a description of documents in an dictionary, the core of each body part is more closely and clearly represented: that's why it might be seen like another attempt for simple copying.
However, the artist points at her appearance first, which is easily overlooked due to its familiarity, and then keenly scans it until she finally encounters herself that is now totally new to her. It now reveals the limitations of sensory perception on real images that are defined and given unto us and she, through sampling, firmly insists on changeable character of our perception of beings. In addition, although our eyes, nose, mouth, and ears are always considered as inter-dependent on their functional level and usually grouped together in a face when they're shaped, the artist projects each body part's essential meanings and sensory facets so that they're conspicuous enough to attract a viewer's intention. She proposes re-cognition of the original nature of an object.
Her attempt has been applied to everyday goods like a lamp, a coffeepot, and a sprayer as well as familiar objects like a stone. A standing lamp is stripped off until it has the minimal form of metal structure and made transparent so that a viewer could see it through to reconsider the superficial image of the object. It could lead to re-establishing the third character of an object and its verbal meaning. In contrast, a stone is covered with aluminum foil and there repousse is used to emphasize the texture of its surface; in this way, its feeling of form and matter becomes clearer than when it is just exposed to us. These works are symbolical. The artist tries to examine the fallacy of recognition and definition that are based on immediate observation. Using scanning, she delivers the meaning of disillusionment or subversion.
Meanwhile, Cho's works in this exhibition could be all called traces. They are left behind after she gives those profound and soul-waking performances. They're like those of a seeker after the truth. The artist's intention of delving into the essence of an object leads her to repetitive and continual performances of sewing, perforating, repousseing, and welding, whose traces result in the accumulation of manual works. We see them as completed works.
For Cho, sewing is a way of undergoing the cognitive baptism which is performed when every elaborate stitch is made. It is no more a way of maintaining or making a record of some specific form. Perforating work, which is done on tracing paper with an engraving needle, is considered as a process of waking up and purifying her own consciousness. It is not merely puncturing. She does it differently depending on the density of brightness. In every moment of this repetitive creating act, Cho not only reminds herself of her sense of existence, but also steps toward the state of freedom from all thoughts. At this moment, any concept or existence disappears. What actually exists is 'action' and 'here and now.'
Therefore, faced with Cho's works, through our pleasant imagination, we find the artist's acts of self-mortification and their traces. Through her 'eyes' and 'nose' and 'mouth,' we experience a moment of meditation, rather than that of conceptualization or reality. Those purified images give birth to hundreds and thousands of metamorphoses of pathos. This is the very meaning of 'Here and Now' that Cho seeks as an artist and practitioner of self-mortification, and this could be the very moment when she verifies the real freedom of existence.