MORE LIVELY ACCUMULATION OF SISELFENLHOUETTES OR THREE DIMENSIONALITY
Jisuk Hong (Science of Art / Research Prof. DanKook Univ.)
A long time ago, gestalt psychologists proposed the “figure & ground law.” According to this law, humans can perceive the scenery that comes into their sight by separating a “figure” and a “background.” In other words, this indicates a tendency of human perception, which draws object (figure) from the context (background). In this case, the figure is perceived to be in the foreground, while the background is behind. Then, what can a figure become? Gestalt psychologists say that figures have attributes, for example, some have patterns, some are encapsulated, some are round (凸), etc... First of all, if a certain thing is perceived as something that stands out from the background — a figure —, it starts to have a privileged status over other things. Let’s say, it gains a “name,” overpowering all the other anonymous things.
However, there was an important concern for the gestalt psychologists who invented the so-called “figure & ground law.” It was the difficulty of deciding whether the boundary — of the figure and the background —, i.e. “silhouette,” belonged to the figure or the background. This was not a simple problem, but was easily resolved in an unexpected way by giving the figure another privileged position. In other words, they concluded that the silhouette belonged to the “figure (object).” However, as it is generally known, a silhouette is not tightly bound to a figure. This is because tactility cannot be separated from the object, but the “silhouettes” as independent entities, as Conrad FIEDLER once said can be liberated from the same object (through the artist’s hand). Of course, a figure without a silhouette fails to remain a figure because we can only obtain a distinguished object (figure) from the context (background) when there is a clear silhouette, or clearly depicted outline. The silhouette not only ensures, but also endangers the privileged status of the figure (object) since it is always possible of being liberated from the object despite being considered a part of it.
CHO Jaiyoung’s work begins by extracting the silhouettes (exterior) out of everyday objects. Her method of work, which she calls “packing,” is derived from the collected numerical values obtained by measuring each part of an object. Based on these numbers she produces geometrical units such as triangle, rectangle, or pentagon out of paper, and then attains the shape of an object by assembling them. But more precisely speaking, what she attains is the silhouette of the object. This excludes the qualitative (emotional) and physical attributes of which the original objects hold. According to the artist’s own words, it is like “a cover without substance.” In this sense, her so-called “packing” work is different from casting works in general, because it lacks the certain obsession towards the original that is specific to cast works. We may say, from the beginning Cho’s shapes (silhouettes) have ensured the chance to liberate themselves from the originals-objects. From this, it is possible to think in two different directions in which they can move. One of the two directions is to create new “shapes” that are distinctive from the original object by combining the silhouettes and pieces — obtained from the object — in a different manner than the original object’s structural modalities. For example, Toward a complete sphere (2014) shows the silhouettes and pieces extracted from a soccer ball, combined in different ways. According to LEE Sunyoung, “they appear in different forms depending on various circumstances, although fulfilling the structural condition of being a soccer ball.” Another direction of her work is that she extracts the silhouette not from an individual object but from within a context — particularly the situations in which individual objects are mixed up. As we can see in the series of works, Temporary Construction and Flexible combination, she is fascinated by the overall silhouettes (exteriors) of the various objects accumulated in a limited space and freely captures the silhouettes with her way of working. The silhouettes freed from the fetters of figures or objects (objecthood) now pile up (assemble) to produce a situation that encompasses the objects.
Additionally, there is one more direction to her practice. Predicted from her former works involving the extraction of silhouettes from the “situation” and not the “figure” (object), she extracts and captures silhouettes from negative space (which does not originally have a physical substance). One example is the Through another way series, which assigns a visible outline (silhouette) and volume to the space surrounding a staircase or columns. In this piece, the silhouette seems to belong more to the background rather than to the object (figure) — not unlike the ideas of the gestalt psychologists of the past.
The silhouette emancipated from the object (figure)! Cho (re)assemblies the silhouettes that are liberated from the object in order to propose a world different from what other artists and sculptors have been depicting in the past. In these terms, Cho’s work reminds us of the historical avant-garde’s stance, who dreamt of the new world through the “lines” and “colors,” divorced or liberated from the conventional object (objecthood). Cho creates undeniably abstract forms using the silhouettes that are liberated from objects, as if numerous historical avant-garde movements proceeded towards a world of “abstraction” composed of lines and colors. Indeed, just by standing upside down Cho’s light-weighted sculptures made out of paper function in a manner that betrays the object (original) and figure. Of course, their forms are unfamiliar not only to us, but also to the artist. We may understand from this context how she often titles her sculptures, Monster.
However, how can we comprehend the “monster,” particularly Cho’s “Monster”? Above all, it is deconstructive, in regards to the fact that it destroys the figure (object) by separating the silhouette. Additionally, Cho’s way of destructing figures could be seen as an attack on the conventional system of signification typified by proper names, or “naming,” since usually the figure (separated from the background) is generally assigned a name. In the artist note, sure enough, Cho reveals her strong resistance to the existing languages, cognition, and value systems that “limit and regulate the objects, turning them into immutable substances.” Cho’s works that produce and present something are, in fact, more than mere deconstructions. In terms of semantics, that “something” cannot be fully comprehended by a single name due to its ambiguous form. (According to her artist note) Cho aims to imply (and visualize) a moment “just before expanding to separation,” or “when the existing perception becomes impotent but a new one is yet determined”, through the ambiguous forms. In this sense, Cho’s ambiguous form, that is “like this or that” or “neither this nor that”, resembling Deleuze’s “crystal image.”
I would like to add one more thing to the above. A phrase from LEE Sunyoung’s critical text will support my argument. Lee says, “Cho’s sculptures obtain contemporaneity by emphasizing the realistic processes of perception or experience, instead of ideologies” (LEE Sunyoung, More Repletive World without Substance, 2014). Lee’s statement is quite convincing because I think Cho’s work is not conceptually, but physically perceptible. In front of her work, I cannot help my own body that chases — step by step — the procedure of her working process. It protrudes from the bottom to the top, towards the front of my body, then rotates to a bottom right 40 degree angle, again goes straight to the top, no, 20 degrees to the left side, then drops to 60 degrees to the bottom right. No matter how hard I try to give detailed explanations, it is beyond my capacity to fully elaborate on her work. In fact, there is a lack of language to describe her work. Perhaps, doesn’t the true value of the work lie in the moment, when my body follows the outlines (my perception is activated by following the trajectory of Cho’s body), while attempting to describe the work? In this moment I experience three dimensionality in the most literal sense, rather than being covered by cognition and ideas. At least for me this is an entirely new and lively experience of space. Referring back to LEE Sunyoung, she says, “Cho’s work aspires for an open cognitive system but not nihilism.” Conceivably, the term “open” would be the most adequate word to describe her work and the “lively experience” accompanied by it. But, to think of the term “open,” how crude and limiting this word is indeed, to express the new movement and the new space that I experience with her work!