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  The Scattered Puzzle Pieces _ Dae-Beom Lee 2008/09/01
The Scattered Puzzle Pieces

Dae-Beom Lee (Art Critic)

Existence and Absence of 'her/them'

A person is standing there. Yet I do not know who the person is. I do not know why the person is standing there either. I approach only because the person is standing there. Step by step, yet another step forward. Would these steps toward the person gather up to bring me the answer to the question of who the person is, and why the person is standing there? Although I had not taken many steps far, I was able to find out several things about the person. The person is a woman and she is wearing Hanbok.

Gradually, she seems to be starting to unfold the stories about herself. However, what I saw were actually replicates, not her as a singular. The moment I finally reached her, several replicates of herself starts to appear. I approached her to know who she is, but she is hiding within 'them'. Within the shouts of 'them' indicating themselves as 'her', I lose the way to find the real 'her'. The only thing that I am sure is her absence. Such absence is caused because she is there and not there at the same time.

Thus comes a problem that has to be solved in advance to answering the question of her existence. First, I must find 'her', who is hiding within 'them' to ask my question. From this phase, a new question arise. To where and how did she disappear? I take a few steps forward to find her, concentrating my distorted vision. There is another person who is watching the confused 'her'. Dressed in a suit, boasting her beauty, she is a 'singular'. She does not have 'them' surrounding her. Who was she watching among all those replicates? Maybe if I trace her eyes, would I be able to find 'her'?

The Logic of Absence

Two main female characters are shown in this exhibition. Nora Noh, the first fashion designer of Korea (real name: Myung-Ja Noh, 1928~), and Dowager Viscountess Rothermere, (real name: Joeong-shun Lee, 1950~). They may seem as ordinary persons, since there is nothing out of ordinary within their lives. Their real names, which are not much different from others of their times, once again proves that they were not inordinary persons.

However, they are currently living under different names, and within the process in such change, there lies the great tides of modern Korean history. As an individual, they could not enjoy their life under the burden of modern Korean history. This point in history acts as the catalyst for two women to 're-collect(regather, recall/review/memories)', so it makes it very important. The fact that the great history of humanity and minor history of an individual cannot be separated is unable to be identified within the logic system of the history of humanity. Thus, it must be started from focusing on the minor history. However, it is not the intention of this exhibit to offer the minor and personal records of the individuals. Although two personal 're-collections' from both individuals may be a great tool to interpret this exhibition, it must be remembered that this is only the beginning of the exhibition. Hence, if the spectators were to focus on the history of two women only, they will only be able to rub the surface of this exhibition.

Most spectators at this exhibition does not approach the exhibit with deep insights. Rather, they focus on the history of two women. The wild chronicle has become the center of attention, with 'pictures(they are not photographs)' placed in each rooms being the evidences. Therefore, each separate exhibition hall seems to look like two separate autobiographies. Occasionally, the history experienced by the two women can be sensed from those evidences, yet, the focus is still on the personal history of two people. At this point, the spectators must question the fact that each room does not explain history very precisely. Indeed, they are the fragments from the individuals, and they only exist as unconnected segments, rather than a complete history. Hence, spectators are seeing the false chronicles made from those separate segments. They seem to be connecting themselves to each other, while disconnecting themselves at the same time. As a result, the two chronicles of these two women stay incomplete. Although these chronicles seem to clearly focus on talking about two women, the chronicles actually puts more focus onto Korean history. They are actually absent in those chronicles. Therefore, it is not the complete chronicle which is important, but the 'logic of absence', which recreates the person from the fragments of events.

Until now, the works of Duck-Hyun Cho was formed through two major procedures. First was to draw the picture onto the canvas with clear description from photos, and second was to excavate something buried in the ground and place it in a new historical event. It is a faint memory that the two phases can be completed, and rebuilding the object in the perspective of the present times. From such activities, it can be noted that absence is present in his works. Whatever the event, or the object it might be, being 're-collected'(remembered/reflected/recalled: written as 'memory', as a unified term from now on) represents that it does not exist any longer. The memory is similar to the process of forgetting for the fact that it had existed in the past, but not any longer in the present times. The main difference of the two is their indulge in reality. In other words, process of forgetting cannot be recalled in the reality. Hence, the process of forgetting only lies within the past thus, forgetting stays as the problem of the past, not a problem in the reality. On the other hand, the memories can be recalled continuously within the reality, and it is also involved in the reality. The most important thing which decides whether an event(or an object) is a memory or an oblivion is not the importance of the event, but actually the present perspective. The matter of whether it can be recalled in present times decide whether an event is a memory or oblivion. According to the problem in reality, the event is placed in the category of memory or oblivion. Thus, 'how(symmetry, circulation, excavation)' the objects were recreated should be emphasized, rather than 'what(two women)' objects were recreated.

Scattered Puzzle Pieces 1 : Mirror(Symmetry)

This exhibition concentrates on the 'mirror(or symmetry)'. The pieces which contain personal history of individuals form symmetry. It not only forms symmetry within a single canvas, but also shows on two connected canvases. This method is shown throughout paintings, videos, photos and installations of this exhibition. The main characteristic of the mirror is that the object and the reflection forms symmetry. Such characteristic can be recognized by standing in front of the mirror. If we were to not face the mirror, the mirror is nothing more than a silent wall. Such characteristic can also be found in the glass on the windows. The glass and mirrors are similar for the fact that they present their reflection on their surface. However, the glass also allows the scene beyond the window to be seen, while the mirror only allows the viewers to see the reflection. The mirror is somewhat limited in the fact that it only symmetrically reflects the object. It does not give the possibility to extend toward the outside world. The world of mirror is completed only with the object and its reflection.

However, these two things are not very similar to each other, although they form symmetrical images. One of them is an original image, while the other is merely a reflection of it. They are similar to each other, but the reflection cannot exist without the existence of the true object. Hence, the structure of original-copy exists in the world of the mirror. However, the works shown in this exhibition denies such structure.

This also appears in the entire display of the exhibition. Each artwork uses the symmetrical structure of the mirror. However, they are not facing each other. Rather, they are located on the same side. With such effect, the boundary between the reflection and the object is denied. Then, 'which is the original image and which is the reflection?' From this, we can see that two symmetrical images located on a same side makes this question harder to solve. Without the hierarchy of the original and reflection, they constantly exchange their positions, thereby rotating repeatedly. This is similar to the beginning of the exhibition, where 'she' is turned into 'them'. Indeed, the existence of 'she' cannot be denied, but 'she' is converted into 'them' in the real world, and the world of 'existence' or 'non-existence' is brought into view.
Another factor that we must take interest in is the view of the spectator. The object is circulating inside the world of the mirror. Then where are the spectators watching the image? The spectators spot the object and reflection in a single view. In order for this to be possible, the spectators must also be included in the world of mirror. However, the image on the mirror by Duck-Hyun Cho does not contain the spectators. The spectators cannot be spotted within the mirrors placed in the exhibition either. Here, we must focus on the fact that the entire exhibition is in the form of a large mirror. Not only does the mirrors work on each artworks, but also on the entire exhibition hall. The mirrors have connected themselves to other mirrors, thereby forming a large mirror, extending to the entire exhibition. From such fact, we can assume that the spectators, who are viewing the artwork are dismantled in the world of mirror. Furthermore, the artwork itself is also dismantled. As a result, the spectators and the artwork itself are all being dismantled. it can be said that the game of finding right puzzle pieces(sometimes hiding, or wrong pieces) is being played through the entire exhibition.

Scattered Puzzle Pieces 2 : Cycle

The pieces which clearly show the logic of cycle are works by the Dowager Viscountess Rothermere. On the second floor, there is a picture of a westerner. If the spectators focus on the term 'western' while watching this picture, it might be unfamiliar. In addition, the noble clothes representing the class also seem somewhat unfamiliar. However, such unfamiliarity is caused because we are viewing the land of a great distance with our Korean eyes. Dowager Viscountess Rothermere, who has never lived in Korea, is actually very familiar with such unfamiliarity. However, she is trying to return to the unfamiliarity by discarding what is familiar with her. The only motive for her such action is because her mother is buried in Korea. This is similar to the act of the son from exhibition (Kukje Gallery, 1996), in which the son digs the ground to bury and recover the 'father-alike son'. Duck-Hyun Cho structures the personal genealogy, family genealogy, and ultimately the genealogy of the mankind through the process of burying and digging up his son from the ground where his father had been buried. Duck-Hyun Cho applies such symbolism of the 'ground(burial)' to the ground where the mother of Dowager Viscountess Rothermere rests. To be skeptical, the ground where her mother is buried, Korea, does not have much connection to her. However, Korea is where her mother, and furthermore her ancestors are buried. In other words, the ground is where the life genealogy of Dowager Viscountess Rothermere is being applied. Korea is a place where her mother and her beloved husband is buried and where she will be buried eventually. The symbol showing such connection is the relation between the Baek-Ryun-Sa and the lotus flower(白蓮).

A person's(monk) movement can be sensed inside a video work- it seems as if it is a photograph hence the movement is so minute. Due to strong-blue landscape, the person cannot be seen clearly. However, the person is moving perpetually. Sometimes the trees being shaken by the wind comes into the view, but it does not make much difference on the picture. The background is symmetrically arranged, and the only detectable movement is the light movement performed by the person. Thus, the important thing is his movement. He constantly moves along the landscapes, burying and digging up an unknown object. It is a lotus flower, which was considered to have been buried underground for a long time. The past moments are visually recorded, and the object is placed in the exhibition, it's reflection being repeated almost infinitively.

Although it started out with the story of Baek-Ryun-Sa, it does not end within the story of Baek-Ryun-Sa. It is infinitively extended, forming another story of Baek-Ryun-Sa. As an example, the lotus flower is used as the pattern for the walls in Nora Noh collection on the first floor. With the lotus flower and its pattern scattered within the exhibit, the symbol of cycle can be acknowledged. This cycle is similar to the image in the mirror for the fact that the mirror image displays symmetrical structure on the same wall. If the cycle of the mirrors were to state the personal cycle through fragments of a person's life, the cycle through lotus flower represents another person's cycle, unrelated to the others. This forms the genealogy of life(of mankind), by appearing in the entire exhibition.

Scattered Puzzle Pieces 3 : Excavation

The fact that the basis of this collection is formed by photographs must be emphasized. In the work of Duck-Hyun Cho, the pictures replicated with great accuracy is an important factor(As I have mentioned before, the work of Duck-Hyun Cho contain the general characteristics of a photograph). In an interview, he claimed that this work started from "the sorrow of having to remember the face of deceased father only by photograph". The sorrow of only viewing the object which no longer exists through the photograph, this is the foundation for his works. The art of a photograph is in framing the moment of lights and shadows in a square. In other words, the photographer becomes the taxidermist of the time. Especially, an old picture returns the present days back to the old days with the stains of old times.

Although the work of Duck-Hyun Cho uses photos as the foundation, the work is not complete only through the photos. His artworks, which accurately replicates the photos, might be similar to the photos, but are not the photos itself. The lights and shadows inevitably captured in the frame is revived from the past times to the present with the touch of the photographer, overcoming the limit of photograph as a replica of the past moments. 'Re-interpreting' the past artifact through the present perspective is connected to the excavation projects. Considering the fact that the past moments with little importance can be interacted with the present perspective to become a new scripture and a new history, the process of replicating the picture by Duck-Hyun Cho is actually similar to the excavation of the historical artifacts.

Photograph enable vertical association of the ideas, thereby rewinding the clock. However, such effect does not discover every aspect of the past. This is because the photos only exist as fragments. However, with the characteristics of other photos, it is possible for a person to associate horizontally as well. Horizontal association arranges the mutual and causal relationship between the moments of the past. When such process is repeated, the past moments are contracted into a single history. However, the credibility of this history cannot be insured, because when there is another fragment involved in the so-called new history, we do not know how the history could change, once again. If so, it is possible to say that we have chosen 'the person' among the fragments of 'them', not the unique 'person'. On the first floor of the exhibition hall, there are fragmental pictures of Nora Noh. She is the one who was staring at 'them' in the beginning of the exhibition. However, she is also placed in the mirror structure of the first floor. She also has the multiple existence. There is also an empty, or a dark canvas within the gap. What has happened there?

Putting the Puzzle Pieces Together

Once again, I return to the beginning of the exhibition to see 'them'. At this point, there is yet another truth to be discovered. The person who is recognizing the moment of absence, myself, also exists in multiple. Then I must also question my existence. Back to the first question, where are we(her/myself)? Have I met her in the exhibition? The answer to this question might be a yes, or a no. The only thing that I am sure of, is that I was able to touch the fragments of the puzzles made by Duck-Hyun Cho. If you have not completed your puzzle, then the reason for it would be because you have not actualized the empty or dark canvas. In order to complete the puzzle given by the artist, you must actualize the pieces of the puzzles. It is totally up to you to complete the puzzle. Hint- symmetry, cycle, and excavation.


24   homepage renewal  
23   From History to Memory_ Jiyoon Lee  
22   Butterfly Dreams, Mirrors and Mountains / Notes for Duck Hyun Cho: re-collection _ Pontus Kyander  
21   나비 꿈, 거울과 산 / 조 덕현을 위한 기록 : 리-컬렉션 _ 폰투스 키안더  
20   조덕현의 전시: 리콜렉션 re-colllection _ 신지영  
19   역사에서 기억까지 _ 이지윤  
  The Scattered Puzzle Pieces _ Dae-Beom Lee  
17   흩어진 퍼즐 조각 _ 이대범  
16   Re-collection : Walking down two women's paths _ Jiyoung Shin  
15   Cho Duck–Hyun _ Ann Landi  
14   조덕현 _ Ann Landi  
13   Ontmoeting: (Trans) fusion of Landscape Portraiture and History Painting by Use of a Symbolical Device in Cho Duck Hyun's Digital Photo-Images _ Inhee Iris Moon  
12   A moral proposal _ Patrick T. Murphy  
11   Two Mysteries Colliding _ Chtistopher French  
10   Leaning forward, Looking back – Jeff Kelly  
9   Restoration of Civilization _ Yongwoo Lee  
8   Reversing the Historical Imagination _ Young June Lee  
7   Entering Yiseoguk _ Choi Won Oh  
6   Cho Duck-Hyun – biographer of illusions _ Jan Donia  
5   From an Alien Past _ Hyunok Jung  
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