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Copyright all right reserved 2008 Cho Duck Hyun

  Fictions _ Michell Nuridzany 2008/08/24

What if science and  History (or archaeology) and everything we call the « exact  sciences », which we suppose are so sure, so precise, were only a fiction,  that ought to be  envisaged only from the  point of view of an intellectual construction, or even a fantasy ? This is  what Cho Duck-hyun’s fascinating « visual story » suggests to us.  Among other renegade thoughts.

We know, for  example, that from Newton to Kepler, there is a passage from  « truths » of intuition to those of laws and, after that,  until quantum physics, until Einstein, new  « truths » follow other « truths » which are just as  scientific, correct for awhile, then replaced by others the next day or several  centuries later.

History,  every day it can be seen to what degree it is  « chosen truth »…As for archaeology,  the imagination reigns, carelessly overriding the blank spaces left by History  and excavations.

What Prigogine calls « the end of certainty, » a probable  echo of Heisenberg’s « uncertainty principle », is only a fashion, a  way of thought attached to a way of being and conceiving the world. In the  Middle Ages, a universe in the shape of a tabernacle was substituted for  Aristotle’s « spheres ». Then Copernicus « discovered »  that the Earth no longer occupied the center of the world, that it is just  another planet turning around the Sun. Here he reconnects with the ideas  advanced by Aristarchos of Samos twenty centuries before him, twenty centuries  during which mankind had not been blind, but only saw what other concepts –  turned towards the inner world – allowed it to perceive.

One smiles at Saint Augustin’s cosmological description evoking a  firmament surrounded by water, a flat earth, and two centuries later, the monk  Cosmas vilified « pagans » who said that the world was spherical whereas,  according to him, it is obviously rectangular. That universe was enclosed by  large verticla walls and covered by a demi-cylindrical roof. As for the stars,  they are angels on the move… But one can just as easily smile at Aristotle’s  arrangements which, returning to Plato’s spherical model, delivered a unitary  theory of nature which was held to be true during centuries, installing the  Earth in the center of nine transparent and concentric spheres whose planets  are connected, at the same time sidestepping scientific logic and, as if it  were obvious, adding forty five spheres so that his system could function  almost correctly.


With that in mind, one is even more charmed, troubled – profoundly- by  those that are developed here, in this historically charged place, where Cho  Duck-hyun has been invited to intervene.

Of course,  this long litany of  buried dogs, are reminiscent of the impressive terracotta army that accompanied  the tyrannic ruler of China into the beyond when he died in 210 B.C., whose  tomb was discovered by peasants digging a well. Some of these sculptures were  exhibited in Paris, with alot of publicity, a few years ago. They were fakes.  Or, at least, they were copies. And that was not admitted. Because in Asia this  is not unusual, especially in Japan, where ancient wooden temples are  frequently rebuilt without much importance attached to a word which seems to be  important for us : authenticity.

Yet another fiction.

The author of the fiction concerned here could answer like Borges  (author of rather similar Fictions)  when  he was asked who he was « What do you expect me to say about  myself ! I don’t even know the date of my death » He could try to  disappear behind his fiction. But this young artist, presently a professor at  the Ewha Women’s University, willingly expresses himself concerning who he is.  Even if he says he is « reserved ».

His biography essentially turns around this fact : the loss of his  father when he was six years old. Why does this event, certainly painful, but a  private one, concern us ? « Everything I have done since the  beginning of the 1990’s derives from this loss » he says.

When one knows that, it all becomes clear. It remains to listen to him  tell about the development of his art.

Quickly, he locates some photos of his father, who vanished too soon.  There are very few. Almost none. So he imagines. He invents. To imagine is a  consolation. Having become an artist, he uses the photo, it is the photo of the  past which, at first, interests him and he dramatizes it, in an installation.

In 1995, in Seoul, I saw some of these huge, more or less rusty, iron  boxes, filled with old photographs from the Ho-Ham Museum. For Cho Duck-hyun it  was a way of going backwards in time, to follow the course of History ;  but backwards. To find his father by devious paths, by the work of the  imagination. Via a different reality. Virtual.

True : this artist incites and leads us to a vast transformation,  a general travestizing of the world.

That interests him more than anything else.

When he was studying at the University, he admits he was unhappy.  « The professors were teaching informal abstraction, minimalism. That  didn’t interest me at all. That didn’t involve me. » So he studied alone,  became interested in postmodernism and, beyond, in Caravaggio and  Poussin : two extremes linked by the same admiration.

Like many other of today’s young Korean artists, he left his country  quite soon,  exhibiting in the Edinborough  Fruitmarket Gallery), in New York (New Museum), in Mexico (City Museum) and in  the biennales of Istanbul, Johannesburg, Sao Paulo. There, in Bresil, in 1994,  after thinking about burying himself in a pit, and deciding not to, he dug a  deep hole and put some pieces of white cloth in it. When he came back a little  later they had disappeared. The soul had gone away, he says. The imagination  was all that remained.

Still. Always.

The imagination is, for Cho Duck-huyn, the center of all artistic  representation, but also of the whole of life, where fiction and reality  intertwine, developing side by side, interchangeable.

But in no other work of Cho Duck-huyn’s, does  this representation go so far, blossom so amply, with so much disturbing  evidence, as in the Gurim project organized by the Yeongam-kun and the Ewha  Women’s University Museum, from March to June 2000, in accordance with the  Yeongam Pottery Culture Center in the village of Gurim, with a spectacular  display of half discovered tombs, where hundreds of clay dogs stand in impressive  rows. The display of   « discovered » sculptures in the village huts, museum rooms  with an army of « archaeology students » busying themselves around  the sculptures, journalists interviewing « specialists » to know what  it is all about, becoming informed about the importance of the  « discovery », trying to untangle the givens and the results :  all this was fascinating. So convincing, so strongly evocative, so beautiful,  even desirable, that it was necessary to add a few well placed lines in the  catalogue, to explain that it was a fiction.

Far from Gurim, with its real archaeological sites mixed with fictive sites,  in Paris at the Jeu de Paume and in the garden next to it, Cho Duck Hyun’s  installation says something more, closer to fanasy, to the marvelous.

But here, like there, it is always a question of reversing the tragic,  inevitable, course of the world and time, of constructing another order, other  laws,  fictions that appear so real, so  gentle, so beautiful that they are a substitute for the shadows of the world –  where fathers die – another  controlled  order, where description, provided that it seems real, replaces truth. In other  words, a parallel universe.

It is known that during the Vendée-Globe race, the navigators carry out  a virtual race on Internet that is superposed, in their mind, onto the other,  apparently more real, race.

It is also known that the gnosis supposes that this bad world was not  created by a good god : it was the work of a « bad demiurge »,  to borrow Cioran’s expression, the good god remaining removed, unknown, hidden.

Existence, according to the gnosis, is an  evil to the degree that we are necessarily tied to matter ;  It is through this knowledge (gnosis) that man frees himself from the material  mud that is the world to attain the unknown god, the perfect god, foreign to  the world, foreign to time. This territory is close, very close to Cho  Duck-hyun’s. It is the territory of art.


3   Photographic Memories _ Susan Candel  
  Fictions _ Michell Nuridzany  
1   Classical Works from a Moderate Point of View _ Youngna Kim  
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