About the Typicality of the Era of Imagologie
Cho Eunjung (Art Critic)
We are at the beginning of the 21stcentury. When we sit in a café on the main street and look outside to see people moving around, sometimes we meet an eye of a woman looking at herself in the glass. They sometimes tidy their hair or slightly lift their skirts up to adjust themselves. However, to the eyes of the observers looking through the glass window, those passersby rarely have a lingering impression as a unique being. The first reason is probably that their outfit is closely related to the popular fashion trend. When we feel unable to distinguish and remember the unique individuals only by their silhouette, their skirt length, or even with their gestures, we often describe this sketchy feeling an 'image.'
The memory of the figures defined by the external appearance is an outcome of contemporary urban consumerism. It reflects the present-day life, represented by the mass production, department stores, as well as the mass media. These models could not stand free from the pop-art, a product of urban public culture. It is more likely to be true in a country like this country, where the formation of modern cities was belated. Kim Byungkyu's figures begin with the simple and coincidental observation as in the 'modern people's image,' and plays within the two axes of media and image.
Those shapes of figures, looking simple at a glance, symbolize the life in modern cities and publicize the means of consuming images.
Milan Kundera used the term 'Imagologie' in the sense that contemporary people are under the control of emotional images, instead of rational ideology. In his novel 『L'immortalite』, he indicated that the concept of advertisement used in the market, and propaganda as a political term are essentially the same. He illustrated the example of Marxists, who simplified the concept of their ideology for an easy propagation, while they were persecuted in Russia.
"Since the whole legacy of Marx was far from establishing a certain logical ideological structure, but was only a series of images and suggestive figures (a smiling laborer with a hammer in his arm, a Caucasian reaching out his hand to a Mongoloid and a Black, soaring dove of peace, etc.), we can reasonably speak about the gradual, general, and world-wide aspects of imagologie which reside in the ideology."
Imagologie, an integrated concept of the ideology and image, resides in the place where the fantasy of ideology has been collapsed. Moreover, its image is filled with the cheerfulness of the youth's way of speaking, instead of the seriousness of monologue. If communism is expressed with sickles, hammers, and laborers with an unrealistic smile, what about the capitalism? It is obvious that it is related to the commercials of products, in contrast to the communism tied with propaganda. We happen to encounter the reality as a consumable image within the pop-art, which is grounded in the popular culture that was born from a perspective of observing one object as in a movie, that is away from the way of individuals to enjoy the artwork by relating it to themselves.
Kim Byungkyu describes Marilyn Monroe holding her skirt hem from the subway wind, and Audrey Hepburn with short hair. We can readily notice their names because our judgment was based on the already known movies, posters, and advertisements. Their unique gesture and style is now a typical image. Lukacs suggested that describing the totally unexpressible matters in our real life, such as contradiction of life, struggle, or power, could be possible by creating a typical figure. Although not being Don Quixote, the actresses who expressed their characteristics with short hair, who lived in the era of considering the physical power itself, or the woman with long hair, beautiful, are full of images, and it functions as information of compressed emotion.
He begins with borrowing the iconic images of known figures, such as Marilyn Monroe or Audrey Hepburn, and tries to iconize the females' images shown through the café's window. They sometimes accompany with dogs, and even the lovely scenes made by them actually act as a tool to testify to the era of image symbolizing the wealth and richness, and the present day. In a regard that the emphasis on the uniqueness of an excellently decorated individual eventually best expresses the nation and the era, they are charged with typicality by an artist as an individual who is isolated from the created reality. In reality where both a superman and a materialistic one are in reality isolated from the hollow historical truth, the created human shape, as in Lukacs's indication that both a superman and a materialistic one are "helpless, abstract, narrow-minded, one-sided, and ultimately nonhuman shape," excessively decorated woman's image commonly regarded as 'materialistic' could be suggested as typicality.
Of course the female figure of his choice is not the woman that is physiologically distinguished by the sex distinction from males. They are just the chosen images for a clear delivery of intention in the process of processing the passersby in silhouettes, originated from the experience of the artist. They do not describe a female's or a male's social status, but function as a pronoun of modern people. They were chosen only because the number of cases of female's costume is larger than the male's. Female's hair and skirt in reaction to the 'wind' are also included in the condition of selection. The wind is both a rejectable or an acceptable condition since it maximizes the human gesture in reaction to it. In the movie, Marilyn Monroe faced with the wind produced by subway, which could be a way to overcome the sense of alienation in the modern city. The woman's silhouette showing the similar motion shows the acceptance of such civilization, and the silhouette of a woman flying her hair in the grazing wind expresses modern people's life who mobilizes even nature. It is probably the reason the artist used the term 'Play' in the title. In the modern life, every external thing surrounding a human is only a condition even without the separation between natural or unnatural matters. Moreover, human uses it as an image and consumes it.
Their shapes consist of metal and stone, two materials having the means of solidity, permanence, and tradition, as long-used materials of sculpture. Among metals, stainless steel is a fruit of modern civilization. The stainless steel's glittering and solid characteristics, and the attribute to deny being rusty, a natural course of time, contains the desire of sculpture to pursue the permanence. The colored stones in between, such as obsidian and sandstone, are also close to the permanence, in a regard that they show unchanging color, despite being traditional materials for sculpture. The edges of figure shapes are covered with rigid stainless steel, and even the inside is designed in accordance with the metal frame. The subject made of these traditional, massive, and bulky materials is, paradoxically, somehow frivolous, everyday life. Modern people's life of implying speed and change is realized with even the most traditional materials. In this regard, it reminds us of Milan Kundera's indication that change is not a meaning of improvement, instead, a meaning of shifting one chapter to another chapter.
The shapes made with metal and stone are planar, because they are based on the silhouette. However, with the maximized thickness of the material property, they could exist in the three-dimensional space. Not belonging to relief, Vollplastik, nor drawing, they only suggest us that they are just images. The entire equipment reveals the truth of contemporary people, who could not become the subject of the image.
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