Tomorrow, we open Constructed Visions: New Media from Korea. This exhibition introduces four contemporary Korean artists who construct striking examinations of their environments, both urban and rural, using the seemingly infinite possibilities of digital media such as video and photography.
In his ON-AIR Project (top image), Atta Kim explores the duality of existence and non-existence while questioning the basic idea of photography. Instead of documenting and reproducing things that exist, Kim captures the absence of things that no longer exist. Deeply invested in Buddhist philosophy that urges us to understand reality as it is (which is not always as it appears to be), the artist uses a camera to communicate his existential question: how do we define this existence which feels concrete and tangible? By extending exposure times up to eight hours, objects such as crowds and cars eventually vanish in his images: things that move quickly vanish quickly and things that move slowly vanish in the same manner, raising fundamental questions of presence and absence, time and perception. What is left in his photographs is the experience of time, challenging the viewers’ ability to look beyond what they perceive. In Kim’s images, the process of atrophy documented during the hours of exposure becomes a quantifiable evidence of existence: all that exists eventually disappears. At the same time, what captivates the viewer is the striking image embodying a quiet abstract quality, gently guiding the viewer to ponder the meaning of time and existence.
In his Tree series, Myoung Ho Lee questions the way we view our surroundings by placing a white canvas behind a tree, thereby isolating it from its environment. Trees, viewed as mundane objects, are captured in Lee’s camera as if they were sitters for studio portraits: trees that usually blend into nature as backdrops become centerpieces, objects of aesthetic contemplation and scientific scrutiny. The artist’s way of presenting the trees simplifies our vision, yet complicates our experience of viewing. We are asked to look at these trees and our surroundings with a fresh perspective and to assume a new role as an active viewer, analyzing our understanding of reality which is subjected to much extraneous information. In order to construct his tree portraits, Lee travels around South Korea and observes trees which interest him over the course of the four seasons. Each tree is photographed after laborious preparation. The working process, which Lee describes itself as ‘a performance,’ requires industrial cranes with a sizable group of crew members to erect poles and ropes in order to secure the canvas as if it were floating in air, all of which is removed from the final photograph. The resulting images, poetic and meditative, trigger a series of questions regarding representation, perception and our understanding of our environment.
This exhibition is part of a year-long series that is designed to provide contemporary perspectives on visual art in Asia from four different countries: Japan, Korea, Israel and Pakistan. Begun with Takashi Tomo-oka, the series addresses a variety of underlying conceptual issues and cultural questions, some of which may challenge viewers’ assumptions about Asian art. Make sure to check it out! ~CM
Atta Kim, ON-AIR Project 160-13, from the series India, 2007, Chromogenic print, Loaned by the artist
Myoung Ho Lee, Tree # 1, 2006, Ink on paper, Loaned by the artist