KIM Junghyun, art critic
Rock and Fairy (2016) was shown at a movie theater, an exhibition space and a bookstore. Although shown at different venues, the versions were different, but ‘almost’ identical. This explains the reason for there being different versions; the video was slightly edited after the movie theater screening. On top of that, the screening condition should be regarded as an important aspect of the making process of the video making. It seems like at least the this artist took a certainsuch an approach by arranging various screenings for a single piece of work. Setting any boundaries aside in terms of “architectural” elements and the function of each space, the artist takes into account the inclusive condition of every screening. If the setting of every screening is considered an important aspect of her work, could Rock and Fairy be considered an independent and autonomous video work?
According to the artist, she didn’t intend to make a video at first. The 45-minute video just turned out to be the result of footage of the journey she went on with the meteorite exploration community and gold seekers - filmed by the artist herself - combined with interviews and footage shot by someone else. Furthermore, it becomes evident that the artist did not intend to make a documentary. The highly exaggerated visual effects are used in such way that they cover up the editing of time duration. Although the preface carefully describes it as a ‘fantasy documentary’, calling it as ‘fantasy genre’ sounds much more adequate. While hanging out with gold seekers Hae Shim Myung, Seo-ee, Mono and JOH whose names sound as if they came straight out of a martial arts story, the artist doesn’t take on the role of a distant observer, but an active participant of their fantasy-led adventures. This happens after only three minutes of waiting.
The film begins with the opening line, “OK, three minutes left.” Some sort of hypnotic effect occurs as the audience is properly seated before screening begins, and is about to immerse itself in the fragmented images and sounds that intertwine reality and fiction. As if there’s no need to escape from the inevitable boundary of representation as an illusion, the dreamy sounds of a strongly echoed voice maximize the experience of illusion attempting to hypnotize, or jokingly to hypnotize, the audience.
In IM Youngzoo ’s solo exhibition THEWESTERLIESWINDCOMESANDGOES (2016), Rock and Fairy is located in the most remote part of the exhibition. After passing by a window gallery on the first floor and a work that represents the moon and human beings walking up to the exhibition space on the second floor, the viewer finds themselves in a small, cozy room with free-standing walls where the work can be fully appreciated. As the name of the work Rock Force indicates, the rock possesses a certain force, and thus features as the protagonist of this exhibition. But what on earth is this force? Is it a magical power that captivates alchemists? Is it a mystery that stimulates the curiosity of the meteorite and gold explorers and members of other like-minded communities? Or is it the possibility of being a blank paper onto which all sorts of personal illusions can be projected?
Known for her works that deal with religion and superstition, IM Youngzoo likes to use science as a contrast medium in this exhibition. The artist spends her time equally between checking the weather app and reading her horoscope every morning. By doing so, she aims to focus on the similarities, and not the differences, between scientific thought and superstitious religion. Naturally, I would now like to ask the artist if it is reasonable to differentiate forecasts based on observation and experiment from those based on beliefs. However, I find myself hesitating when I recall the life at present where observation and experiment have somehow become a specialization, our daily lives are being encroached by amateurism, and anti-intellectualism and science are being transmigrated from the domain of rationality into that of belief.
Located on the first floor, Test_Force (2016), Test_Material (2016) and Wind Force (2016) are works that are seemingly based on the science experiment. These are not just video works, but actual documentary videos on loop that include scenes of someone rubbing a rock or holding a balloon. The 59-second video shows a hand touching the rock while it’s being heated by an alcohol lamp. The 8-minute, 58-second video and the 4-minute, 49-second video both show someone holding a balloon covered in clay. All three videos look like photographs. The duration represents the measured results of testing tolerance to heat and weight in each of these videos.
How should we view these representations of simple experiments that are provided in elementary science textbooks? In other words, how should we perceive these pseudo science performances, strictly speaking, unreal science experiments? Is it a way of advocating superstition that can’t be replaced with scientific thought? Or is it a comment on the complexity and incomprehensibility of science? Does the artist consider the fantasy genre as genre fiction dealing with supernatural subjects yet comprehensively referring to stories where there is no telling what awaits? If so, could this series of works in the guise of pseudo scientific experiments be called the fantasy representation of science?
The fantasy genre presented by the artist is being expanded into an illustrated guide book to the art of science. During the bookstore showcase of Rock and Fairy, she also published an accompanying book, entitled Rock and Fairy Vol. 1 ODD ROCK FORCE. Text and photographs comprising the book back up unseen/deleted content of the video work. (A text written by myself will be part of the book Rock and Fairy Vol. 2 THEWESTERLIESWINDCOMESANDGOES).
This book functions as an interpretation manual for the fantasy genre and not only demonstrates the analysis of the complexity of Rock and Fairy but also serves as a gateway to solve the complexity of the whole project. By doing everything the way it should be done - placing her book in a bookstore, screening her film in a movie theater and displaying artworks in an exhibition space - the artist strives to divide the whole project by medium, venue and target audience and respond to the idea of fantasy as a fuser of things. She waits another three minutes and then stands outside the fantasy genre.
KIM Junghyun is an art critic and an independent curator. Kim is interested in the performative aspect of contemporary art, writes essays about performance and choreography, curates exhibitions and engages in some work as a dramaturgie or a performer as well. She was awarded 2015 SeMA–.HANA Art Criticism Award and selected as a visual art curator for AYAF by the Arts Council Korea. She Curated Walking Log (co-curated; 2014), YEON MAL YEON SI (2015) and Change Nothing(2016).