Rumbling of Floating Ghosts
Source:Artintern Author:Choi Tae-man Date: 2016-06-02 Size:
On a cold winter’s night, the phantom of dead King Hamlet that appeared ……

On a cold winter’s night, the phantom of dead King Hamlet that appeared in a palatial palace of Denmark is a real person or a ghost? Or, is the phantom an illusion made by King Hamlet’s despair and anger about the present King who is the dead King’s younger brother, King Hamlet’s uncle, and his mother’s man. King Hamlet filled with anguish might create his father’s virtual image that doesn’t exist as he was obsessed by delusion that his dead father’s spirit, who fails to go to the nether world wandering around this world, was asking him for his revenge. It may be a possible interpretation in psychoanalysis, but it is not a key in this writing. I just recall the phantom of King Hamlet to examine an image. Then, what does an image mean?

A dictionary meaning of an image is the reproduction of ‘a physical or ideological object in a concrete and sensuous way. An image, visually represented or imagined, is reflected on our mental-set. What is reflection? That means that our expectation of wanting a certain object to come to mind shows up by image. An image is closely related to reproduction in that the word image is derived from Latin ’imitari’ that means ‘cody’. But, an image is created by absence of things in general like the spirit of vice-king that appeared to Prince Hamlet. So, an image means an empty state in that the existence of a thing to be reproduced is empty. Let’s go back to the origin of the word, image. The word is linked with ‘imago’ that means statue, portrait, statuette, appearance, image, phantom, ghost, shadow of the dead, dream, illusion, fantasy, imagination, representation, and reproduction. Imago is also connected with ‘figura’ that means pattern, shape, appearance, picture, shadow of the dead, and ghost while sharing the meaning with ‘simulacrum’, the copy of reality. An image is existential and absent at the same time, so to speak.

Jang Back-soonGermination, Bronze, 28 × 23 × 55 cm, 2000

Jang Back-soon,Germination, Bronze, 15 × 15 × 75 cm, 2000

Today when we are surrounded by high-tech visual media, we live in the world of image showing the absence of reality more vividly. As Jean Baudrillard said, we are seized by images and addicted to the convincement of images, so we accept simulation replacing reality, as reality that is more realistic. But, the history of formative art shows that it has focused on the reproduction of reality nostalgic for reality. Spending time in prison, Plato pointed out a problem of copy by using a story of people who were deluded into thinking the shadow falling on the cave wall was real, and went out to kill people who witnessed the world of reality. Despite that, the actualization of similarity that depends on reproduction techniques is a trap, hypnosis, and magic tempting to make this shadow look real. But, at the turn of the 20th century, the magic of reproduction was dispelled, and the movements to violate, topple, break, and expel the principles of reproduction took place. And, the artist who draw it to the theatre might be Marcel Duchamp, not Pablo Picasso who broke perspective. Rene Magritte made objects strange in painting and caused quite a stir in our conventional thinking where we mistake the reproduced object for reality through with the inscription of ‘Ceci n’est pas une pipe’ on the pipe drawn in his painting. Méret Oppenheim tried a scathing and exhilarating subversion about not image but reality through abnormal work . This objet whose even title recalls Edouard Manet’s shows a teacup, a saucer, and a tea spoon of reality covered with hair, featuring fetish that comes to the fore instead of removing the function of teacups. In other words, grafting hairy skin to the surface of soft ceramics stimulates even erotic imagination that an abnormal objet with contrasting attributes of stiffness and softness, inside and outside, and projection and dent brings about. Erotic imagination connected with fetishism is the result covered by a new image. Although the drinking function disappeared, the object that turns a thing into something you want to touch, and the boundaries of materials into something variable, is not the original but its ghost.

Jang Back-soon,works

Jang Baek-soon’s ordinary object made of hemp also meets with Méret Oppenheim’s tea cup in the context of defunctionalization. He makes the form of real objects such as bed, sofa, chair, light, hat, and phone closely related to life by using plaster or styrofoam and then attaches hemp on them. Sometimes, he moulds a real object in itself but often attaches hemp on them after making the form of furniture or objects. So, glasses, spoons, and long-neck ceramics are sometimes ridiculously expanded compared to the real object. He finally removes internal materials while leaving a hemp mould, so the weight of work is light at the end. He follows the order of the plastic art technique, but it doesn’t shape the form with a hard material, and the surface with light coarse hemp threads looks like the entangled. Rather, his work that is hanging in midair is violating the law of gravity. Defunctionalization and degravity is the elements that make his work look like the ghost of objects. Hemp’s unique color, thin film, coarse fiber are the skin that is deprived of gravity of reality and is figura and imago that has only the outward appearance of reality. Of course, as it is hanging from a string, it is not free from gravity but his works stimulate our interest in existence and absence because it is hanging in midair. The work on the bottom is a survey instrument only. This survey instrument that reminds me of camera obscura has a mirror and a magnifying glass inside, and in the hole, our eyes are reflected in the mirror. So to speak, this survey instrument is a device that measures the depth of our mind. Another hole on the opposite side shows the structure of coarse hemp magnified by a magnifying glass. Here, we can find that the object made by Jang Baek-soon is hemp used not merely as a piece of material, so it creates a certain meaning beyond newness and magnification of materials. To understand this, it needs to notice why he chose fiber hemp as a material.

In 2000 when he had his first solo exhibition, he released an installation work that hung a big sphere made of tree roots, put a mirror on it, and covered it with soil. Hanging of this installation work that grew from interests in the germination, birth and death, and rebirth of life are showing up again in the work of hemp. Later in 2012, he published a hollow stone work through the step of making a stone dreaming-bird statue and an ant cast in bronze that was breaking into the basket with grains. He did a ready-made tendency work that put Spanish needles fruits into a spoon but what directly connects with the hemp work could be a hollow stone work. He aimed to put into this work an idea that emptying is rather happier to be free from human nature, or possession and obsession. He recalled his memory when he was young while thinking of what material would be effective for the work with a theme of floating life. He remembered his father and relatives who were chief mourners wearing hemp cloth at his grandmother’s funeral. Remembering the death, he realized again that all people are equal before death. Driven by their many desires for power and fame, people try to own and govern more things but must be helpless in the face of death. To express this, while searching for a material that can cast an object lightly and thinly, he remembered hemp he used for plastering as a stiffener during the moulding class at an art college. As the memory of his grandmother’s funeral overlapped with the memory of hemp used as a stiffener, he needed a large amount of hemp to cast ordinary objects around him in hemp. And, to cast all of them, a large amount of hemp was needed, and after he found that a bed mattress is filled with hemp, he started to collect abandoned mattresses. The mattresses he collected and dismantled, totalled around 200. While collecting them, he also found an interesting fact. While going to a lot of places, he found rich towns seem to abandon furniture and interior accessories in good condition. As he watched them, he found even social inequality caused by the maldistribution of wealth. The abandoned objects made him strongly think that human life pursuing wealth and fame is like floating. So, he decided to give the objects new hemp skin.

Hemp is the longest, stiff, and durable fabric among natural fabrics and is used for making ropes, carpets, and bags due to its strong elasticity. Also, it has unique gloss and is resistant against water, so the cloth made of hemp stem skin has been used for making summer jackets, vests, mattresses, and sheets from old times. But, as a hemp shroud is most familiar to us, hemp is often related to death. So maybe Jang Baek-soon’s object looks like a shroud.. Since even a light is put inside the objects, the spirit of the objects seem to emit light.

Jang Back-soon,works

Sculpture is an act of transforming a material in nature condition to a cultural material. If the creation of meaning doesn’t happen during this process, it is just a dead material. Volume, shape, and matiere are the formative elements of sculptures and the staring point that generates a meaning. The skin made by the coarse structure of hemp bound by an adhesive, and the very hairy object are a ghost disguised as reality, a stuffed thing, and a body itself. Furthermore, it is our body that is a factory of desires. Through this work, the artist wanted to talk about ‘Gongsuraegongsugeo - “Come empty, return empty”, or the vanity of life’, one of phrases of Buddihist poetry that Monk Naong’s older sister recited to him. I think his work is showing existence and absence, going beyond a thought about futility of life. Moreover, his bed is not a bed but ‘phantasma’ that is the skin and shadow of reality. Floating ghosts are casting questions to us. Is that a bed? What is reality? We are not seeing the outward skin of a certain object. That is very his work expressing ‘betray of objects’ toward our mind as the pendular movement of existence and absence. The ghosts of floating objects might be buzzing, saying ‘you are nothing but a ghost like us’ to people who are watching them.

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[Editor] 张艳