2017 Art Sonje Project #8: LEE Jungwoo – Shot Blank
December 12 – January 14, 2017
1F Art Sonje Center Project Space
2017 Art Sonje Project #8: LEE Jungwoo – Shot Blank
Art Sonje Center presents 2017 Art Sonje Project #8 LEE Jungwoo – Shot Blank in Art Sonje Project Space and Parallex Hanok from December 12th, 2017 to January 14th, 2018.
The artist LEE Jungwoo pays attention to the mechanism of creation and consumption of ‘fictional awareness’ in today’s society. He defines fictional awareness as unsubstantial images which dominate the reality after transformed, distorted and exaggerated through the media, both social and mass media, in the national, historical, cultural or political context. It is difficult to ascertain the truth of the images. This is because they develop meaning in themselves out of the original context after going through the process of creation, consumption and reproduction. The artist proposes fictional awareness, which is selected and introduced, based on his own experience and knowledge, to understand the substances of the images. Shot Blank, the title of this exhibition, is from blanks, the gun cartridges which contain explosive but do not contain a bullet. Thus, they are relatively safe although they have possibilities of causing fatalities and severe injuries when fired at very close ranges. In the exhibition, Shot Blank, the artist questions the methodology of image-making and its strategy of use in media, which creates the images of especially ‘horror’ particularly in order to run and sustain a social system efficiently, and fictionality created by fabricated images without substances.
Above all, the work, Shot Blank, the same title as that of the exhibition, borrows the mechanism and the structure for producing a sensation of horror in film production. Through the use of the location hunting archive for horror films, superficial impressions of specific places from the archive make the setting fit for a different narrative from its original context in daily lives. In addition, the setting has an atmosphere of a mysterious tension and agitation thanks to a combination of the images of the places and the background sounds and lines of Korean major horror films such as The Maid (Kim Gi-yeong, 1960), A Public Cemetery of Wolha (Gweon Cheol-hui, 1967), Suddenly in Dark Night (Go Yeong-nam, 1981), and so on. A unique and typical structure of Korean horror films – generating tension by an outsider’s intervention in a specific relationship or place, cinematic sound effects which are familiar today, and etc. – and the subtitles of cries or monologue plunge the audience into unsubstantial horror.
Another work, titled Open Your Eyes, also borrows the mechanism in film production, using cinematic devices for horror such as sound, scenarios, production design and special effects makeup, and a point of view in films. By doing so, this work raises a question of similarities in image creation methods between reality and filmmaking. In a film, the decision on a point of view is exclusive to the director. In other means, the director subjectively decides the viewers’ point of view through a figure’s perspective; generally, the main character in the third person. The viewers empathize with the figure from the figure’ perspective to be absorbed in the film. On this account, the artist utilizes a point of view shot to give the introduction scene a sense of a rhythmical movement. He applies a voyeuristic view as well by putting a scene of a Hitchcock film. More importantly, viewers can experience changing positions through the work. From the beginning throughout the middle of the work, viewers identify themselves with the main character as they watch the work from the character’s point of view. Yet, at the end of the work, they are deprived of the ownership of the viewpoint and become the object. In parallel with it, interviews with the experts who create cinematic effects for film in this video work draws a more distinct line between reality and fiction, which makes the audience ask themselves questions: “When you see or recognize something, is this really from your own perspective or someone else’s?”, “When you see an image, can you grasp its context and discern the truth beyond it?” and so on.
Meanwhile, My Name is Redposes a question on image-making methods for creating horror in today’s society and on stereotypes made by the methodology. To this end, the artist focuses on the images of North Korea consumed in Western society. The work takes an interview form, casting twenty foreigners in Germany. Each member of the cast plays a role who has been in North Korea. They try to fabricate stories with their own imaginary experiences in North Korea within 20 minutes. In the process, their description become a product of mixing their own memories and experiences and the information and images about North Korea fed by media in their society. Paradoxically, this indicates that fictitious images of North Korea are entrenched in their society. Some of the interviews are aired simultaneously or separately from the five channels in the video, which blocks the viewers from tracking each narration. When an interviewee appears on more than two channels at the same time, only some selected words are displayed as subtitles for emphasis, which segmentally represents the opinions of another off-screen speaker, the artist. He takes multiple viewpoints and shifts the speakers to cast a doubt on the principle and external factors of solidifying socially created images.
Lastly, Son, That is Just a Thick Fog, is a collage installation. This mainly consists of dictators’ images and slogans, or slogan-like phrases, which were collected and extracted from newspapers and PR materials. The artist makes use of separation, modification, distortion, exaggeration, addition and recombination to seek the way the media handle images and its effects on society. The phrases and images in the work were originally designed to encourage a one-sided criticism on specific targets or conditions in the social, cultural and political contexts, or to raise uniform awareness among the public. However, their purposes become unrecognizable after the artist retouched them. He juxtaposes the images with clear intents from the media and things without an intent like wet wipes and waste photographs in order to harm the original intents, which prevents a single intended purpose of a material from being achieved.
The three video works and a collage installation in the exhibition, oscillating between reality and fiction, throw a doubt on the principle and structure of acquiring power through the media. These works are made by reconstructing segmentation and combination and a fragment and the whole, not designating one conclusion. In other words, their narratives do not follow the formula of horror films, whose narrative is on the premise that horror is relieved and conflicts are settled after all. Even though the artist deals with the reason for creating horror and its mechanism, he does not reveal the horror he set up. Rather, he merely presents the works as the background of a sign where viewers can experience their own unreal horror, a result from a mixture of their own memories and emotions, or where they can face an aspect of a daunting reality. That is why LEE tries to widen and narrow the gap between the reality and fiction to create a space where the viewers can perceive the reality itself via fiction with an approach to the socio-cultural background behind fictionality adorning the reality.
LEE Jungwoo majored in stage design at Sangmyung University. He worked as a film production designer from 2004 to 2009. In 2010, he moved to Germany to finish video art Diplom, Meister Schuler degree at Hochschule für Bildende KünsteBraunschweig. He studied under Candice Breitz. He had his solo exhibition, My Name is Red at Art Project Space Centrum in Berlin in 2016, and participated in group exhibition held at Hannover Kunstverein, Mönchehaus Kunst Museum Goslar, Germany and Amado Art Space in Korea. He lives and works in Korea since 2017.