February 21 – May 2, 2004
Art Sonje Center
The exhibition “Mix Max,” which brings together thirteen art projects by European and Asian artists, presents a new vision and a different artistic form based on an attitude that, as it gains momentum, is turning out to be a generation of artists who mix and remix the cultural production. The exhibition is the outcome of its organizers’ desire to mix energies, abilities, and disparate materials. It is a way of resisting and reacting to the ascendancy of contemporary fundamentalisms from which art is not excluded. It is also a mixing of viewpoints that present and echo complicities among territories that, in general, are poor neighbors: art and fashion, art and music, and art and design ; genres and materials reputed to be obsolete: ceramics and drawing ; dangerous liaisons such as installation and cinema ; and relationships that are most often unconfessed between art and drugs, art, war, and games, art and sexuality, and art and syncretic identity. This exhibition also favors intersections and transversalities.
By Sung Won Kim
Today we are living in an age of real-time based multimedia information and communication technology, urban nomadism, and eco-political global network. Culture in this age, of whatever region, has come along with this trend and transformed itself by its continuous merge with heterogeneous elements from outside. In this hybrid culture, creating literally an original form seems almost inconceivable, because any piece of information cannot hide from a huge whirlwind that reproduces another re-constructed information. Any discourses on cultural production, in this context, should start from understanding of this combination and coexistence of different cultural forms, and we cannot, perhaps should not, expect uniformity or homogeneity from the hybrid cultural forms. All the arguments on the issue of purity, essence, center and their strenuous efforts to find similarity among different cultures expose much too obvious hybrid cultural phenomena. What is important for us at this point is to recognize that different cultural forms are coexisting as one cultural entity, and examine how this state is being realized. This is not meant to argue what notion has taken the place of coherence or purity. Having such awareness about contemporary culture can help us make an easy approach to substantial understanding of today’s cultural production. Our main focus here is to explore concrete ways of appropriation and consumption of hybrid cultures, and while appreciating new cultural productions, we can ultimately reach a different vision hopefully different from the ones we had in the past.
Individual artists select and consume different information and culture according to their own specific taste formed by social, cultural and intellectual background. In chaos and turmoil where tradition and the present, the virtual and the real, the pure and the hybrid inhabit side by side, artists experience and adopt certain facets of culture seen from each “window” and create their own style by reinventing existing forms. Principle of new cultural production methodology used by these artists is, first to contrive an encounter of heterogeneous forms extracted from different sources, induce them to turn directions and finally create new meaning. In their execution, they follow the way of ordinary lateral choice we use in consuming old forms; juxtaposition, replacement, re-composition, interconnection, and so forth. In the course of the twentieth century art, art has undergone such a drastic and extensive change, especially accelerated by Marcel Duchamp who opened a new dimension to the concept of art by placing mundane objects in museums, and Raoul Hausmann who redefined art as “an ability to relate objects that share no necessary or evident relationship whatsoever.” The particular kind of art practice introduced in this exhibition would be termed as a cutting edge style in contemporary art, more strongly akin to DJ-ing techniques of cutting & mixing, remixing, and stretching as on the club scene.
The origin of mixing in music is jazz and blues in which black American music and 50’s Jamaican music are melted together. After that, double turntable mixing technique of the 70’s and home studio music inspired new sound system and today, with upcoming mobile studio technology, a new type of crossover, fusion music of extreme complexity is under experimentation. The idea of mixing in art is visualized in the process of linking different things together, viewing them on equal terms and changing their original meaning. The concept Duchamp brought forth by placing the readymades in the museum and redefining a new context provoked a complete change in our way of thinking and value system. Martin Kippenberger’s azimuthal style and random choices are not to show a simple act of mixing, nor multileveled intersecting, but to suggest a completely fluid, heterogeneous environment. In Kippenberger’s oeuvres, different multiple ways of thinking of diverse genres coexist and correlate one another, and for successful mutual exchange, each genre opens its horizon, freeing itself from any stereotype.
Mixing facilitates our meeting with different cultures, and the mix generation is establishing its identity while producing and consuming hybrid cultural forms. The work of Bruno Peinado is to “mix language and mingle heterogeneous cultures. The world is composed of clashing of images.” What he wants to do is “to break with the value of purity in the world.” Peinado, like a DJ, breaks, clashes and assembles all kinds of existing elements and amplifies each layered meaning of hybrid forms. His works present a rare chance to proclaim the identity of unfamiliarity and hybridity by means of de-familiarizing the familiar object. In “Healing the World,” Samon Takahashi suggests the way to cure the wound inflicted by current nomadic life style, time difference and the mingling of different cultures. This wound that one culture gets in the course of fusion with a different culture does not remain just as a wound and finds a way to get translated and finally appropriated as another new cultural form. “Optical Sound #3,” by Jan Christensen, a mix of 60’s hippy, 90’s techno and rave culture, approach the identity of mix generation from the angle of such psyches, found commonly in all generations, as a tendency to escape from reality, confusion, disquietude and quest for freedom.
The concept of mixing, that produces another form from the meeting of heterogeneous elements in fluid and temporary state, throws a new light on the concept of “author” and “collaboration” in the creative work. Haegue Yang has illustrated this concept in her interesting piece presented in her past exhibition. In her intriguing scheme, the act of knitting undergoes several conceptual changes; first it is executed by anonymous viewer’s participation, then moved into a collaboration with professional fashion designer Sang-young, Seo, and finally presented as a product of a new brand, “Size Maker” that seems to defy the authentic authorship, but at the same time, launches a new “author/brand”. The brand Size Maker’s evolution implies temporary blank allowing fluid conceptual exchange and mixing, which will lead a way to a rich variety of art production through multidisciplinary and trans-genres exchanges. Jean-Francois Moriceau and Petra Mrzyk in their collaborative project, using images taken from movies, animations, logos, advertisements, and video games, recreate the scene of hybridity and chaos of contemporary culture in a bizarre and satirical fashion boosted by their plethora of imagination. Sometimes they make music videos with the group Air, and make a “story” out of drawings in an exhibition space.
The idea of mixing suggests a totally different perspective by collapsing the old concept of space/time and stretching the scope of imagination. Kirsten Pieroth, who notes the relationship between heterogeneous objects, compares and analyzes the dis/similarities of the objects and highlights the fictionality of conventionalized ideas. Pieroth situates familiar ordinary objects in a strange setting and throws a question on the identity framed by formalistic, cultural, and conventional concern. In her “Weltkarte”(World Map) series, she jumbles the names of all countries on the planet and rearranges them strictly in alphabetical order in her new version of world map. This piece stimulates us to have a new insight on the international relationship by questioning the identity and value embeded in geographical location on the map. Shimabuku’s “Passing Through the Rubber Band” presents a pile of a yellow rubber band with a little note displayed on the side, which invites viewers to try passing themselves through the bands. “You might think it ridiculous at first, but while you are actually struggling to pass through, you will find yourself feeling proud of your challenge and achievement, and sensing the passage of time.” By encouraging us to delve into apparently trivial, meaningless activities, the artist makes us awaken our imagination and realize new possibilities concealed in an invisible space and ephemeral moment.
Mix culture does not aim to win an ultimately original form, nor tries to categorize them, but instead, creates hybrid forms through momentary meeting of the temporal in the space/time continuum. Artists of the mix generation are, to use Deleuze’s term, “intercessor”, who introduce, connect, coordinate and moderate the encounter of heterogeneous elements, hardly imagined to be matched. The singularity of the artists, being themselves consumers of mix culture, depends on how they intervene and moderate these heterogeneous elements, and this practice will enable them to produce different meanings even out of existing forms.