Low Technology

I would say the most exciting show that I went to this winter is this show, "Low Technology" at the Seoul Museum for Modern and Contemporary Arts in Seoul. 

When I think of an exhibition on the concept of technology, I tend to think about artists who employ high-technology, like ultra high definition television, 4D technology or the technology used in the next Iphone.. things that I won't come across in my daily life as a student. Contrary to my presumption, this show was actually focused on using "low technology" (duh?) a.k.a the technology that we are familiar with and perhaps too familiar with in our lives as ordinary people. Some of the works were multiples pieces or installation pieces that employ very unique medium such as air fans and a massive yet light-weighted cube. (Pictured below)

"Metropolis Metaphor" Bei Kyong Lee 2014.

"Metropolis Metaphor" Bei Kyong Lee 2014.

This installation by the Korean artist Bei Kyong Lee is made of air motors and ultraschall sensor. I don't exactly understand how each of these media works, but basically, the sensors react to detect the position of the light cube that is floating over the air motors and make the air motors that are positioned just below the cube to work. As a result, the cube remains afloat in air and smoothly glides in air. 

Seeing something float is already a pretty surreal experience, but seeing that big of an air motor beneath the cube made me feel like I entered the hard drive of a computer. There is something ironic to using something as complicated as "ultraschell" sensors and motors to accomplish something that is as simple as the basic law in Physics, that forces make objects move. (I never took Physics, so don't quote me on this). I liked how smoothly and mysteriously this cube floated and glowed in air and how the volunteer at the museum had to occasionally come to touch up the air motor whenever this cube went a little crazy and the momentum pushed it outside of where air fans could reach. 

"Urban Creature- Galapagos" Lee Byung Chan 2014

"Urban Creature- Galapagos" Lee Byung Chan 2014

 

This one is a monster or an insect made of nylon bags, air mortor, LED light and optical fiber. The object moves, and makes those sounds that sort of resembles those of when I grab handful of dry leaves in autumn and rub them together- that sort of dry, light sound. When the light comes through the surface of this monster, the amazing colours become apparent, and it looks very very beautiful. The way this creature moves actually reminds me of Howl's Moving Castle: slow and heavy.

 

I actually forgot to write down the name of the artist and the title of the work for this one work, oops. But I like the juxtaposition between the florescent light and the stones. The way the light is set up resembles the movement of water, something much softer and more organic than the light itself.

"Skin Paster" Ji Hyun Jung 2014

"Skin Paster" Ji Hyun Jung 2014

I was super surprised when I saw this one piece- not because I could read the sentence in Korean (I couldn't,) but because the concept of the work was very very similar to one work that I created in IB Art back in November. 

I created out of post-it a mosaic of a Chinese politician and created a collage of about the same size as this piece by Ji Hyun Jung. The way the outline of each square is visible and how the size of  square is identical to one another is the exact same to how my mosaic looks, so I was surprised to see I came across a work of someone who had a very similar idea to me! 

This piece got my mom and I very confused the first time we saw it. At the start the scene looked like inside an ordinary house in Saturday afternoon or something- a chair, a tree, a bookshelf and a clock. But later, the scene begins to change to different seasons and the tree go through the transition through the four seasons. And at the end, when it reaches the winter, everything suddenly turns off, revealing that the whole scene was actually projected by a projector onto white outlines of a desk, table, a tree and a bookshelf. 

I feel like "low technology" can be worth as much as the "high technology" from the art standpoint. There are a lot of exhibitions focused on using the newest technology, but with creativity, more unexpected and exciting art can be created from low technology. 

I also saw A LOT of works by Nam Juik Paik during this Korea trip. I got very excited seeing his work everywhere because I researched about him for one of my art projects this semester and I really loved all of his pieces that I came across online. I had read that he is the founder of the Video art, but I didn't realize how popular and famous he was until I came to Korea and saw his works displayed in literally every single museum that I visited there. 

At this museum, though, the work was turned off, so unfortunately, I could only see and take a picture of the monitors turned off. I can only imagine how impressive the work looked if all the TVs were turned on and played videos. 

This is "Fatigue Always Comes with a Dream" by Yang Jung Uk 2013. 

This work shows a series of images on a TV of a man walking forward and backward. As the the man walks inside this TV, the TV moves, corresponding to the man's movement. This makes an unnatural feeling because the audience knows it's the TV moving and not the man moving. 

This piece made me think about unnecessary use of technology and our obsession with technology and innovation today. Now that I think about it, it's sort of funny how obsessed we are with technology... It really makes me think I should go on a tech cleanse sometime soon. 

I should get back to my sleep now... Tomorrow I will be going to visit Wang Jian Wei's studio and interviewing him! Keep and eye out for the interview articles!

Liu Wei's Cities

Here's a big news: I will be interviewing the artist Liu Wei and visiting his studio near 798 tomorrow! 

I'm really excited to have the opportunity to talk to him, and I have been furiously researching about him for the past hour to come up with questions. 

I came across pictures of many of his installation works as well as oil paintings and I really love the ones about metropolis and city buildings. 

"Library II-II" (2013) Liu Wei. Photo: Lehmann Maupin

"Library II-II" (2013) Liu Wei. Photo: Lehmann Maupin

"Colors No. 2" (2012) Liu Wei Photo: Almine Rech Gallery 


"Colors No. 2" (2012) Liu Wei Photo: Almine Rech Gallery 

"Colors No.1" (2012) Liu Wei Photo: Almine Rech Gallery 

"Colors No.1" (2012) Liu Wei Photo: Almine Rech Gallery 

"Love it! Bite it!" (2005) Liu Wei Photo: Saatchi Gallery 

"Love it! Bite it!" (2005) Liu Wei Photo: Saatchi Gallery 

Liu Wei works with a variety from forms, styles and medium, from oil paintings and sculptures to installations made of window flames and edible dog chews. In the interview tomorrow, I'm excited to ask him about how he comes to decide what medium to use and how he turns his initial ideas into forms!

 

Africa Now at MMCA, Seoul

During the korea trip, I visited the MMCA, the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Seoul. I went to this museum on the my very first day in Seoul, but ended up liking this museum the most for its amusing and thought provoking exhibitions- Africa Now, Low Technology and Political Patterns. 

What I found interesting about this public building was that the inside was surprisingly new and modern in contrast to the very traditional and classical facade. I really liked how the walls were arranged so that the visiter can see on which floor each exhibition was located in. 

The Africa Now exhibition is all about showing the "true" africa outside of all the stereotypes that people may have about the continent. The exhibition displays contemporary African art, something that I had never really seen or been exposed to in Beijing. Some of the works were about racism and what it's like to be African today, perhaps in America or any other place outside of Africa. Many of the works were also about urbanization in Africa, the clash between the rich traditions and unique customs that have been preserved for years and years and the rise of technology and importing of the Western culture. 

the Alphabet for Democracy series by Anton Kannemeyer 

the Alphabet for Democracy series by Anton Kannemeyer 

"Say! If you speak English..." by Anton Kannemeyer 

"Say! If you speak English..." by Anton Kannemeyer 

"A black woman" by Anton Kannemeyer 

"A black woman" by Anton Kannemeyer 

Anton Kannemeyer's comics were one of the things that left me with very deep impression. Kannemeyer is a comic artist from South Africa, and he draws comic strips that often ironically depicts the stereotypes of African people and the bias we have towards them. There is a lot of dark humor and subversiveness behind the comical cartoon and creates  a very sarcastic tone. I think the simplification of the images in the cartoon form emphasizes how we tend to oversimplify Africa and create an image of what it should be and dismiss African people as a culture-less, uncivilized people. 

The comics reminded me of the books I read in my English class last semester (we actually focused on African and African American authors like Chinua Achebe and Toni Morrison) and the class discussions we had about white man's burden and the characterization of Africans as primitive people. In particular, the pieces about positive denotations and connotations associated with whiteness and the negative denotations associated with blacknesses reminded me of Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye, and how the whiteness becomes the standard of beauty for people in the town. Throughout the novel, Pecola, a young black girl, is obsessed with the idea of becoming white and having white features such as blue eyes because she thinks if she becomes "beautiful," then people will start treating her in a much better way. These comic strips illustrate a  how we idealize whiteness. 

These masks looked like decorative wooden traditional African masks from far away, (the kind that my dad used to collect back in Japan,) but they are made of industrial materials like metal pipes. The metal parts look like parts of old bicycles or automobiles. 

I thought the way the artist arranges the parts to make the masks look like decorative masks in the first sight but still manages to keep the crudeness and the rawness of the material is very skillful. I liked the right mask in the photo pictured above- I love how the pipes are heading to all different directions!

"Little Rich Girls" by Yinka Shonibare, Mbe

"Little Rich Girls" by Yinka Shonibare, Mbe

This installation was also one of my favorites from this exhibition. Its basically many beautiful print dresses hung from the wall. The dresses are hung from blue hangers that resemble those at huge American supermarkets like Walmart or Target. The dresses are beautiful but the way they are presented in negligent and careless way undermines the beauty and the culture represented by those dresses and create a very vivid juxtaposition. 

Also, the shape of the dress resembles that of Victorian dreses- the way the skirt comprises layers and layers of frill. The work looks like the girls' dress section in Walmart or something except that the dresses are made out of traditional African prints. 

I think this work also relates to that whole debate about whether cultural appropriate is "wrong". On one hand, wearing something that appropriates patterns from traditional fashion from a culture seem to help promote or show support for the culture but on the other hand, it could disrespect or undermine the beauty of the original culture. And there is the whole thing about freckle make up and models wearing accessories to make themselves look more "exotic" or whatever. I feel like there isn't a clear distinction between cultural exchange and cultural appropriation anymore.. 

before going to this exhibition, I didn't know what contemporary African art could look like. It's something that I had never come across in Japan or China so I was really happy to be able to see this new kind of contemporary art. I am keeping an eye out for African art exhibitions in China because I would definitely love to learn more about the art there. 

Yayoi Kusama vs. Japanese Shokunin

Recently, I've been into watching shows from the NHK, which is the Japanese national television. Actually, the only Japanese channel that I can watch from Beijing is the NHK, because unlike many Japanese people living in Beijing, I don't have the cable television at home so I cannot watch any popular channels like Nittere or Fuji.

So I didn't become that interested in watching Japanese shows on NHK until recently when I realized those shows on the national channel is actually pretty interesting. Yesterday, I watched a documentary about the artist Yayoi Kusama and how she works in her atelier in Tokyo. This particular episode was about her collaborating with traditional Japanese Ukiyoe Hanga shokunin group. 

Ukiyoe Hanga is traditional Japanese woodblock prints. The art requires very technical skill and years of training so there are only so many shokunin artists (technical artists) in Japan who can produce the traditional Ukiyoe Hanga. 

Image from Google

Image from Google

 

In the documentary, Kusama asked the Adachi Institute of Woodcut Prints, one of the only major groups of Shokunin who specialize in creating this art of woodcut prints. Kusama brought in few of her original Acrylic paintings and asked the shokunin to recreate her work in traditional styled woodcut prints and make something "even better" than the original pieces. 

To shokunins, it is extremely challenging to create something "even better" than the original artworks because their jobs is solely focused on the technical part of creating artworks. Their jobs are to be as precise as possible in transforming pictures into woodcut prints. However, Kusama asked the company to be creative and creates something unique that represents both the Kusama's avant garde  and the Ukiyoe hanga technique that is all about preserving the tradition. 

It was interesting to see the older shokunin artists struggling with the idea of transforming and using the Ukiyoe technique to create something new. While the younger shokunins who just finished their years of training are more flexible and adoptable to Kusama's creativity, the older ones tend to be more stubborn and resistant to change. There were some conflicts within the company, but in the end, the shokunin artists were able to surprise Kusama and go beyond the expectation of what she originally asked for. 

I wish the documentary was available to watch online so I could show to my art teacher!