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Modern art is full of uncertainty. This uncertainty is not a new theme. It appeared while boundaries between every genre and every form started to be demolished. Uncertainty is a by-product of the boundary break-down in Contemporary art. These by-products, however, operate critically. Being uncertain is a clear symptom of definite inexistence. The Contemporary art we encounter these days drifts as if it has lost its own position.  

Na-Hyun_a council of war_ Digital Print

 

1. Missing of 7 soldiers and searching

 

The outline of Na-Hyun’s project is as follows;

 

France dispatched 3,400 soldiers from its army and navy as members of the United Nations to the first ideological war - the Korean War - and a third of her soldiers were killed and injured and 7 of them were reportedly missing. I want to disentangle the knot of identity in the course of searching for the missing of 7 soldiers. (taken from the artist’s note)”

 

The exhibition of Na Hyun reproduced an event. Missing and searching. The missing and searching is processed in the form of a kind of play and quasi-documentary with various metaphors. The process of missing and searching is like breaking down a stable and firm artistic frame. Therefore, this project of Na Hyun remains as a temporary event and procedure.

 

Why did the artist want to search ‘7’ missing ‘French’ soldiers out of so many? It is reported that the number of missing soldiers from the United Nations during the Korean War is 470,267 in total, and 8,117 of them are American. Na Hyun created a project searching for the 7 missing French soldiers among them.

Na-Hyun_No12_Paint on Canvas, Banish_179×130cm_2008

 

The project holds varied perspectives. 7 missing French soldiers, where are buried? Each of them existed as members of mankind and with human dignity, rather than as French soldiers. They do not belong to South Korea, or North Korea, or France but to mankind. If not, the project is no more than propaganda. Nationality is of no matter. What matters is the ‘event’ or ‘karma’ of missing, the artist encountered. Then this appeared as another phase of his own identity.

 

Na Hyun has created a series of projects showing his belief in that ‘I’, self-identity is composed of 4 dimensional events which he created. This project is a part of the series. Therefore part of the missing is 7 French soldiers’ themselves.  The other part is his finding his own missing identity as an artist. Rather the status of missing identity as an artist is the motivation of the project. The rhetoric to search for 7 missing French soldiers leads to a complete pseudo. It is artistic and ritual joke.       

 

2. Bridges on Cite Island (in Paris)

 

Na Hyun associates the process of searching for the missing 7 French soldiers with the process of constituting his own identity as an artist. His identity as an artist is connected with image of death. Art itself is associated with the image of death and ‘missing’ is a substitute of it to Na Hyun. ‘Missing’ is at the centre between living and death. Then it gets closer to death slowly as time goes. Images around death are layered and they converge into image of Hades. The attempt to identify and define oneself goes beyond ‘death’.

 

On the other hand, very creative and ironical is the idea that 7 missing soldiers are replaced with 7 bridges on Cite Island over River Seine in Paris. Cite Island is on a site of aesthetic uncertainty. Cite Island is situated in the middle of the North and South of River Seine, which has ambivalence/uncertainty. This is compared to an artist with two or more values. But so what? Is it possible to find missing French men or the identity of the artist through pseudo metaphor?

 

The metaphor of missing being in the middle between living and death connects to the bridges. 7 bridges on Cite Island, the coincidental discovery of 7 of them is a metaphoric jump. This coincidence and metaphor gives the project further meaning. The new appears as a self-contradiction of this project and then it becomes a good practical joke.

Na-Hyun_finding missing 7 french soliers, cite-1

Na-Hyun_Bridge_2009

 

3. The metaphor of water and remains

 

Modern art is everywhere. This modern world is full of individuals who call themselves ‘artists’ and products labeled as ‘art’. In contrast, there is anxiety of crisis. Some say that art is dead or in crisis.

 

In fact, art is closer to death. The theory that art originates from death and funeral rites is well known among competitive theories. The theme of Na Hyun’s project, the process of searching for 7 missing French soldiers who disappeared over 60 years ago, is not in tune with the serious reality that the missing soldiers from the Korean War is an unsolved matter. In Na Hyun’s words, it is like dealing with ‘4 dimensional event’, unlike ‘3 dimensional daily life’. His project shows his sensibility of someone who did not experience the war but generates imaginary construct of missing and the Korean War which are pseudo experienced. Simultaneously the process of identifying the inexistent missing French soldiers creates a side-effect. The side effect is to find his own identity as an artist.

 

Missing is tragic to those who experienced the Korean War. The experience of the Korean War to the generation who did not experience the war comes from a cease-fire line that is drawn arbitrarily by modern colonizers. Our generation’s experience of an arbitrary line and from others is more tragic. ‘Missing’ is another way to describe death. It is oblivion of existence or a metaphor of absence. The project deals with missing side by side with death, missing over many years, missing as an event that gets slowly closer towards death. The project shows a perspective of the generation who only internalized the war through pseudo or indirect experience. The war and the missing to the post-war generation with pseudo or indirect experience become the process of building up self growth.

 

Na-Hyun_evidence_Single channel video

Who is the missing? Modern art focuses on specific and detailed representation. It can be imagined in the medium of war, death, missing, and the dead. Art which focuses on missing, comes closer to death in the end, and is similar to death in that it does not hold concrete formats.          

 

The performance of painting ON WATER that Na Hyun chose reminds me of an episode of the American artist, Tom Wolfe. In that episode, the pseudo-great artist wets his hand with his beer and draws a painting with that hand. The great art the great artist created disappears as the liquid evaporates. The great art directs the process of creation and disappearance with liquid but no one sees it.

Na-Hyun_Drawing the on the water_Single channel video_2008

Na Hyun’s performance is two-folded, artistic performance and burying-ritual performance. The procedure of his work is rather burying-ritual like in dealing with the memories of the war, somewhat conceptual and historical rather than sensual. Drawing and object as the remains is no more than a kind of index rather than a typical form of art. The collection of the records and the series of references are texts as they are art, which is thought by Na Hyun. Of course, it is not easy to share what he says art is. That is a substitution of an article in newspaper we can often encounter around us or description of history or a story.


Written by Kim, Noh-Am/ Director of Gallery Sangsangmadang
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Posted by EYEBALL_Media Arts Webzine


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