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Yangachi_Middle Corea.jpg

Yangachi_Middle Corea.jpg

 

 

In 2008, there was a solo exhibition of an artist in Insa Art Space, one of a few web artists in Korea at the time. In contrast to the audience’s expectations, there were only text works, drawings, video, photography and sculpture, and no signs of media art which held a string of connection to his previous works. One wonders what has happened to the artist. Even before being able to properly read his transformed art practice, he presented the second episode of his works in 2009 at SangSang Madang. The artist claimed that the first episode was about ‘destruction’ and the second episode was about ‘confusion’; yet his articulation was not clearly understood by his audience, nor the practitioners in the art field. Even I felt clueless indeed, participating as an audience from the beginning of the project-I wondered how flustered others must have been. The big audience that attended his Artist Talk on a Saturday afternoon may perhaps attribute to the fact that they wanted to soothe their curiosity and questions, The artist calmly talked about his work, and when he finished, questions were asked from the audience. “Thank you for your talk; however, I still find that your work is still more-or-less ambiguous.”

As if it was a question all others in the audience wanted to ask, heads were beginning to nod in agreement. Despite of all this, the artist boldly discarded the audience’s aspiration for his explanation, and answered in one sentence: “Look carefully, and you can see.  My work is very simple.”

What a Yangachi(Korean word for gangster)…

Persisting that his work is easy when no one understands it, the non-chalant artist is a yangachi(gangster). And, the apparently ‘easy’ story that no one understands, is the <Middle Corea: Yangachi Episode>. As if he could care less about others, the last exhibition and performance of this <Middle Corea: Yangachi Episode> Trilogy took place as promised, in Art Center Nabi in December 2009. Just as when people were becoming a little familiarized with his <Middle Corea>, his project ended with a period.

To go a bit further with added exaggeration, what has happened, is that we have lost Yangachi as a media artist through Yangachi’s <Middle Corea: Yanachi Episode>. It’s such an unfortunate loss as there aren’t very many media artists in Korea to begin with. Through the exhibitions <Yangachi Guild> in 2002 and <e-Government> in 2003, the artist had been using his perception to sense the rapidly changing media environment, especially the web, but has abandoned working with media environment based on internet and computer. Today, we have arrived at the generation of web 2.0, yet it never saw the web maturing as the democratic and liberal space that we’d once envisioned, giving the rein of the web to portal sites. Even though claimed to still have a lot of potential, the envisioned ideals for the most part have faded with commercial desires with web becoming public and open to the ordinary people. For the artist, limitations were probably felt in working with ‘web’ as a medium in such circumstances. After all, Yangachi has never requested others to refer to him as a ‘media artist’, nor has he limited himself in the domain of a ‘media artist.’ It’s just that the right medium for articulating himself at that specific moment happened to come across.

Yangachi_Middle Corea_Yangachi Episode I_Sound_2008.jpg

Yangachi_Middle Corea_Yangachi Episode I_Sound_2008.jpg

Yangachi_Middle Corea.jpg

Yangachi_Middle Corea.jpg


In looking at it from a wider perspective, <Middle Corea: Yangachi Episode> was a project that reinvented the artist Yangachi, and similar works like it providing a bit of exciting stimulant to many art galleries. This was a project by an artist with a somewhat solidified status who goes through an unexpected transformation, yet his stories that still remain beyond comprehension, throwing writer into confusion. This project can be understood as a solid story book of an artist who has escaped the domains of the web, whose colorful imagination is mended in a structural way. If we are complaining that his work is hard to understand, it may be because our mentality is wrapped up with that much bias, or that we are not used to the way his ideas are articulated.

<Middle Corea: Yangachi Episode> may seem ambiguous as it’s not easy to find precedent works to allude to in terms of its form. However, once we acknowledge that the big frames of ‘Middle Corea’ and ‘Mr. Kim’s Factory,” the imagined nation and society respectively, and just relax and ‘take in’ the stories that unfold in them, what starts to become apparent are the stories of imagination that Yangachi wishes to tell, and the ways in which he perceives today’s reality. It’s like the magic eye picture where letters start to appear when one stares at the all sorts of brilliant, disorderly dots. Then, one might conclude that Yangachi has not changed that much. Although his style in the medium, methodology and means of exhibition might have changed, he is still like the Yangachi(gangster) of this society.

At one point, he mentioned that “People live with such difficulty.”

Obviously, his intention is not to tell people to slack off. Yangachi himself lives and works hard more than anyone else. However, he’s saying that we shouldn’t sprint through life, because sprinting takes one’s breath away. I gather that strolling sluggishly and enduring for longer time, may be a very ‘Yangachi’ish strategy of Yangachi. Although still strange, it’s fascinating to see what stories will unfold through such a stroll.


Shin Boseul(Curator of Total Museum)

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Posted by EYEBALL_Media Arts Webzine


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