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In his Cinematic Region exhibition, Kim Tae-eun showcases aspects of film and filmic life though places staged as cinematic sets, movies that he filmed, scenarios, and equipment suggesting cinematic mechanisms. His filmic sets are empty of people, whether a darkish underground venue, or a brightly lit venue. The artist conveys his stories through objects, not men, and props, not performers. As in S# On the Mountain, for which Kim photographed trees under artificial lighting at midnight, nature also assumes the role of performer.

 

The trees, suddenly illuminated, appear surprised, with their peaceful relaxation hampered by the bright lighting. This work reminds viewers of contemporary consumer society ceaselessly exploiting nature through the artificial light. The reason trees are there is to show them to people. The artist arranges things as a director, while the things represent an aspect of life more appealing and strong than men. His cycle of photographs titled S# --- presents lighting equipment inside and outside a house that was at times used for filming a movie. In this series, lighting illuminates a yard, a room, a kitchen, but the house is empty of people.

 

Although nobody is there in the tidy, refined home, that is a stage-set, it recalls middle-class life. In a society many commodities are used and arranged in each corner, so a set-like scene in no way looks natural. Kim’s work, featuring national flags in the background uncovers multinational capital regulating the production and consumption of films. If a film is to gain enormous profit, it should be consumed by the masses, and appeal to dominant ideologies. Just as an image reflected onto a mirror is virtually a reversed one, there is nothing natural in something reproduced. In Acceptable_Obscura, a scene can be seen through a hole. In this work, a right side up, and an upside down scene, represented by countless particles intersect. The scenes like an hourglass show the true nature of film, exemplifying a cinematic way encapsulating things and spaces.

 

Kim Tae-eun, S#. In his room (N)

Kim Tae-eun, S#. In his room (N), 130×104.87cm pigment inkjet print, 2009

Kim Tae-eun, S#. That day-insert cut (N)

Kim Tae-eun, S#. That day-insert cut (N), 141.5×97.97cm, pigment inkjet print, 2009

Another work capturing passersby who walk, dodging lighting equipment installed on a sidewalk, suggests contemporary people who are familiar with downloading and watching a few movies in a day, feel a production site is also unfamiliar and convenient. There is no society like a capitalist one, where gaps between production and consumption are wider. Our view of life would be different, depending on how much we feel this gap. For artists who produce desperately, but have no right to consume, the world is severe. Although the general public intervenes in the other’s life through a peeping tool, they do not want their private life infringed. Most of them crave living life in the limelight, but do not want to live as an assistant.

 

In Left Cinema_Right Cinema two 7-minute, 16mm films, taken using cinematic and real scenes are displayed through two monitors forming a hinge. The two scenes have similar backgrounds, but people in one scene are performers realizing the involvement of the monitor, while people in the other scene do not realize the existence of a camera. The two scenes are common, and seem similar at first. However, the scene that appears intentionally unconstructed recalls a situation of surveillance, or reconstruction of a crime, thereby provoking tension, like a cinematic scene. A cinematic scene that imitates daily reality looks more banal than this unintentional video.

 

Electric Seesaw installed underground is like a metaphor for a realistic, gloomy life aspect, probably because of the scenario A Homicidal Maniac Likes Beauty. In this work, the bright bulbs are set on two ends of a seesaw, and a translucent plate comes and goes between two ends of a monorail, generating a mechanical sound. The massive seesaw, made of wood, iron, and a motor, has a magnifying lens moving to the two ends using the motor that alters the center of gravity. A light sensor changes the direction of the movement, and makes the lens move to another point. Unlike a common seesaw, characterized by the movement up and down, this seesaw, composed of a light sensor and motor, only shows an arduously ascending process.

 

Kim Tae-eun, electric-seesawwoodsteellight-sensorlampgear-systempicbasic-board

Kim Tae-eun, electric-seesawwoodsteellight-sensorlampgear-systempicbasic-board, 2009

Kim Tae-eun, Left cimema, Right Cinema

Kim Tae-eun, Left cimema, Right Cinema, 7min, 16mm film, DV, 2 lcd monitor(17"), PC, 2009

Like Sisyphus of Greek mythology, this seesaw is destined to execute a tough task repetitively for good. Its mechanical movement, like a saw-toothed wheel, which seems to follow a determined providence, evokes an aura different from myth. It recalls a mechanical universe, but implies the absence of an omnipotent God. In this universe, viewers can sense a transcendental being, responding to a harsh fate like punishment. It moves toward bright light, which when reached, is tempted to go in an opposite direction. This movement is automatic, like migratory birds, responding to the globe’s magnetic field. Unlike the birds however, the problem is whether human obedience to the law of nature is blind or reasoned.

 

A modern way of life trapped in a restriction is efficiently represented by mechanical equipment. Although this brusque mechanical device does not show any pathetic or anguished expression, it displays an extremely serious, desperate scene. But we might discover hope in its tireless automatic repetition. Kim Tae-eun’s way of making things and making spaces perform is in this work. No humans appear in it, but a mechanism that makes man move is presented.

 

As the exhibition title Cinematic Region indicates, the world of visual unconsciousness stands out in the genre of film. In The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, Walter Benjamin, who early grasped film’s aesthetic and political possibility said, “Just as psychoanalysis enables us to detect the unconscious world of impulse, we come to perceive the unconscious world of our vision through the camera”. Unlike human eyes, a camera that photographs enlarged form and underscores an object’s details replaces the place the conscious operates with a place the unconscious works. A movie shows features of modern perceptual work, drawing objects to humans and shedding their crust.

 

Kim Tae-eun, S#. On the Mountain(N)

Kim Tae-eun, S#. On the Mountain(N), 160×106.67cm, pigment inkjet print, 2009

Kim Tae-eun, Permittion

Kim Tae-eun, Permittion, 7min, HD, 40" lcd monitor, 2008

In the age when all is reproduced and their unique indigenous atmosphere disappears, contemporary artists pursue new frameworks of space and time. In Kim’s work, a machine, reminiscent of a circuit diagram of a nightmare is associated with a mechanical effect. The resident space gosiwon, a tiny room for temporary residence, appearing in his scenario, encapsulates each aspect of life. It is amazing that some bizarre incident did not occur in such a place, advancing it seems toward death. This aspect of life is a gloomy world, demanding another’s sacrifice.

 

Human beings with an indigenous inner self and soul are absent in his stage, whether it is a bright, well-arranged residence for the middle class, or a narrow, poor, dark space for temporary residence. Only mechanical equipment that seek their own inevitable mechanical traits appear here. The viewer or artist’s gaze, corresponding to a camera-angle, hovers over his staged photographs and videos. For humans, the camera is an object of avoidance when visible, and a tool we have to realize exists, even when invisible. Ways of modern perception are decided by such a medium. A painting major, Kim Tae-eun seems drawn by civilization and things in accord with machinery, rather than nature and man in harmony with brushes. His choice of the machine shares a stream of contemporary art, escaping “modern thought considering the otherness to humans identical with the sameness to humans.” (Michael Foucault).

 

The representative tendency here is nouveau roman, a style initiated in a contemporary novel and film. Michel Butor, who associated his novels with the nouveau roman, alluded to a human being as a master of things, while a thing is nothing but a mirror reflecting human beings. The reason realistic objects put us at our ease is an identical equation between objects and their owners. According to Robbe-Grillet, there is no protagonist leading narratives in nouveau roman. Even when a man appears, he is anonymous. What a new art teaches us is, the world is not already established, which indicates the absence of an ideal world.

 

Kim Tae-eun, Cinematic Region-4 series

Kim Tae-eun, Cinematic Region-4 series, 8min, logofilm, HD, projector, stereo sound, 2009

Kim Tae-eun, aluminum Acceptable Obscura

Kim Tae-eun, aluminum Acceptable Obscura, webcam, wood, mac-mini, 2009

The theory of nouveau roman presupposes the existence of a new narrator. He is not only one who describes the things he sees, but also one who creates his surrounding objects, and one who looks at the things he created. In a new art, the artist is not one who describes a complete world, but one who organizes relationships between the subject and object. Kim’s way is arranging and illuminating objects, and weaving a network of new signs. It is not copying reality but creating a world parallel to reality. This world appears autonomous, and is akin to the real world. Kim intends to return to human beings in a paradoxical manner through the exploration of silent objects, not men. Minimalism is a contemporary art trend comparable to nouveau roman. Minimalism diverts its eye to things, not art. Kim’s work has minimalist features due to its minimal style, empty scenes, theatrical scenes, and perception dependent on the flow of time.

 

For Rosalind Krauss it is no accident minimalism was made in the age when nouveau roman writers announced “I do not write, I am written.” According to Krauss, the purpose of minimalists was to set a source of meaning in the outside. The world appearing in this kind of art is ‘a mere glossing surface with no meaning and soul’. (Robbe-Grillet) We humans have no power for such a surface. A gaze to move this surface is the others’ language, that is, silence. Silence today appears as ambiguous messages or noise. Silence, characterized by spontaneity and destruction, speaks of something like words and gestures say something. The general public, familiar with modern ways of perception, such as MTV and movies, learn and interpret the language of silence unconsciously. This language of silence today spreads widely from the world of commodities to the world of arts. For Kim Tae-eun, who works in new mediums, this language is another way of communication, expanding the established narrow concepts of man and language that have already expired.

 

 By Lee Sun-young, Art Critic

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Posted by EYEBALL_Media Arts Webzine


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