The Desire to Communicate in an Age Incapable of It
Ahn, Kyoosik (director of Kim Tschang-Yeul Art Museum)
The anxiety of contemporary people is amplifying beyond the individual level to the social dimensions, even though we are in an unprecedented era in which unknown knowledge is verified with the help of cutting-edge scientific theory and technology, and the undeveloped land is explored. Mass-produced information and knowledge have guided us into the unknown world, but an individual, lost in the irresistible flood of information, depends on but one’s own judgment and values to guide oneself through this chaotic world. In today's world, where a common style of life, values, and ideology between all ceased to exist, the anxiety of individuals who have experienced mental disintegration has quickly spread to a collective pathology.
On the other hand, the ability to utilize information and knowledge has emerged as a new standard in reshaping social classes. As did goods and labor force in the modern ages, the ability to dominate information becomes a new criterion for determining social status and class. This is a testament to the fact that the underprivileged, disengaged from the competitive line of securing and using knowledge and information, face immediate threats to the right to live and generates social anxiety.
Although the means of communication have developed even more dramatically than the previous century, loneliness and alienation seems to cast a thicker shadow on the contemporary people. The awareness of political freedom and basic human rights has steadily improved, but the contemporaries always feel a deficiency. Clearly, contemporary people have enjoyed more by living in a more pleasant environment than their former generations. However, the happiness index and life satisfaction level are lower. What is the meaning of this paradox, that anxiety, alienation, and incapability of communication prevails in the most materially prosperous age?
German sociologist Habermas, who has paid attention to these social pathologies earlier, established new concepts of 'lifeworld' and 'system' in order to analyze social structure. Lifeworld is a normatively integrated society, and system is a functionally harmonized space. Communicational behaviors, functioning by a linguistic consensus, exist in the realm of the lifeworld, while instrumental actions controlled by the power and money belong to the system. Once inseparable, these two areas of were divided in the process of evolution of current society, and each developed its autonomous structure. In the midst, the functionalist reason of the system disregarded the demands of the communicative reason and distorted the rationalization of the lifeworld: a colonization of the lifeworld by the system. This situation led to the expansion of the individual's private life into the public sphere, bringing about fierce battles. As the individual spheres began to convergence into the public realm through the system, contemporary people experienced alienation and division in trying to recapture the human elements. After all, the encroachment of the lifeworld by the system makes the individual's life insecure and leads the society to the path of dehumanization. Habermas seeks the solution in the reinstatement of lifeworld the recovery of communicative actions.
Since postmodernism, small discourses became more important and art began to focus on the diversified lives of individuals. It began to recognize the importance of the private realm suppressed by the tyranny of the system. Despite Habermas's recommendation, however, the system's influence does not seem to diminish. The system has built up its inner power and extended its influence even more. The role of art as a bypass approach is called for. Above all else, artistic activity is a surveillance and criticism to inhuman activities, and it holds the nature of accusation and arousal of opinions.
Cho's work does not seem to be an active resistance against the system. It is also unclear whether the artist understands this structure of society. However, surrealistic paintings which casts doubts on common knowledge clearly contain message to the society.
Referring to the work note; the artist attempts to overcome the loss of self-esteem and depression caused by life's pain and psychological misery by controlling individual emotions; not accusing of social or collective absurdity. Searching for the cause of anxiety from the inside, adjusting the center of thought to others, and restraining or balancing one’s emotions is the core of the artist's expression. Therefore, the artist's painting is seen as a process of healing and a path to dream of happy coexistence with others through internal discipline.
I do not know what trauma the artist experienced in the process of growth. It can only be inferred from the clues revealed in the work. Clearly, the artist was not so active in communicating with others. This psychological state is confirmed in the house, the main material that often appears in the works. In his works, “Room of Stars”, “Dreamer”, “The Blue Tree”, and “The Moment of Memory”, appears various types of houses where the artist stayed through the International Residence Program. In the traditional sense, the symbolic image of the house is where one's own inner life and psychological stability are guaranteed. It is also a defensive space that protects you from others. The overwhelming, weighty depiction of the houses on the canvas reflects the artist's current desire to be protected and the artist's potential hope of emancipating from anxiety.
The "The Room of the Stars", "The Great Voyage", "The Dizziness", "Conditions for Balance", and "The Moments of Memory", deviating from the laws of physics, create scenes that are impossible in the real world. Surprisingly, these unrealistic scenes persuade viewers to look like those in the real world. As a result, the realization of these impossible settings acts as a mechanism to solve the unsatisfactory reality as if fulfilling the unachieved childhood dreams.
In “Dreamer” and “A Forest Garden”, the artist's willingness to seek coexistence and communication with others is revealed through the symbolic materials. In the chimneys of stone houses, strings of various colors are blown by the wind instead of smoke, and stones of various colors are lined up in the piles of stones. These landscapes, which are difficult to produce in the real world, are autobiographical monologues of artists who want to overcome the limits of communication with others. In particular, the artist shows her great aptitude in composition in “Dreamer.” With the figure of a dog, her alter ego, the viewer’s gaze is directed towards the colorful strings over the chimneys. It gives elements of change and invigoration the painting that can otherwise be dull and insipid.
In the recent works, it is necessary to pay attention to the appearance of the ship. “Possible World,” “A Great Voyage,” “Coincident Speculation,” and “An Interesting Discovery” are the examples. Their implied narratives vary, but their intentions converge.
Like the property of water to maintain the level, the boat is designed to maintain balance even in the face of fickle water movements. It is an objet that reflects artist’s desire to retain tranquility through emotional control and balance. Among these works, “Coincident Speculation” symbolizes the artist's pursuit of tranquility in three stages. The level water surface, as the movement from high to low ceases, is the artist's favorite image. We've already seen that ships floating on the water also act as a mechanism for maintaining calmness. An additional subject is a tree on the boat, submerged in water, stretching out the branches towards the sun. The tree holds equal weight in the left and right branches, another mechanism displaying the preference for balance.
In many works, the artist's desire for tranquility is revealed through images of water and boats, but on the other hand, it reflects the reality of not yet achieving calmness in these materials. “The Fount of Oblivion”, “Deep Contemplation”, and “The Moment of Memory” illustrates the artist's psychological state: yet unbalanced as a waterfall, in which the dynamics and the level of water constantly circulate. Ever-changing and erupting emotions and desires are difficult to control, reflecting the artist's will to find equilibrium through circular performance.
Controlling feelings and maintaining harmony and balance with others can only arise from one’s sacrifice. However, the "Room of Stars" and "Great Voyage" revealed the desire for small happiness. In “Coexistence” the contrast between the light and the dark not only depicts the fate of people who must live on a tightrope at the border of the self and the other, in and yang, or right and wrong; it reflects the hope to coexist harmoniously between the two sides.
Ideologically, current society is a time of uncertainty. The ideologies that were firmly believed are criticized, pessimism emerges, while surrealism is prevalent as anxiety and disorder form a trend. Surrealism is revived in contemporary times because reality is unstable and unsatisfactory. Like a dream where small objects can be large and the powerless can become almighty, Cho's screen is filled with surreal or unreal symbols that reflect the artist's desires and hopes. The coexistence of these unfamiliar objects, with literary sensibilities wits, inexplicably persuades to catch the viewers’ attention. It is because the combination of unreality, transcending common sense, stimulates our emotion with a completely new story through the artist's imagination. This is the reason the artist's next move becomes so much curious to me.
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