September 27 - October 14, 2016
201 46th St
New York 11220
From September 27 to October 14, 2016, new sculptures and installation works are presented in my solo exhibition at NARS Foundation, New York. This exhibition, entitled Constructed Landscape includes a large spatial construction, Spatial Construction of Ephemerality(2016), which is constructed from scaffolding and covered withgray scaffolding nets, which are frequently used in South Korea to cover the exteriors of scaffolding structures in construction sites. Scaffolding is a temporary structure, which is used to support workers during architectural construction. Although scaffolding functions as a supportive structure for the construction or renovation of a building, it forms an independent spatial system, which is fixed to the adjacent building and provides stability in the process of spatial changes and transformation. In this work, a temporary scaffolding structure is transformed into a new form of spatial construction, which creates a void space inside the structure.
This installation work expands the idea of dwelling, space and territoriality in terms of the concept of ephemerality, particularly focusing on its contradictory aspect in contemporary conditions of capitalist production of space.In the shifting conditions of the economic environment in the post-industrial era in South Korea,for example, changes of industrial structure from industrial technology to information technology have become a fundamental factor that not only affects the tendency of de-industrialization at the centre of the city, but also constantly produces conceptual and material ephemerality in and through society. Industrial structure is dependent on changes of market, technology and social environment. Once a new product is circulated in market, demand for the old products declines. An example is the disappearance of the Sony Walkman cassette player and CD player from the market.
From a spatial perspective, in the system of capitalism, a space encounters barriers or limits in the process of accumulation and (capital) flow, and tends to open up and transcend the difficulties of its existing systems and boundaries. In many cases, old systems and relations can be destroyed, leading to a course of crisis. Capital fixity thus produces capital mobility. This can be an aspect of successive systemic cycles of capital accumulation in space. In this respect, urban territoriality cannot simply be reduced to either a static spatial point or a movement; rather, it operates in the contradiction between mobility and fixity, which can be considered an essential factor for the formation and operation of ephemerality in the capitalist system of urbanism. In the interactive connection between mobility and fixity, territoriality constantly proposes and actualizes new ways of using, deploying and systemizing a space or spatial elements for the survival from competition between rival producers. By exercising its power expansively yet coercively, territoriality refers not only to the colonization of a space, but also to the transgression of boundaries and borders. The uneven and conflictual movements or powers observe and encounter zones of territory.Ephemerality in the space of capitalism, therefore, becomes a driving force, which produces the new in the contradictory relationship between construction and destruction.
By expanding the concept of ephemerality, this installation work explores the complex relationship between urban space, capitalist production and politics, particularly concerning ways in which spaces are transformed in the process of capitalist urbanization in terms of the changing ideas of urban land use, the politics of space and social and spatial production and transformation. In the process of urban development in South Korea, dwelling spaces in the metropolitan area of Seoul have been changedconstantly and rapidly, transforming into new districts, filled with new luxury residential and commercial buildings. People make economic profitsthrough the competitivedevelopment of urban space, as the economic value of developed places israised dramatically. Accordingly, these places experiencea major social transformation.The removal or disappearance of oldhouses and buildings particularly in shanty towns and squatter areas has been a common scene, which includes the forced displacement of the urban poor to the outskirts of Seoul’s metropolitan area.By looking at the contradictory relationship between expansionary construction and destruction, between stability and fragility and between settlement and displacement in the process of urbanization, this installion focuses on the changes of the meaning and function of space in the system of capitalism.The disappearance of places and peoplein the process of urban development cannot be avoided, as the market always demands a new product, space and spatial relation. For survival, spaces are constantly developed to increase their economic value in the market through the deconstruction of old systems and relations. Ephemeralitybecomes a productive force in the system of capitalism.
(Un)balanced (2016) is an installation work, which is composed of 11 rectangular aluminium plates of different sizes, usedto put together and construct a new platform or another level of ground in the exhibition space. These aluminium plates are assembled so that they functionas a seesaw or a scale, which is balanced on a fixed part in the middle and moves at each end; as one end goes up, the other end goes down. In the exhibition, different objects are placed at each end to make a slight unbalance on the plates.This work explores the changing meaning and function of objects in particular relation to the system of value in the regime of capitalism.Human society constantly produces new objects or products. These objects cannot be seen simply as being neutral, because once an object is produced; it necessarily enters into a part of the space of human society, having a particular value, meaning, function and action in relationship with people who use it for a particular purpose in many different ways.In particular, in the system of capitalism, people earn money through their labour for survival, which is sold by the workers in the process of production and circulation of products. People not only produce commodities, but their life is alsocommodified in the system of value.
An objectas a commodity obtains a value in the process of production. The value of commodity changesaccording tocomplex social and economic conditions.The circulation of commercial goods or commodities is also unstable and changeable, because the process is dominated by various changing factors, such as wages, labour maintenance, technological innovation, the price of land use and market conditions, which not only influence and change the system of production, but also operate the means of commodity circulation, that is money. In and through the system of value, capitalism creates an abstract space of things, which makes people believe in it as real or intrinsic.This economic value system has a certain tendency to reduce or even extort the natural quality or potentiality of things. The territory of a thing is determined and changed by external forces, for example, capital. In relation to the system of economic value, (Un)balanced focuses on ways in which we understand a thing and its value and the complex relationship between things in the system of capitalism.
In this respect, this work also examines a contradictory aspect of our reality. On the one hand, a thing and its value are determined and expressed through its exchangeability, reducibility or transferability into something else, such as a certain amount of money. This can be called the politics of balancing, in which the value of a thingisbalanced or equivalent toa certain amount of money or labour, each of which is independent of the otherand this amount of money or priceis apparentlynot proportional to value.It is the means of abstraction, which is essential for the process of circulation and distribution of capital throughout the whole world. On the other hand,capitalism can survive only by producing differences, that is, surplus value. Marx provides a different form of circulation, M-C-M or M-C-M′, which refers to the transformation of money into commodity by ending with a greater valueM′. The difference betweenM and M′ is seen as surplus value. In Marx’s theory, not only does the production of profit or surplus value become a driving force for systemizing the network of production, circulation, exchange and consumption processes; but also the process of accumulation is formed by the production of surplus value of capital, which can maximize its profits from the compression of time and space. It is the politics ofimbalance in the system of capitalism, in which the quantities of capital produce a particular form of intensity in the space, which can be considered the process of differentiation.In the reality of our life, balancing cannot, therefore, be separated from unbalancing. Balance unbalances the social; and unbalance arouses the power of balance.
This exhibition presents a wall piece, which is entitled Squeeze (2016). A white shelf-like structure is attached to the upper part of awallin the exhibition space, creating a small room, only just large enough for a planted pot, which must be squeezed into the constructed spatial limitation. In and through the given spatial limitation, this plant continues its own life, finding new directions and spaces for its leaves to grow.This work explores a particular aspect of the relationship between space and power in the process of capitalist urbanization. It expands the territory of the object through experimentation with the given spatial structure and system.
The tiny space created by the shelf-like structure refers to the space of the corner, the periphery and the others, which is frequently ignored and abandoned in our society.In the space of capitalism, the ‘others’or minoritieshave always been pushed to the corners; towards the outside or peripheryand away from the centres or the places where they have lived and worked for long periods. The asymmetric structure of power in a capitalist economy drives these people’s lives much harder, by unfairly taking advantage of them to make more profits. In the case of urban development in South Korea and gentrification in some developed countries, for example, construction companies, investors and even the government exploit the urban poor, taking over their places to create new districts, which are filled with luxury residential and commercial buildings for the affluent. In many cases, the urban poor havebeen displaced to look for an alternative living place.In Marx’s theory, exploitation refers to the production of surplus value. The process of exploitation is not only what defines capitalism but also the root of basic inequality in capitalist society. In the exploitive nature of capitalism, social classes createmuch more complex political relationships, rather than being reduced to a simple class struggle in terms of the dualistic relationship between the oppressed and the oppressor or between the dominated and the dominant.According to Marx, the working class - which is easily considered as the oppressed or the dominated - has the potential to become a revolutionary force, which can develop radical demands for social change. In this respect, Squeezefocuses on the politics of space, particularly concerning how things and ideas can be transformed in, react to and become resistant to different structures and relations of power; how the new can be produced in the interrelationship between different elements and powers.By further developing the uneven structure of power relations in capitalist spaces, it also looks at the exploitation of ‘green’, concerning ways in which the concept of green is transformed as a commodity in the process of capitalist urbanization, particularly in relation to the changing ideas of urban land use, the politics of greening and social and spatial production and transformation. It focuses on how the understanding of green has been transformed and commoditized in terms of the politics of space, in particular moving from green or nature as a non-realistic and ideal object - which is free from the control of a certain centralized power system - to an essential part of a capitalist urban system.
A set of five greenwall pieces, Constructed Landscape (2016) is installed on two walls in the exhibition space. The pieces were made using plywood to create a densely packed space, which is filled with different sizes of mountain-like forms within the space of 100 cm × 122cm rectangular plates.These pieces are fully covered withglossy green urethane paint, which is usually used to waterproof rooftops in South Korea. This work was derived froma certain aspect of urban landscape in South Korea, particularly looking at a uniformed colour pattern of rooftops in urban architectural spaces. In the metropolitan area of Seoul, houses and other buildingshave been denselybuilt. These green rooftopsfill urban spaces and even completely cover the whole mountain.When we look at these houses and buildings from a distance, they create a new artificial landscape, transforming a mountain and cityscape into an assemblage of glossy green fragments.
Constructed Landscape explores and develops the perception ofan urban landscape in South Korea.Urban development projects in South Korea have been implemented on a large scale, constructing communities or towns. It is easy to find the uniformity of newly developedareas, because in Seoul the same designs of houses and other buildings have been constructed on a massive scale in these areas.Undeveloped areas in the city are also uniformed by another architectural style, mostly filled with three or four stories of multiplex housing units, which are called villas in South Korea.However, this work does not focus merely on the outward appearance of the urban landscape, but investigates the contradictory relationship between uniformity and fragmentation in the production of urban space. In Lefebvre’s Notes on the New Town, published in 1995, the urban is seen as a “mediator between nature and human beings, both as individuals and as groups.” As opposed to the rural - which acts as an unmediator in society and nature - the urban produces an abstract space, which has a tendency towards the totalization of space, erasing all differences. By contrast, Lefebvre sees the rural as an organic entity, which spontaneously forms itself within its own territory. Lefebvre pays attention to the ways in which a space is created and expands its territory through the invasion and appropriation of one space by another, such as the rural by the urban, rather than separating them. Space is not a solidified entity, but it is always in the process of formation, absorbing, transforming and expanding differences and contradictions.
In relation to Lefebvre’s idea of the relationship between the urban and the rural, mass production and consumption of high-rise residential buildings in the metropolitan area of Seoul can be seen not only as a marked feature, but also as an industrialized method of spatial organization and systemization of planned urbanism that unifies space in a certain pattern in terms of repetition and uniformity.This massive (re)production of spaces certainly affects the significant socialrestructuring in the process of forced displacement and relocation. The gaps between housing prices accelerate spatial fragmentationbased on economic, educational, cultural or occupational differences. The terrain of the urban can be conceived as the centralization of space, which necessarily penetrates the process of the decentralization of space, dissociating and dislocating its own conditions, when encountering a certain limit of growth and permanent competition between rival producers, including the innovation of new technologies. The conflictual movements of urban force, therefore, coexist and participate in the formation of a certain spatial pattern or an abstract space, because space is considered relationally and relatively, rather than as an absolute framework for social action and events.