Bird Eat Bird _ Areum Woo
Bird Eat Bird
written by Areum Woo
Translated by Jaeyong Park, Diana Seo Hyung Lee
This is Jiyun Jung’s third solo exhibition. Continued from his previous exhibitions – Words Left Unsaid (Gallery Skape, 2010) where he created an attic in the ceiling of the exhibition space and installed artworks and Away from Here (Project Space Sarubia, 2011) where Jung built a hut with temporary walls – for the current solo exhibition titled Bird Eat Bird, the artist created a labyrinth as well as an auditorium that faces a wall. As revealed in the title of the exhibition, what one should take note in this exhibition is the gradual process of expansion and transformation of the world that the artist reveals through language. While words regarding recurring events and accidents that most people have become desensitized to may be his subject matter, objects that are rapidly produced, consumed, and discarded and fall through the cracks of a capitalist society are his materials. In other words, Jihyun Jung takes his feelings of loss towards words that disappear, or are scattered before they are able to gain meaning in this mindlessly fast-moving world, into objects that are thrown away before their full lifespan, and changes these discarded objects into new forms to liberate himself from his sense of helplessness. The undigested words and discarded objects lend their “bodies” to each other, taking pity on one another, creating a relationship of dependence and reliance. That is why he had once designated a place for “words left unsaid” in the corner of a ceiling in the exhibition space, and in another occasion, he created a room for “deflected words” in the space past the temporary walls in the exhibition. In the current solo exhibition, however, one can sense a different current from his previous shows— a bird is eating a bird? The artist, always having staged theatrical-like productions with his audience’s perspective in mind, this time lures the audience even deeper into a labyrinth. In there, a certain scene awaits you.
Be careful not to fall into a trap: This is the message that Jung would like to provide his audience who are about to enter the space he constructed. If you are looking to see something specific or obvious in this exhibition, you will most definitely fail. The space is filled with creaking movements of cute or strange objects and seemingly familiar whispers and fragmented melodies playing in a poetic rhythm. This may cause the viewer to be dazzled and seduced by a portion of the space that resembles being inside a bizarre fairy tale, or one may just come out of the space before he or she realizes that the space represents the self-contained world of the artist. The whole space is a manifestation of an artist’s journey who has constantly been changing his role from a receiver, sender, and guide of a world that is yet unknown. The scenes that one will encounter in each floor of the building unfold differently.
Upon entering the exhibition, the audience is faced with the Thames drawings. During his stay in London for about a year, the artist went to the river everyday for at least half an hour. He created drawings of the surface of the river, which were accompanied by his record of the types of ships passing, as well as their speed, and the weather of that day. The beginning of this work seemed to have been unclear, even for the artist. Perhaps it was the regularity and structure of doing something in a constant manner that sustained Jung as an artist during his time in a foreign, unfamiliar place. According to the artist’s journal, his job during his 2 years of mandatory military service was to observe the sea and take detailed record of passing ships for the entire day. In this series of drawings, he imposes upon himself this tedious past assignment of doing the same job repeatedly in an accurate manner, which is so difficult to do when each day starts blending in with the next. While earnestly performing his self-given assignment, through his almost futile single-heartedness, he becomes a receiver of a certain world. Behind the drawings of the river, there is a video showing small rafts that he sent floating along the Thames. Collecting discarded objects and creating temporary forms with them has been a repeated theme in Jung’s work. When he is drawing the river, he is acting as a receiver of the images of the river, but when he creates small rafts by combining objects he collected on the street and sends them floating, his role changes from receiver to sender. As the artist gets up from the place he sat and occupied for a long time and moves towards a different world, we also should follow and start moving.
The exhibition on the second floor presents different scenes the artist has encountered around the world. On one side, a tragedy – a bird eats another bird, while on the other side, something hopeful – a device that attempts to create a rainbow operates once every five minutes, and in another corner, there is a scene from someone’s life – the sound of clipping finger nails coming from inside a small house. These scenes occur by themselves and do not interfere each other. What is interesting is that the repeated actions of these objects do not guarantee us hope—and we cannot really see a rainbow, but this does not feel completely tragic either. Still, Suddenly a Rainbow provides us with the possibility of seeing a rainbow with its spray of water every five minutes. It is like a series of continued attempts towards a certain opportunity. It does not promise to fulfill our wishes and longings, but it does not give up and stop everything either. Like a cuckoo clock that sings every hour without fail even in an empty house, a new endlessly spinning world opens up, somewhere far away. Where does this world reach?
The rest of the journey continues in the basement. There is not one appropriate way to experience the labyrinth-like space that leads to the seating area for an audience. The lights and reeds that are attached to the wooden columns of the labyrinth react to the people in the space by moving or shining differently. On the other side, shadows are repeatedly amplifying and contracting, while on a different side, the moving reeds and metal wire bumping into each other is translated into undecipherable text through a morse code transmitter. Some of the seated audience looks at the reflected shadow’s movement on the opposing white wall, while some may look at the translated morse code messages through a small monitor, trying to follow the narratives created by the movements. The source of the occasional sound is recorded clips from an hourly traffic report on the radio. The words from the recording say things like: its snowing, raining, traffic is building up on a certain bridge, the road is empty – and those reports stated in the present tense make the actual present time and space confusing. Before everything is dissolved between the demand for identity and the ever-emerging categories of dichotomy, what we need to have is an established world where we can observe possibility from its birth to its complete extinction. More important than the scale and the result of that world is the density of opportunities that construct the world. That is precisely what Jung gives us here. It is touching, therefore, that this world constructed by the artist is responsive to the audience and breaks out of its self-sufficient boundary. It does so even if that boundary is a monitor displaying broken words or a blocked wall with lurking illusions of shadows.
A Completely Strange World
Mystery and wonder is extinct. Every object is born with a profile of its pre-determined use, reasonable price, and lifespan. In the time when people saw elf fires nearby old houses or around cemeteries, mystery was still attached to people’s lives. In those days, people even prayed to a bowl of water.
We have lost our ability to sense the other part of the world. It happened while we were living in the prescribed order, surrounded by objects that were given purposiveness. It was also from our recognition of the world within the boundaries of systems, signs and representations of the systematically inherited senses that we learned and made as our habit.
If we could find something new in the objects around us, such moment would emerge without one’s knowledge through the sinister aspects of these objects. Jihyun Jung’s hands, through constructing unfamiliar things from discarded objects, provides us with an opportunity to restore our lost emotions and senses through revealing the mystery of the objects that are yet unnamed. However, there needs to be another opportunity. If our lives lack magic permanently, it is because we are satisfied merely observing the actions of objects. For the artist, this may have been the reason he moved beyond exhibiting objects and began constructing spaces to enter. Through the experience of changing the prescribed movements of a space, a door to enter into a completely strange world will open.