The jungle of geometry

The exhibition of ‘Chanmin Park: Surrounded by Space’ well illustrates urban landscape. It feels that we are besieged by overlapped space created by serious of buildings in the urban landscape to appreciate the works of authors. It can be referred to as the jungle of geometry. In modern cities, we are surrounded and overwhelmed by skyscrapers, densely-located buildings that cover all parts of the earth and the sky. Moreover, they take human traces in modern cities away from us. The urban landscape presented by Park, having no choice but to be called the ‘Monstrous Ecosystem’, raises us serious questions. Have we lived in such stuffy places? Can we breathe and live in the place without any feeling of air as if we were compressed in the vacuum pack-like space? In this compressed world, are we just microorganism? Flat creatures tend to experience the sense of being flat in the world to which they belong, without any limit. What should we do in order to visit the building in the opposite side, in such a deeply compressed world? As is often the case, it may be required for us to move horizontally and vertically by depending on cars and lift in a fast and active manner. Any means that are unnecessary for rapid movement are subject to be excluded. In the previous days, it was required for us to make contact with nature, other humans, and surroundings. However, in this rapidly-changing world, such contacts have to be deemed unnecessary and are disregarded. However, it will become too slow, when all of us join the race of ‘Going Fast’, and share the means, paradoxically.
A scene in the picture is recorded by instant clicking of camera button. The scene is actually the aspect of apocalyptic process. There are some points where the city landscapes seem surrealistic since the landscapes Chanmin Park (Hereinafter, referred to as ‘Park’) presented us are too realistic. Therefore, when we appreciate the works of Park, we take negative view on the rapidly-changing, stuffy modern city. At the same time, we feel relieved and pleasant to confront the nakedly-exposed truth and feature of modern city. Though, it seems somewhat different, Park takes his negative stance on urban landscapes as he presents objects that support his view to illustrate the reality of urban landscapes. However, it is quite paradoxical to find that the loss of the sense of distance is one of the ways to be away from familiar modern city life. The loss of the sense of distance deserves criticism. The reason for that is we get buried in one dimension without being given another dimensions, inevitably. Namely, it indicates the loss of additional time and space. If we are always full of joyful events of life, always, there would be no problem for us. But, in most cases, as it goes opposite, ‘Getting Buried’ in one dimension is an obvious sign of death, conversely. However, as is found in the works of Park, the sense of distance comes into our mind when the sense of distance is extremely lost, paradoxically. This modern day world we homogenize in one dimension is coming toward us in a heterogenized way, rather. Modern people have already become brainwashed and used to the modern city life. As a result, modern people are not easily aware of contradictions that can be found from urban landscape. The author, Park, express the contradictions by presenting most common and familiar objects.
In his exhibition, Park focuses on some subjects, thought it does not necessarily mean that he narrowly emphasize minor subjects. Rather, he focuses on a type of system of modern city. When it comes to the status of residential area, which comes into the symbolic universe of human mind, it is a crucial and important part, though it is just a part of modern society. However, the part itself is not enough to be independent one, as it does not express its feature independently. Park incorporates various parts of urban landscape in the pictures; they are also a part of urban landscape. In the picture, each part intrudes each other to bring about mismatch between them, lacking systematic integrity. These kind of psychological inconvenience and strangeness are highlighted in the works of Park, both of them they are the ones most familiar to us. But, the monstrous urban landscape presented by the author is not the result of much transformation. It is a reality, not a product of imagination. Park’s works are faithfully reflects the images created by photographs. They are different from the images perceived from the view of human naked eye. Taking photograph is the technique by which 3 dimensional object is transformed into 2 dimensional one. When an object is recorded in a photograph, the object is transformed into a flat one, in the end. Park overlaps the flat object and the flattened world, applying the feature of taking photographs. In this modern world, everyone rushes to complete the things he or she deals with in order to promote instant consumption. Consequently, the mutual interference is getting maximized and world becomes more and more flat. This modern world, in which all things turn into item or code, can be called ‘A Flat World’.
The sense of being flat is the state in which we cannot clearly notice the difference of time and space. And, it is the result of the compression of time and space. Compression inevitably leads to implosion. Globalization resulted in the compression of space by triggering unlimited competition among diverse communities and organizations on the planet. Time, which fills every moment in every space, becomes homogenized. In other words, in the previous days, when it comes to the concept of time, there had been a clear difference in time according to change of space. However, in recent days, from the perspective of time, the distinction has become more and more unclear, irrespective of the change in space. The distinguished professor of Geography, David Harvey mentioned that in his writing [The Condition of Postmodernity: An Enquiry into the Origins of Cultural Change (1989)], the compression process of time and space gave birth to the condition of postmodernity. Park’s urban landscapes seem to be a collage of work created by the compression of time and space. However, his works are more similar to mosaic-like collage that does not offer any remaining space, but penetrate into our eyes, rather than the one that would lead to dialectic transformation. In this flat world, the concept of abstract visibility prevails. The author presents the buildings that strongly show the feature of two dimension. Highlighted in the buildings is they are both the object we see and the ones to be seen. In Park’s works, all objects are not gradually understood among viewers but have to be immediately understood. Mostly, the interactions in modern cities are visually appealing to the residents. Vision itself is instant. It is a reality of modern world that anonymous attention from people is only paid to facial aspect of others. As such tendency prevails; all human contacts and participations are excluded. The modern world, which seems to be flat, is unfamiliar to the resident of modern cities. However, Park does not alter the basic structure itself in this unfamiliar urban landscape.
All he did was to take simple actions such as erasing words and/or windows. What is found in his works throughout the exhibition is the vertical and horizontal structure in which all items, information and humans are incorporated to its fullest. Such structures expand into ‘Grid’. That is to say, we can find the status or the value of objects through the coordinate system. The grid structure constantly expands, in addition to the existing structure. This exhibition of Park focuses on the universal and general structure of the space called ‘City’. Particularly, in this context, Park expresses his simplified and patterned viewpoint of mixture of scenes. In the scenes, a line, basic unit of space and geometric structure intersect other lines. Besides, lines intersect various faces of geometric structures, and the faces of geometric structure overlaps on another, in the scenes. Park, not only relives the structures of urban landscape but also rearrange the structures with his photographs. In his work, arrangement is a formal technique or device to promote the sense of reality, instead of working as a device for creating beautiful scenes or strange ones.  ‘If space is indeed to be thought of as a system of ‘containers’ of social power, then it follows that the accumulation of capital is perpetually deconstructing that social power by re-shaping its geographical bases” (David Harvey).
For the author, arrangement is not just a physical movement. The effect of arrangement depends on the choice of relevant viewpoint when the image of urban landscape is recorded in a photograph. It comes as his own reason for not applying digital manipulation much in order to stress the importance of reality rather than fiction. Modern city itself exposes the real image in the time when the jungle of modern city that is mingled with complex silhouette is revealed. From the photographic interpretation of Park, the spaces of modern city are extremely compressed. The same goes to the concept of time given the relationship between time and space. The concept of the present expands without any limit, for the purpose of promoting instant communication (In detail, communication is distribution in this context). In this condition, it becomes very difficult to find the sequence from the perspective of time. City itself did not show such feature at the initial stage of its birth. When a building is firstly built on the earth, it might have the status of being a monument. However, building started to grow boundlessly, both vertically and horizontally. The unlimited growth of building has become a ‘Universal Law’. Such phenomenon varies somewhat in every part of the world. However, the phenomenon is extremely so, in Korea. According to the author, the apartment
house is deemed as a failed modern project of housing in Europe. Therefore, when a building is collapsed, apartment houses that are similar in style are not built on the spot in Europe.
In contrast, it has already become a practice to build high rise building with dozens of stories when apartment houses of 5 to 6 stories are fallen apart, though it is not compulsory. In the exhibition, Park presented the objects without windows, they are compared to the objects without their own eyes. In this sense, the objects seem to symbolize such ‘Blindness’. Modern cities have the loop in which the system of unlimited growth brings about and triggers human desire and vice versa. Under such circumstances, we have seen the birth of monstrous ecosystem called ‘The republic of apartment houses’. The differences of viewpoint on the apartment houses exist among the public in both continents, Asia and Europe. Such difference in viewpoint probably came from higher density of population in Asia, from the viewpoint of function of housing. Is it a ‘Being new’ complex that stems from the ruins of the past history? Time-space compression has been accelerated to the fullest so that we have come to experience the state of being supersaturated, in both ways, horizontally and vertically. One of Park’s works illustrates such state by showing how artificial buildings and structures are densely located and overlapped. Therefore, there seems to be no space allowed for the sky. The skyline, Park chose to present, let us feel strained. In his work [Urbanscape 71] (Hereinafter, only the number of the author’s work is presented) that shows diffused reflection between buildings of glass, the image of the scene look much more flat. In this case, even the sky become a part of geometrical structure and the base of the structure also looks as if was above the earth. Concerning the Work [1], the empty space right under the densely-located buildings where people play football seems to have derived from abstract space, not from nature.
Buildings have to be built firmly on the earth in order to give us the feeling of physical existence as plants are rooted in the soil. However, Park brings down the density of their base part, noticeably so that it seems nearly empty. The building in his work [101] looks as if it was spread and overlapped right on the gray fence below. The work [3] includes the strange overlap that looks insecure. The overlap is getting extreme in the work by placing water on the top of building, small rocky island on the water, another building on the island consecutively. There is no fixed principle in the excessive growth. Only the violent rush of a force that is far ahead of others is noticed beyond the concept of time and space. In the work [13], high rise buildings are seen beyond the urban landscape of ‘Being saturated with high rise buildings’. In addition, in the work [48], there is a mixture of old and new buildings. In Park’s works, compared with violent growth of artificial structures and buildings, nature accounts for a small part to be compared to small plastic model. In the work [17], the trees, which were planted among high rise buildings, are feebly rooted in the soil and surrounded by mass of cement. High rise buildings in the work [17] account for the large part of the scene to cause the desertification of surroundings. The buildings are compared to a remote and isolated island. Even the sky is not seen at all in the work [56], and in the work [72], only the reflection from surface of the building in the opposite side implies the sense of existence of the building.
In the work [37], various items are seen through the windows of the house that is made of bricks, it implies what we can find inside the quadrilateral structure. It clearly indicates that city itself is a place for mass production and consumption. Under such circumstances, humans are rarely found in the works of Park. A window cleaner of the building is hanging between two buildings in the work [42]. However, as if they were found in a pictorial puzzle, the work gives viewers little sense of their existence. Regarding the scene in which there are few people, the author replied that he does not intentionally erase the traces of people. In the spot where the author is, there are very few people, furthermore, only when we intend to find them, they are seen. Park says that the sense of existence of humans is rarely felt in modern cities to such an extent. In other words, his mentioning indicates that his interest focuses not on humans but on the structure of city and city itself works for its existence and is not a place for humans. In recent days, humans have become a small part of modern city life. In the photographs taken by Park, abstract space of matrix is found in the place we share in our daily life.
In the work [86], a balcony is found in the center of high rise buildings. The balcony shows that personal space for an individual is merely a point where a desert-like modern city is seen. The viewer’s vision stops at space where various scenes are overlapped so that the viewers only concentrate on the scenes from the space. In such a space, the only thing viewers can do is to concentrate on more appealing phantoms so as to be even fascinated by them. Modern city has gradually become a screen. Thus, humans have become terminal media through which all the messages are received. As a result humans work as viewers or spectators of the scenes from the city. As Guy Debord mentioned in his writing, [The Society of the Spectacles], the sense of spectators is imprisoned in a flattened universe, and inside the universe, we are trapped in the screens of spectacles that bind us. Various types of screens, irrespective of being big or small, continuously compete with each other in the works of Park The work [68] presents us the scene in which the sign of ‘‘CGV IMAX’is displayed on a small building. It implies that modern city is a space for the spectacles. In the urban landscape, the scenes exist together, though they are not closely connected but separated. The same is true of the scenes of a movie. As is mentioned by Guy Debord, the same goes to the social relation among humans, which is mediated and established by various images. The spectacle, or the other side of money, is also a historical movement. In other word, the spectacle is the separation of human relations and the expression of human alienation.
In the overlapped scenes of the work [73], Park intends to stress the importance of texture of the surfaces of the scene, in the phase when the viewer’s vision does not go beyond the scene. The difference can be found, in the place where the sense of distance is lost, by applying the sense of visual touch. Park takes photographs of the scenes of urban landscape from the front and other surfaces. Simultaneously, they are the scenes from the inside of the cities. In the work [82] that contains the rarely-visible scenes, city shows the nature of being disorderly and unscrupulous. The element that constitutes the urban landscape by Park, are the buildings which can be compressed into blocks. The blocks are more intensively compressed and flattened in the urban landscape series of Park. The apartment houses that are found in the ‘Blocks’ series by Park, do not have any window. In the series, little difference is found among houses for living, warehouse, container, and factory-like buildings. All the projects intended to overcome the limit that nature has given us, are based on deserted nature. It accelerates desertification. A white building, which is built on the green grass, rises above the gray sky in the [Block 1]. The building (The artificial and vertical structure) in the block is so flat as to be compared to a piece of white paper, given the surroundings.
In the pictures of most European villages, small cubes are clustered around. Therefore, European villages look more humane and relevant when it comes to the number and size of houses, given the high rise apartment houses of Korea that are seen in the pictures. Windows serve as channel that connect the inside and outside of a building. And, they share the same feature with our eyes that connects the inside and outside of human body. In this regard, it means the state in which mutual communication inside and outside is blocked when we say windows are removed from buildings. This kind of block will cause madness, for example, paranoia and schizophrenia. In the‘Blocks’series, there still remains brand names, though windows are removed. The fundamental nature of modern housing, which is represented by apartment houses, is marketability. The vertically-rising structure, or apartment house, with the unit number or brand name on it, reminds us of a bar code that shows of the price of an item with an instant touch. It well illustrates the aspect of patterned items produced by standardized system of modern era. The buildings without windows remind us of the apartment houses with their lights inside turned off. Such apartment houses are the result of oversupply caused by mistaken calculation and speculation. Korea is a country that has been dominated by apartment houses when it comes to housing. It can be compared to an ailing ecosystem where only one species rules.
The apartment houses, the product of mass production and consumption, are preferred because of convenience and functions they provide. When it comes to the apartment houses, it is required for us to conduct long-term management and consumption with the intention of enhancing economy, as it goes same with nuclear power plants. But, the apartment house is not the type of housing that is economically-sustainable. There has been a strong and definite demand for the concentration of capital in modern cities. But, people who come to cities in anticipation for large capital in modern cities become gradually excluded from modern city life. The tendency of concentration of capital inevitably brings about excessive competition as well as more surpluses. Accordingly, in modern cities, we have nothing but to spend, ultimately. In modern cities, when we are deprived of our chance to spend, it is the moment of transition from ‘Utopia’ to ‘Dystopia’. In the works of Park, there is little difference between utopia and dystopia. It is only a difference of slight edge. Group housing place of modern era is well represented by the apartment house. It can be called an outpost of the mechanism of consumption in era. Park’s work of [Block 30] is about the apartment houses that are seen from the top of the building in the opposite side. In the [Block 30], Park also undermines the foundation of the building as he did in the <Urbanscape; Surrounded by Space> series. It indicates that the scene from an individual object of Park’s work would be nearly the same,
Modern city is a place where triteness is produced. The triteness means only consumption can be a way for escaping from the stress of modern city, though the escaping is only an instant change of emotion. Group housing place itself has its innate logic that its durability period is short from the moment when it is born. In this context, not consumption itself but decreased consumption is regarded as disaster. The modern day society, in which all people have rushed for a constantly-increased productivity, has something of time bomb inside. We can find the scene of mixture between the past and the present. In the [Block 32], there are growing numbers of high rise building that are densely located beyond old, small multiplex housing. Co-existence of two spaces is an illusion that stems from the logic of modern day development. In the scene that shows the co-existence, ‘Future’ is found in one space and ‘Past’ is found in the other, when it comes to the concept of time. Here, the concept of time is transformed into that of space. ‘Block’ reminds us of the walls that alienates and atomize individuals. However, Park delivers his messages on the urban landscape. The messages are not solely about human alienation in modern city life. Alienation is a product of modern era when the contrast between humans and their surroundings came from. Park picks up the time when transformation of modern era is made, from the violent growth in quantity and size to the improvement in quality. One of the decisive elements of development is profit of capitalist, in modern days. Such fundamental structure is the result of human desire.
It gets more and more difficult to distinguish the concept of structure from desire. In other words, they seem to become identical beyond continuous interaction between them. We need to tell the fundamental structure of desire from the desire that comes from the existing structure. In order to sustain the hegemony of capitalism, what is required for us is standardization. Also required is constant mass production of items by relevant agents in this context. High rise building, including apartment houses, is the result of the concentration of desires among the agents of constant production. The structures of modern days that are well mutually interconnected, although they exist exclusive, also, should seem like gigantic jailhouses that shine each other, It raises The question is raised as to whether we can be freed from such structures, in this regard. Mostly, authors try to find resemblance among structures by having them closer to make comparison among them. From the process, authors create their own arrangement in which individual feature of each structure is lost, although various structures co-exist to mutually interact. Such efforts of authors make our dependence on abstract and exclusive structures, a matter of individual, instead of being universal. Pierre-Félix Guattari mentioned, in his writing [The Machinic Unconscious], that the universality of language does not exists. ‘Popular language’, which controls our life, is a phenomenon in which a community takes command of symbolic power. Park also utilize universal grammar that controls our contemporary world, nevertheless, he neutralize it by applying the process of acceleration. For instance, he neutralizes series of codification by highlighting the point where diverse scenes overlap and collide with each other, although the scene from each object shares the same feature with each other.
Park clearly shows that universal existence depends on the unintended and coincidental relations among the existence of different objects, which Guattari also pointed out. Guattari wrote [The Machinic Unconscious] with the intention of being freed from the structure and framework that dominate our contemporary world. In his writing, according to Guattari, the structure of language is the result of fossilized, stored traces of human language that went through the process of ‘Deriving’, ‘Compounding’, ‘Adhesion’ and ‘Misunderstanding’. The feature of adjustment is to develop the framework of arrangement that can be applied in all directions. It is also to develop the framework of regulations that can be applied in all cases. The author, Park, visualize the structures that shape the life of modern people. At the same time, he explains how such structure works. The structures work on the assembling of many components. As long as the structures are the result of assembling, they can be transformed or broken up. Park considers another social arrangement and functional combination of the objects. Deleuze and Guattari said arrangement is a framework that continuously produces ‘new’ flows, without being attached to the concept of code and territoriality. In addition, arrangement consists of various elements, according to Deleuze and Guattari. Emphasizing arrangement instead of structure is not intended to render a meaning of object to communicate. In order to grasp the features of individual situation, the author creates his own type of arrangement.
 Lee, Sun-young (Art critic)