Transformation of Context – Between Casting and Modulating of images

 Nowadays, photography has become a part of our daily life. It is easily found out that photography is not a specialized-technique anymore. Rather, photography itself has become a medium for promoting everyday communication and recording of our daily life. Today, photographs do not keep the record of particular events or crucial moments only. As photography has become a kind of routine, all the events and moments are not recorded in written letter but kept in visual image. Things that are recorded in photographs include historic moments, spectacular moments or events, trivia and even things pertaining to certain areas or regions(Things that are universally known also belong to the category) Does this trend just come from the evolution of digital media? What lies behind the changes in the behavioral pattern is the close connection among art, era society and civilization. Classcism in art reproduce religious vision, historic moments, magnificent & spectacular events, whereas, the art of 20th century expressed changing views of the world. It stems from subjective interpretation of things, events, etc, denying to comply with formalism based on social norm. The viewpoint of artists in modern contemporary artists moved from being omniscient to being personal or private. Therefore, modern contemporary art mainly deals with objects that are common and used to us. Photojournalism that contains various scenes and moments from the time of the two world wars to the Vietnam War, definitely express anxiety and pain that are far from being mythical or pastoral. The sense of reality that was expressed in the photographs came as expectation for common life and freedom rather than as epic to the viewers. Such kind of universality can be found in paintings of modernism. The paintings of abstract expressionism without particular shape or epic have been regarded as spiritual proposition appealing to human beings. The same goes to the paintings of minimalism. In the past, photography itself could not escape from the creed of modernism which stresses abstractness and purity. However, it seems that photographs directly report everyday life since they have come to express daily-life of people instead of historic moments as time went by. Photographs that have the nature of autobiography are closely related to the twist and turns of the life of photographer. Accordingly, emotional and subjective feature of the author is directly found in the photographs. In contrast, photographs of Düsseldorf School have opposite features. They mainly deal with common buildings, featureless objects and stress the expression of being elaborate and real, applying neutral (deadpan) angle when the portrait photos and artistic pictures were taken. When photographers turn their daily-life in experience to photographs, they show diverse elements of real life for example, particular or alienated life in their works. On the other hand, ‘Deadpan Photography’ presents a new, different perspective of containing urbanscape in photographs by which modern city is regarded as artificial nature trapped by the trend of globalization and capitalism. The black-and-white photographs of Bernd & Hilla Becher remind the viewer of colossal statues, record buildings that lost their social function as great monuments. Bernd & Hilla Becher suggested particular type of pictures, frames, exhibition of their works and applied their anthropological views to the works. It can be said Bernd & Hilla Becher opened a new horizon in presenting aesthetic characteristic of photographs as artistic media. Susan Sontag said that painting cannot catch up with photography when it comes to the nature of keeping record, citing that it is a distinctive feature of photography. She also said,“Any image has the power to replace reality, though, photography is different from painting and may be an interpretation of real world. Photography is a kind of instant mimeograph which is like dead mask or trails of the past.” The identity of photographs as mimetic medium has expanded into media for recording from artistic media since 1970. Through the transition toward the digital era, we seek to find a new potential and the value of modern contemporary photography beyond the dimension of copying and reproducing real world.
 If photography is not just a simple technique, a question as to what to express through photographs can be raised. The question can be a common one for all the modern contemporary photographers. A kind of adventure is still going on in photography. For instance, turning everyday life into pictures, blending our real life experience with imaginary world using digital technique in the latter part of whole process of work, inserting fictional elements into real world or producing directed photographs in quantity. The work of Chanmin Park falls under the trend mentioned above. The important thing is to choose which kind of difference among details to be illustrated within the boundary of this trend. Chanmin Park takes photos of buildings, mainly, apartment houses. What makes us interesting is that Chanmin Park tears off indexes which contain information of the subjects in the latter part of his working. <Intimate City> series relive diverse landscape of Korean cities that lost the sense of local place. It reminds us of Foucault’s reasoning that distinguishes resemblance from similitude, given the relation between the image of René Magritte “This is not a pipe “and texts. For Foucault, resemblance is extended concept of copying in which resemblance has close connection with the original. If so, similitude means expanded similar images that do not have theirs original ones. The concept of similitude is far from the existing norm. Similitude can be seen as an attempt to be free from the feudal, ancient regime for Foucault. It dismantles the relation of existing structure of perception in which painting is viewed as the relation between real world and copying. Chanmin Park keeps the record of Korean apartment houses in his work. They reproduce the utopia of modern construction. It reflects the sense of new era characterized by European modernity. However, the ideal for Korea at that time degenerated from creating environment for pleasant living condition to accumulating wealth. Korean type of apartment houses cab be a mark that indicates poverty of ‘building construction country’from the perspective of sociologist. Apartment houses are subject to criticism for experts of urban planning as excessive and indiscriminate development without the harmony of common type of house, nature, everyday life and culture. This kind of heterotopias in which landscape of modern, artificial buildings are seen, seem to raise questions as to mixed values. The image of modern city is not different from Phantasmagoria in which the original image of city is lost, the fancy for apartment houses among common people and the power to generate the fantasy. In the series of <Blocks>, apartment houses of Seoul and Scotland can be found. The photograph without windows, balconies of buildings, even people seem to be seen as standardized module, for example, Lego bricks. The mark that indicates apartment houses and feeling of texture is all lost in the picture. Green areas, trees, sky, buildings and narrow path are found in the picture for sure, however, they exist as symbol or marks that are worthless. In addition, such symbols and marks lack the feeling of texture and the sense of volume, and are superficial. The world without sense shown in the picture, as if we were looking at the stage of plays, realize fictional world consisting of flat surface. In contrast, such formativeness seems to symbolize ‘Atopia’, where the exchanges of sense gradually disappear. The nature of being flat objectiveness and subjectiveness serve as material that makes the borderline between real life that is re-organized by photographic world as an equivalent to real life, consisting of images retouched, and fictional world.
 This exhibition of <Untitled> presents pictures that simplify the shape and delete the background after taking photographs of avant-garde or kitsch buildings or constructions. The buildings in the work <Untitled> all have unique shapes and structures, even unrealistic. They do not suggest any reason of existence, their role, any context that fit well with surroundings. For example, a red building rising over the horizon, a gigantic building built on the pillar rising over the sea-level, block made of red brick that looks like a ventilating opening, streamlined-shape stairs which are difficult to be identified as either of the followings : monument or altar, and a construction rising as a tower. The previous works re-create, apartment houses that were built in the vague hope for bright future, as fictional stage without any particular feature. <Untitled>, in contrast, criticize how unreal the real world can be by exaggerated daily-life experience of our life. Accordingly, following questions can be raised regarding the work <Untitled>. What is being real? What I am seeing now is real? Re-created real life is imaginary? Do the exaggerated and unreal experiences of our life conversely criticize the real world? Or do real world aim at unreal world different from what we mostly think? Then, the attempts done by contemporary artists, the intellectuals and activists can be said a meaningful deed or a kind of ill-planned deed of Don Quixote? The question of being real is an essential and eventual one that modern philosophy seeks to find answer. Besides, this question is closely related to worries of photographers. Let’s go back to Foucault’ reasoning in which interpretation is made on the relation between copying and reproducing. The adventure of photography to shift from copying media to media for painting with autonomy can be said an attempt for photography to be freed from its destiny of patterned copying, beautiful scenery, reporting of objects as they are.
 Today, it is impossible and meaningless to view photographs from the perspective of photography of the past in this era of digital world. It does not necessarily mean that the paradigm of the past worthless. It is only a limited interpretation if we see the birth of new paradigm as only the shift from analogue to digital. It indicates that drastic changes were made to change the nature of the photography itself beyond the changes in popular belief that analogue pictures are different from digital photographs in the process of taking and printing. In other words, images of photographs that are drawn from the real world are not a mold that shows real world as it is but a modulation. In this sense, Chanmin Park can be said to suggest the feature of being real in an imaginary way by reliving the real world from images drawn from photographs through the process of modulation(transforming images into digital information, controlling or manipulating information) instead of objects(mostly, cities, apartment houses, exaggerated real-life experience) as they are. In other words, it is a question as to how we should see the potentials of photography in this era that is crowded with images from pictures. André Rouillé, theorist of photography understands that advertising photographs that are exposed in the media, commercialized ones. Given from what he said, fine art photograph is different from that to be sold to the public in its nature. Basically, photographer of fine art pictures should raise questions toward the world based on his or her perspective. The world presented by Chanmin Park in his works is far from that is full of criticism or satire. He wonders what the value of life is from his works. In his works, Chanmin Park seeks to find his own value of life, gazing at some point between the potential of human desire and the limit of it(human desire).
 Jung, Hyun(Art Criticism)
Advertisements