Life in the park_ 12channel video installation _ 2015-2016
Facets of life that drifts about in black and white landscape
Jung-In Hwang (Curator, Project Space SRUBIA)
Water from unknown source wells endlessly and flames of fire spreading up the hard solid bricks does not know when to stop. Dust thrown in the air is aimlessly carried away somewhere and meat that still drips blood piles up on a hot grill without even getting the chance to become tender. These short video of repeating images that don’t tell the start and the end are the slightest signs that announce the beginning of So-Hyeon Moon’s solo exhibition under the title of ‘Life in the Park’.
If you think about the title of the exhibition ‘Life in the Park’, each different video might seem to contain scenes of nature or parts of scenes that you can easily see at a park. However, soon afterward, you’ll learn that those video create loose connections between the incidents in which different characters appear, and act as important visual elements that add mysterious tension to each of the scene: the sound of footsteps that flows through a forest of equally spaced trees; a dump truck that seems to have appeared from nowhere in front of people chatting, pours soil while raising a cloud of dust, and disappears; whining dogs on a leash shaking in anxiety but unable to run away; dogs that restlessly lick and bite their own legs; a mysterious person looking at the people playing with sand at a distance; a structure placed in the park in the form of a monster; a person who tries desperately to save a drowning kite; a person taking a walk around on a wheelchair with vacant eyes; a person threatening his target by drawing a bow made of wood; ducks meeting their demise while being all tied up and surrounded by people; people gathered around the fire, endlessly grilling meat. All these may seem like a short list of scenes that do not have any special meaning and difficult to find connections, but parts of the short video at the entrance of the exhibition hall appear as visual elements in various areas of the screen like invisible strings that form a structure of images to draw the viewers.
The major work of the exhibition <Life in the Park> starts off from an ordinary space, the scenery the artist faced while taking a walk in the park in a city in particular. Initially, the artist displayed works that focused onhis autobiographical reflection on the existence of humans through stopmotion animation using puppets, but they gradually expanded into observation on others. It seems the artist’s interest has shifted toward the universal psychology humans share, and the social structure and situations that cause such psychology. Among them, the artist selects a park located in the center of a city which has become a space for leisure, meditation, and rest while alleviating and relieving psychological pressure and tension to continuously observe the scenery of the park which becomes grotesque in the good name of public convenience and peoples’ behavioral pattern. The artist then becomes a witness of the dark side of society that induces contrived behaviors of humans through divided areas of anxious and oppressed psychology of human and space.
The results of such observation reveal themselves visually in numerous areas of square bar structures that fill up the entire exhibition area with screens that display each video of So-Hyeon Moon’s work. Along with the artist’s own interpretation, the monitors display, one by one, video of people’s behaviors, animals, plants, and artifacts that posed questions to the artist while he made repeated visits to the park over a long period of time, and they are installed on the tree structure with divided sections randomly, without any order or without distinction of the inside and out whatsoever. No story has one complete structure connecting the exhibited video, and each video only confirms that they are part of the scenery the artist witnessed within the divided sections called park. The structure divided in loose compositions is a visual device that shows the images realized through the monitors together with the reflection of the artist’s perspective of viewing a park as sort of scenery of floating facets of life. Here, each video seems like independent scenes but since dim connection points do exist between them, viewers can freely move between scenes and form unique structures for each story using their own way of interpreting images. In this sense, the artist mentioned that there are similarities between his work and ‘landscape play’. In ‘landscape play’, which is a play that adopted the characteristics of landscape, when the viewer of the landscape turns from one subject to another, the very act of actively connecting various elements that lie in the landscape becomes the core of appreciating the play. If the visual act of looking at subjects in each different way in a landscape play is an active process of acquiring meanings and the story of the play, then in So-Hyeon Moon’s play, the act of moving the sight through the square bar structures and actively connecting the dim connection points between video based on personal experience, is a critical process necessary in understanding the overall tone and meaning of the play. Indeed in his work, only the subjects that commonly appear in the scenes of the video are the least you can find that you can use asclues to associate with the story of the artworks, and since each scene only reveals critical moments that does not have exposition, rising action, climax and resolution repeatedly, it is not an easy task to discover their specific meaning. Still, the landscape he creates has certainly originated from ordinary subjects we can easily find in spaces in everyday life, and by placing visual elements that enable various points of interpretation through scenes described as critical moments, all possibilities of a comprehensive interpretation are left open.
However, expressionless figures with vacant eyes which represent humans in the real world frequently appear in So-Hyeon Moon’s video, which use black and white as the dominant colors. Their exact mental state is not revealed through their expressions, but their motion such as obsessively repetitive movements or audio elements like heavy breathing and various threatening and unsettling sounds that give some sense of the surroundings, indirectly deliver their suppressed mentality and inner instability. Video created by using a mixture of live action and stop motion techniques repeat the pattern of following the natural flow of time and suddenly being transformed into divisions of second-length scenes and thus highlights the visual tension present across the screen. The actions of the figures might not be so special by themselves, but they put on a sense of urgency and anxiety by the irregularly distorted flow of time. Ordinary behaviors of people at parks that anyone would have seen at least once offer a whole new different psychological experience as they are displayed through a unique perspective of the artist and met with individual viewer’s memories and experience.
The black and white video that deliver random people’s insecure state of mind travel across the entire space through gaps between each video, occupy time and space each, and reconstruct the landscape of a gray-scale park. Landscape that allowed the movement of sight and time of the viewers strolling between vertical structures become a narration for each scene and drifts about in the black and white space.