About the Work of Hyesoo Park
-Soojung Lee (Curator, DaeJeon Municipal Museum of Art)
Last summer, when I went to meet Hyesoo Park at Studio NanJi, she gave me a postcard. In the postcard, which she was collecting for her solo exhibition to be held in coming winter, there were four questions under the words “Meet the Lost.” It was some kind of survey. Because it is very common nowadays that we get surveyed through everyday occasions, such as when you log on online payment websites for work-related reasons (you get asked about petty personal information), when you have to fill out various surveys in the office (they tend to have ‘preferable’ answers for your advancement in the workplace), and when you get phone calls from unknown callers saying, “I love you, customer (It is frequent expressions in Korea used by various telemarketers.)
If you have time…….” we can always provide answers to those surveys promptly and automatically.
Different from the lengthy online surveys that you feel pain in the finger scrolling down the webpage, there were only four questions in Hyesoo Park’s postcard. However, it took for a while for me to complete and return it to the artist. I also suggested a few of my friends to take it, sending the webpage address through the internet messenger. Asking, “Is it simple? How many questions are there?” they readily accepted the offer realizing there are only four questions. But soon, they sent me messages over the messenger saying “Sorry, it takes more time than I expected. Can I send the answers tonight after thinking about them for a while?” It was the same case for me too. For one of the short questions asking, “What do you miss the most among the people/things you lost in your life?” I was rapt in words like ‘life,’ ‘lost,’ and ‘miss’ for a good while. I could not come up with proper answers during noisy day time, needed some time to get away from it all and reflect upon my past times alone. It was because, as I also talked to the artist as a joke, those questions were so serious that they could make the casual and fun get together with long time friends turn sour. You may be snubbed hearing ‘are you still questioning those stuffs?’ or ‘hey you still did not cut your teeth.’ Her work, Unasked Question, Unheard Answers and the storage of Time , exhibited during the exhibition the Locked Room, which was supported by SEMA (Seoul Museum of Art) for emerging artists, were based on the result of those survey. Through the project Meet the Lost, inspired by the Japanese movie Wonderful Life (1998), which asks people to choose only one memory about the most precious moment in their lives, the artist throws questions such as “What do you miss the most among the persons/things you lost in your life?” “Why do you think like that?” “What is the reason that you lost this person/thing?” “Do you remember its/his/her feature?” Then, she creates subtle changes to the time people spend to answer those questions and the time after they send the answers. Although it seems the collected answers themselves become the materials of her work, in fact, her work includes peoples’ frustrated moments when they received the difficult questions through postcards or website links, the short moment they stared at the computer monitor with their mind empty leaving off their busy work, and their vacant emotions they could have felt at those moments, as the invisible parts of the work. Dreaming of the interactions with the audience’s mind and not of the physical interactions created by mechanical manipulation, she not only actively involves the audience to her work but also tries to enter into their lives. She must be the person who had thought about the questions of Meet the Lost for the first time and who spent the most time reading peoples’ answers one by one, sincerely. Through that process, she creates room in well-organized and hectic everyday schedules of the audience, including the first audience, herself, and makes them to stop their busy movements. As a person who believes that the art work is the process of getting to know oneself, she seeks answers in her surroundings, especially those catching her minds, such as movies, books, sentences she encounters in her life, image or everything. Solving those unsolved questions, she throws questions to others too. Although she does not reveal the section of reality with visually strong images used in documentary films, she advises us to take a look at the problems which we try to avoid or hide, with her own method.
Carl Jung said that an artist is the person who encapsulates things, which are known to everybody, to be more precise and have reverberation. According to him, they are the people who satisfy the spiritual needs of the society they are living, and thus their work have meanings toward the inner world of themselves (artists) and the people of the same period. What would Jung say about the artists if he was living in 2008? While the colors and forms become more flashy and sensational, the time we spend with artistic works become shorter and our expectation toward the art get smaller. We do not expect to shed tears or be moved by reading novels. As art turned into consumption goods, which we tend to view for a moment and soon forget, it is difficult to encounter a work leaving long impression in our mind, even though we see more and more works. (Of course, on the other hand, we also do not have time to spare to sincerely view artistic works because of our busier lives.)
Hyesoo Park firmly believes that “art and religion change people’s soul” and that “artistic work should be able to change people.” As the titles of her previous solo exhibitions such as the Depth of Time, the Depth Felt at the Surface, the Time of Depth and the Forest of Time show, the theme of her work has been characterized by ‘time.’ However, in the exhibition the Locked Room, ‘time’ is not an abstract concept but a concrete theme. It became more vivid as people’s individual time. She carved three photographs, which contain her special childhood memories (a picture taken with her mother on the first day of elementary school, a group picture taken in front of Bulguksa during school trip which everybody may have, and a picture of her childhood house) in transparent acryl plates by scratching and poured water on them. Then, she ripples the surface with water drop and projects its swaying shades onto the wall. The images constantly become clear and blurred because of the droplets. They are just like our memories.
Although Hyesoo Park asks questions about memories and shows scenes of her own memories in the Locked Room, she does not aim to arouse touching nostalgia for the past. Instead, she wants the audience to focus more on their own problems which they neglected either voluntarily or involuntarily, thus to focus on their current lives, and to bring meaningful changes in their lives. The only way to do that is to stop the time of the audience. Rainer Maria Rilke believed that we could become more productive in a deeper sense during the time we are forced to be inactive. If the artists cannot recharge themselves during those times, with any possible form of their everyday lives, or cannot recall their precious moments in their lives, they will lose their light. Our lives can be said as the same. Through her artwork, Hyesoo Park attempts to revive those lights in her and the audience’s lives so that they do not disappear.
“For some time, people we meet have been exhausted…I have been thinking that it is because we all try hard to live like human. Knowing that our bodies are already losing the smell of human, piece by piece, I believed that we are getting tired to earn the places and time to live like human. However, we will not be able to write the letter we could not write today. The warm words we could not say today and postponed will be forgotten with our thoughts after all. And we will still be busy tomorrow.”
(Coming Home by Jong-Hwan Do)
I ponder upon these questions again. What did I lose? Toward what am I living losing the time I could reflect on my deeds regardless they were right or wrong and cherish precious moments? What precious things are you losing now?