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Hyesoo Park began her work with an interest in general themes such as time, memories, and dreams. She contemplated the meaning of time through her solo exhibitions The Time to Depth (2004) and Forest of Time (2006), taking it further in The Locked Room (2008) by asking 1,000 people what they missed the most among the items they have lost, and translating the memory and time progression for this into an installation piece. Later on she showcased Project Dialogue (2009) that delved into the general interest topics of people’s daily lives. This would later become the basis for her survey projects. This work entailed an interactive communication setup to induce conversation, where professionals of differing areas and the general audience posted feedbacks in their own manners, to a conversation scrapbook of randomly overheard and collected conversations of people. Park has currently divided the collected conversations into five themes of dreams, botong*, love, money, and art, and carried out surveys for each theme as five separate projects, working together with professionals of the respective area.

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 In Project Dialogue, the themes, dreams and love, inevitably involve loss, but ‘botong’ is seen as the cause of that loss. Noting that people often follow the majority by comparing their personal opinions and wants with the ‘ botong’ or average person saying “most people are like this or do it this way,” Park looked into the validity and influence of ‘botong’. Her new work the Definition of Botong, being introduced in this exhibition, is an installation project of the study of ‘botong,’ a concept and word that has somehow come to be an important standard of measure of our society. The project is based on tests and experiments to gauge people’s understanding of ‘botong’, with all projects stemming from the statistical results of “botong tests” carried out since 2011. Taking into consideration that people in general define ‘botong’ as either ‘average’ or ‘normality’, Park largely divided the exhibit into these two categories to contemplate the concept and effectiveness of ‘botong’. To address ‘botong’ as the meaning of ‘average’, the artist visualized the concept of ‘botong’ thereby forcing viewers to face the meaning of the word, illustrated through works like the Average Pole installation that shows the average height of men and women. For a separate work she collected people’s understandings of the different elements that make up the idea of ‘botong’ and presented it as a quantified average through Archive of Test for the Average then composed the Botong Doctrine based on the results. She explores the multifarious definitions of ‘botong’ by taking English words equivalent to ‘botong’ and their related context and expressed them with objets d’art in Botong Measurement and in Variable Balance Beam, she placed a laser inclinometer that moves in reaction to the weight or movement of the audience member on the stand, to question the absoluteness of the word. The study of “botong” as “normality” was jointly carried out with psychiatrist Yumi Sung, consisting of a text-based work that illustrates the spectrum of understanding and awareness that more or less makes up the criteria of normality, and Conventional Choices – A Psychological Experiment, that addresses people’s tendencies to follow the majority.

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 the Definition of Botong” is the fourth theme and installment of the “Project Dialogue” series that shows the dual nature of ‘botong’, as the universal value that all must aim for while being an utterly subjective standard necessary for self rationalization at the same time. Through this project, Park goes through a series processes collecting information about what people actually think about the subject of everyday life, objectifies it, and reinterprets it to construct the project. This is an approach that is not only an opportunity for an artist to contemplate about unexpected discrepancies or hidden meanings of results, but also an expanded avenue of communication that allows audiences to mull over those meanings as well.

 -photo & english translation: Songeun Artspace

 

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*Botong
The Korean word ‘botong’ has over 20 possible meanings: normal, average, general, ordinary, common, nothing, natural, uniformity, same, stereotype, typical, habitual, custom, routine, etc. The intended meaning of ‘botong’ is usually derived from the situation and context where the word is used, but because of its varied meanings, ambiguity can pose to be a problem in terms of communication. The general Korean population understands ‘botong’ as either ‘average’ or ‘normality’, two meanings that have come to be the central concepts of this project. Of the two meanings, the artist has mainly based the project on “the power of average,” an extremely influential force in the Korean society.

 

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