|Out of curiosity about transcribing
videos into writing, I took up the job myself, hoping it will not be that
difficult. My decision not to give the work to others but to do it myself
While I was watching the videos again and again and trying to figure out
what each speaker said by checking the voice, shape of the mouth, and facial
expressions, I was able to understand the speakersí» intentions better than
at the time of the symposium. If I had let others do the job and read the
transcripts only, I could not have appreciated their care and attention.
For me, work means a way of thinking and play
as well. It is also my way of challenging the limits I encounter, and
the process of convincing myself of the meaning of life. I had rarely
been conscious of the gaze and evaluation of other people while I was
working or living. For a long time, I have just concentrated my mind on
searching for, defining, and expressing myself through work. There was
no room for the third party to intercede but the relationship between
myself and work mattered. As Prof. Jeong Kiyong mentioned, I may have
recorded my life as if my work were a journal. I may expect that if I
continue to record lives of the pitiful and the useless (all living things
including myself are such), it will have a small but beautiful meaning
in the end. At least I feel so while working on my job. I am fully satisfied
with my job in that sense.
The problem seems to come from displaying the completed works. I was not
really interested in the social utility of art, for I considered myself
as a minor artist. However, I began to doubt the meaning of the exhibitions
as I went through several solo exhibitions just as other artists do. My
works would not allow intervention of others initially. Moreover, it was
hard to get enthusiastic responses from the audience, for my works were
neither directly associated with a certain fashionable trend in contemporary
art nor were they related with the art market. Then what does it mean?
Do I have to continue to exhibit my works which do not have commercial
values nor provide useful discourses upon contemporary art? Isn't it just
Around the time I had doubts about the meaning of exhibition, I happened
to read about the genetic theory of Richard Dawkins, a British biologist.
What attracted me most was the idea of "memes", the cultural
genes. Dawkins asserts that to disseminate and make the "meme"
survive (which is the thoughts of a person) is as valuable as or even
more valuable than the efforts of preserving the biological genes. The
concept of the "meme" allowed me to understand the basis of
socio-cultural behavior of human beings, which I could not figure out
at all. I would not admit any absolute values except for the instinct
necessary for an individual organism to survive and I didní»t associate
myself with society, history, region or even culture. Therefore the concept
of the meme, which gives as much priority to the desire and needs of socio-cultural
activities of human beings as biological instincts, was quite a shock
to me. I could understand why I was so engrossed in work, leaving out
the only inheritor with 50% of my biological genes. I could recognize
the importance of communication which everyone except me had already known.
I began to think that my work would be nothing if it remained in me and
that I should share my work with others in the form of exhibition or something
*The Selfish Gene, Richard Dawkins, Eulyu Cultural Publishing.
I remember laughing at the joke that only two people seriously read a
review about a contemporary work of art, and they are the artist and the
reviewer. The person who told that joke read several books about science
in order to review my work for a couple of months that year and wrote
an impressive review of considerable length after several discussions
with me. I included that review in my picture book, published at the time
of my exhibition, which displayed works I made over one and a half years
and I distributed 500 copies of it. However, I did not have any opportunity
to discuss the details of that review with anybody. In conclusion, the
review was written for me and the reviewer. However, I am not attributing
this failure to the reviewer. I just want to point out the lack of foundations
and channels in society through which a serious attempt to connect art
and science can be accepted. I am sure someday the value of her review
as well as her research on the complexity of my work will be delivered
to many people and accepted. However, this experience taught me a lesson:
However good its quality may be, a work cannot be recognized if it was
publicized in an inappropriate way. Now I feel it is time to focus on
extending my memes instead of developing them as I did in the past.
This issue is not limited to my work. The crisis of contemporary art has
already been under much discussion. It is true that not only art but also
scholars in almost all academic fields face lack of communication within
themselves as well as with ordinary people. It seems impossible for people
in different fields to get together to talk about a topic of common interest.
We may think that we have accomplished a lot in our own field, but in
fact we are completely separated from each other, busy digging into one's
own field. Even in the same field, which may be deep but disconnected
with the neighboring one, each person is engrossed in his/her own thought
and would not listen to others. My colleagues would judge my work that
way. Now we raise a question about the efficiency of an individual academic
field that is over-diversified without communication with each other.
If academic fields prove to be unpopular with people or inapplicable to
technology or do not have commercial values, their effects are doubted
and their survival is also threatened.
The strategy to face this crisis will be to link academic fields, which
are now separated from each other. As the contents of human reasoning
are more or less the same, we need to extend the width of communication
by getting acquainted with the terms and methodology of different fields.
Just as a new culture blooms where separated cultures meet each other,
I envision the encounter of different academic fields would extend communication
as well as bring out new issues to study. Already in the field of contemporary
science, theories of chaos, fractal, complexity, and digital evolution
are raging physics, mathematics, chemistry, and biology and flowing into
the category of humanist sciences like economics, sociology, and politics,
changing our view of the world. Art and philosophy, which explore human
nature, should participate in this movement and raise their voices to
call for a change of our basis of thoughts which was founded on the logics
of capital, technology and power.
Many people will ask me how art can do that. One of the critical functions
of contemporary art is to provide a view of society. As art perceives
various phenomena happening now with a critical eye and gives an opinion,
it does not belong inside of society. Nobody wants to undermine the base
by removing stones from the floor he/she is standing on. That's why good
artists fail to get a favorable review in their lifetime. If artists are
accepted, it's because they are not so different from the existing artists
or they chose to compromise. They then excuse themselves later for their
behavior, or some radical artists end up destroying their own lives.
Although pure art may be criticized as being ineffective, the activity
of seemingly useless artists can bring more emotions and thoughts due
to the very ineffectiveness. The more distant these artists are from the
capital and power, the center of the society, the more independent attitude
they can secure to give useful advice to society. The distance between
the two may be called originality. Considering the spiritual role of art
that cannot be converted to exchange value between production and consumption,
we need to evaluate the contents and styles of an artist highly and try
to accept them as they are instead of asking the creator of unpopular
works of art to change for survival. Most of the constituents in society,
especially those who enjoy a comfortable life, would not like artists'
interference and criticism. Even if their advice may be useful, they would
not want to change but maintain the world as it is. Therefore, we need
to persuade them. The effort to persuade should be made by artists, but
also by those who appreciate art. I'm afraid the people who should take
the responsibility have disappeared or are too busy to do it.
It is absolutely necessary to listen to the rich thoughts that artists
provide and change us by interpreting and accepting the contemporary art
for the development of society. If a work of art is engaged in self-confession,
it should not be regarded as a personal problem of the artist. Success
or failure of an artist is a part of the outcomes of what kind of culture
the artist's society takes. If a society tends to continue accepting only
what is easy and comfortable, it will not develop toward any direction,
losing its growing points and eventually putting its life to an end. I
was thinking about this while I was piling up wooden sticks. Remembering
the pain on the individual dimension to be repeated for a long time of
downfall, I once again realized the importance of thinking about society.
For the past few years, I have based my work
on scientific thoughts. My interest in the laws of elements and relationships
which penetrate the outwardly revealed phenomena tempts me and my work
to the realm of science. Though I am a stranger to science, I read a handful
of books that introduce contemporary science and share scientific thoughts,
and I enjoy the opportunity to contemplate philosophically and to express
my ideas using works of art. I wish my audience could interpret my work
in their own way, and share and utilize their opinions. If producing and
promoting works of art has the same purpose as that of disseminating genes,
any dominant artistic concept or form of the present cannot be permanent
just as we, individual carriers of genes, do not last forever. What we
need is not change for something new itself. However, if the contents
of what an artist thinks are useful for this age, he or she needs to find
a way of extending that new form to fit the contents. The artist also
needs to develop a proper way of actively publicizing his or her work
to an audience. I prepared a symposium as a means of publicizing my idea.
I wanted to invite a few experts who appreciate my work and to have communication
with them. Then each participant will disseminate my idea. Even though
other issues may be discussed at the symposium, I hope this opportunity
works as an exemplary attempt to communicate with art.
If my work can broaden the confined realm of the art world consisting
of only a few people, I do not care whether my work is considered art
or not. I am sure that my work will remain as art with different contents
and form of expression, as long as I continue to strengthen my procedure
of contemplation. Then to extend the range of communication with my work
will be to expand the range of art.
This thought makes the meme that I never knew existed in my mind move
suddenly. Now I am setting forth on my journey to catch that meme.