Guest Main Korean English
Summing up the Symposium
I'm out to catch the meme

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 was right.
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 a show-off?
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 else.
*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.