There is a white space. It is an empty space like a blank paper with nothing written on. It is simply a space which has the minimum physical function required to host an exhibition. We call this white empty space, a neutral place, or a white cube. Otherwise described as an ‘ideal state,’ this space free from intervention of external elements, had attempted to present the work in a pure and absolute state. It was invented with the slogan of ‘sanctity of a church, formality of a court of law, mystique of a laboratory,’ but it soon dissipated the viewers’ body, and coerced their experience to remain within a limited vision. Here, the viewer had to fragment one’s own existence through the artwork, and endure the process of recollecting such fragments of illusion. The white cube as today’s standard venue type for exhibitions has become a sort of ideology itself, even absorbing the meaning of the exhibited artwork into its space, with the pretext of neutrality.

Setting aside this physical condition and the discourse which gave birth to such, let’s imagine a literally neutral time and space where nothing has ever been. The state of having obtained no identity at all, which thus allows the space to grow from nonexistence to existence, is only a potentiality of capturing any kind of meaning since it had never been a place. While distancing itself from the physical condition of a pure white space, the moment the empty space places the language of ‘exhibition’ in the forefront, it becomes (perhaps from a romantic point of view) a (seemingly) special place. And exhibitions nowadays are transforming in various forms and meanings according to the change in our living manner and society.

Often we find institutionalized exhibitions tend to gather polyphonic works of different levels and bind them under a keyword. They prefer setting forth keywords that convey meanings intuitively, to a rich chord made of long sentences or poetic language. Sometimes they conclude the show with an introduction and short description rather than giving opposite opinions or questioning to reveal the operative principle of phenomena. A strong argument dealing with the superficial surface of phenomena could guide the theme with its clear and simple image, but it cannot construct the frame which creates multiple landscapes. One cannot dare to say which is right or wrong, but it is worthwhile to ponder on the margin of possibility arising from this aspect of exhibitions.

On the other hand, numerous exhibitions which produce spectacles accompanied by industrial capital nowadays, overwhelm the viewers’ eyes with their event-type format. However, since it is solely designed to stimulate the vision, fields of other senses that could have been invited to expand thoughts are erased or paralyzed. The precision of recomposed image focusing on sensory play with vision at the center may obtain the trust of the object. But at the same time, the current resolution which captures the view enforces the border of frame, and renders us insensitive to the existence beyond form. At some point, the images filling up our computer screens and the little screens in your palms became the origin of senses, and their narrative and meaning are removed. They embody a piece of artwork conferred with the volume of matter, and start to flood the realm of reality on impulse.

High resolution getting higher in its degree, technical progress allowing everything to be connected anywhere, digital environment having become the daily routine; these phenomena have made us transcend the physical distance and time limitation. But of course, such has simultaneously rendered the depth of existence shallow. The image lacking depth and thickness had confused our sense of time, and the annulled temperature of emotions makes our eyes stay focused on the fragments of scattered images on a cold transparent surface, or in an excessive mode. Instead of provoking intense experience and ideas in a specific space, it transforms everything into a simple level of swift momentary image.

To top this off, the pandemic did not let such shallowness of existence remain in the realm of image, and interrogated the existing systems and ordered them to change rapidly the previous conditions and surroundings. Such is how we came upon this stage of having to newly understand today’s exhibition system and the experience therein, and we even went through situations where the show had to briskly substitute the offline with an online form. The exhibition using online platform allowed liberal connection, overcoming the physical limitations, but at the same time, it also came with the passive situation where protocols or unilateral orders required for establishing the online system had to be followed.

This could be understood with the metaphor of the navigation system on which you passively depend to travel from A to B via a single route. Such navigation skill does not let you take detours, and routes other than the linear one cannot interfere at all. However, an exhibition is like a map. As a medium which can be handled, that is, flipped and turned according to the user’s intent, a map itself is an image. From the perspective of cartography, one can imagine subverting the existing order by newly setting the center and its periphery according to different purposes, by editing proportion and scale. Depending on the set context, a new topography which reveals the society’s movement under the phenomenon is rendered possible, and we can observe a slice of the macroscopic world which moves by political structure and principle. Therefore, as in cartography and how we use maps, the time of exhibition is the time for an intact subject. Hence a navigation system which prohibits the listener to opine differently from the talker, or does not allow the user to stop the narrative for a while and develop one’s own time and space, is not what an exhibition is about. An exhibition is about the free movement within the frame of map, but also about the capacity of welcoming at times, the opportunity of getting lost in a labyrinthine road.

One can also compare the exhibition with active conversation and questioning format. An exhibition invites a specific theme in the form of time and space, via the language of the artwork, and expands onto a temporal narrative on the platform of discourse. The creators and viewers who intervene during the exhibition, or before/after it, add the richness of meaning amid the chains of conversations ornated with questions. The temperature and breaths shared in the venue slowly fill the empty spaces remaining between the images. This is not a platform of reconfirming what is already known. It rather encourages you to doubt what you have already learned and to see differently. And its object of thought includes the dynamics which is accepted as knowledge, the relation between such knowledge and power. It reconsiders the origin of form invented since the history of reason and knowledge, searches the network of relations that the object has with the outer world, and contemplates the speechless beings during the process. The exhibition adopts as the proposition for our common conversation, the current status quo that we face while criss-crossing between the already written history and unofficial personal narrative, system and site, contemporary and now, here.

On the formal foundation of ‘exhibition,’ 《MANUAL》 distances itself from the strategy of spectacle which depends on automated technology or paralyzes our eyes and ears. As the ambiguous word ‘manual’ means ‘physical labor, or relating to the hands’ or ‘a handbook of instructions,’ this exhibition imagines itself as a free state in time and space based on the corporal senses and autonomous/active thoughts. So let’s observe some relevant conditions at this point of understanding the path from work to exhibition, or the opposite direction, from exhibition to work.

RohwaJeong focuses on the (im)possibility of translation of art. The letter and text which operates as image, and art as a text-operated sign in the exhibition, the interrelation between them cannot be interpreted, and so they entice the viewer onto the vast horizon of interpretation. The artist leaves ajar the door of interpretation by a pair of work. One is sentences that do not correctly keep the orthography, and another is only punctuation marks without any sentences, resulting in becoming rhythmical drawings. In here, ‘translation’ is a method of approach to discover the multi-layered meanings of art itself, as well as a possibility that other people’s unique interpretation could add. <(e)merge> displays a puzzle of image-text with a playful gesture in order to explore the mechanism of how meanings of art are generated. For a more active goal, it expects to reach another level of meanings beyond superficial level of image. RohwaJeong’s work which begins with questioning the internal logic of art visualizes the boundary of meaning and meaninglessness, volunteering to become a ‘prop’ which helps operate HONG Seung-Hye’s video work via the material of their work – an electric cable.

Hong imagines some kind of stage, small talking with others and a sculpture couple. First, the sculpture in the shape of humans are composed with the simplest units; the head, the body, arms and legs. They move between ‘the viewer’ and objects which ‘volunteer’ to be viewers, while they question the status of the viewer who is the subject of another meaning being attached. That is, their (seemingly) active role is to look at the viewers who visit the venue for the sake of being a ‘viewer,’ but they may well be passive subjects who would be deconstructed and dismantled by the viewer. Therefore, (2022) goes to and fro between ‘passive’ and ‘active,’ becoming the unit of vitalizing the active act and mode between perspective and practice. The deconstructed body(sculpture) may be reconstructed/reestablished anytime, and it keeps on asking new questions in the dialectic structure, creating new time and space, new worlds. On the other hand, (2022) which is projected deep into the inner corner of the venue is an instruction to the viewer. As a gesture of dissolution going beyond the language barrier, refusing to remain in the realm of fixed meaning, the text orders you to move and then disperses. Minae Kim’s expands itself as a shadow on the wall, guiding us to a new level of time and space. Perhaps, it is a sort of spell cast in order to approach the rhetoric of the modern world’s so-called community, to imagine the small stage and even the cosmos which embraces you and me, us.

Minae Kim who had previously worked on history of places, presented works that evoke empirical narratives based on the physical structure of space, currently imagines her works as not depending on any space to the contrary. Her sculptures that display outstanding ‘decorativeness’ literally ‘decorate’ the space with the impeccable form of images that are recognizable right away, and accomplish a rather smooth-finish aesthetics. Instead of appropriating the context of historical, cultural, psychological level in the name of site-specificity, Kim’s sculptures set forth clearly discernable images and superficial/visual sensations, trying to be in harmony with its environment, based on the logic of ‘nowness,’ since the value of decoration is achieved through contemporary taste. This even seems like an empty gesture of a monument which tries to control and mediate a given situation, escaping from the history of sculpture which had visualized immaterial values into a dramatized image. However, they let the light penetrate through their translucent material and reflect other works on their body. This means they have no choice but to be directed again toward the relation of cooperation between object and space. And the works with which the artist had attempted to be the reference of narrative themselves, have scattered into a part of the space. So in the process, the attempt is more of evolving into the method of constantly accumulating new narratives.

The gap between image and text which cannot be narrowed completely(RohwaJeong) operates the light source by a physical -method of providing power supply- form(Seung-hye Hong), and the light unveils the sense of emptiness of the object that reveals its existence in the void(Minae Kim) and expands itself onto a level beyond image. The individual works of this exhibition are in themselves the totality of meaning and the device evoking the continuity of the fragmented images. The exhibition introduces active images in order to approach the realm beyond reproduced external image, or guides us to view between the images all blended into each other. It aims to gather inner logic, and at the same time it self-divides to expand the time and space, and to stand here and now to renter time and space 3-dimensional.

Where has today’s exhibitions arrived? The term ‘exhibition’ lives on, but its features are updated endlessly to make further progress. 《MANUAL》 enables us to manually sense the exhibition which operates by the imaginary manual, and requires the viewer to become ‘active’ in weaving the fragmented images into a narrative by oneself, instead of ‘passively’ following the given rules. Beginning from the environment and condition of the exhibition, the individual viewer experiences and imagines multiple sets of time and landscape from a single show, not limited to the physical condition of the venue. This is the expectation of active thought process of the subject enabled by connection and chain of images that compose the exhibition. It is also a reflection on the time and space called exhibition itself that allowed all such operations. It is not redundant to emphasize again, an exhibition expects itself to be an active time spent by the sound subject. This is about sharing diverse experience and knowledge, while being open to an almost infinite horizon.


Participating artists : KIM Minae, RohwaJeong, HONG Seung-Hye
Curated by KIM Sung woo
Text by KIM Sung woo
Design by KANG Joosung
Installation technician : Nalsea
Photo by CJY ART STUDIO (CHO Junyong)

Related Collaborator(s)