To whom it may concern. This exhibition is a kind of letter to an unspecified recipient. The sense of drawing on the exhibition format to write a letter is an approach adopted to introduce a “one-man parasitic company” where the exhibition format would not be welcome: Min Guhong Manufacturing. The letter style is a form of deception; what matters is the introduction. Min Guhong Mfg. has been parasitizing the exhibition form to some extent since December 17, 2022. Primary Practice is a place (or printed surface) provided so that this parasitic stance can assume some minimal form at the conscious level. In that sense, the use of the “letter-writing form” is an expression of the intent to introduce the company to undefined subjects—as many recipients as possible.
Attitude and form
“Parasitism” is an attitude that Min Guhong Mfg. has adopted. As ever, parasitism has the effect of making the company seem larger at some point. The parasite takes on some suitable place under the fence, attaches to its host, and lays down roots; in those settings where the host’s movements and actions stand out, the company’s presence rises up alongside it. As with art, the strategy is one of expansion through a reliance on symbolic value rather than immediate profit. This may be described as a process of acquiring symbolic capital in order to establish a name through knowledge and recognition. But when it comes to sharing the host’s position and increasing the company’s value, not just any host will do. The size and image of the parasitized organization take on some importance. Mere size is not necessarily a good thing, and meaning alone doesn’t make ends meet. Viewed in terms of artistic language, the parasitism of Min Guhong Mfg. is a form of appropriation. Min sends business emails from his company to Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries (Dear Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries, 2020–). But he runs into difficulties with the letter’s main thrust—its narrative—and loses the plot as elaborations constantly intrude, taking up a quarter of the screen. Once we get past the clutter of the language, what remains are a rhythmic text on a screen that glows (a Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries trademark) before reaching the recipient and an “adequate” introduction to the company, achieved through a process of constant elaboration and deferral. Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries makes for as good a host as the position it holds in the artistic world. The same method is carried over into a sponsorship letter sent to Coca-Cola Korea (Dear Coca-Cola Korea, 2022–). Fortunately enough, the rejection received from the target solicited for a business venture (or the letter that has lost sight of its aim) has the effect of making the company’s narrative seem even more dramatic. The status is subverted, and the symbol is altered toward a different meaning and value.
Questioning and negating
Min Guhong Mfg. is a rare example in how often it asks questions. The company assembles questions from all around, along with texts and answers posed to the company itself, and lays them out on the page (Frequently Asked Questions, 2022 ver.). The conclusions of this mass of text—the questions without context, the somewhat posturing responses, the occasional use of other people’s words to refer to the company—all return compulsively to “Min Guhong Manufacturing.” This clearly shows how the self-reflective character of Min Guhong Mfg. and all its activities center on introducing the company. At times, the questions are directed outside the company. The queries posed endlessly through Instagram stories seem pointless and difficult to answer (…the Reason?, 2022). Fascinatingly, as the company’s questions treat everyday moments that are occasionally encountered in life as if they were “events,” the unknown viewer focuses on them as though they must be answered—yet in the end, they reach the point of a wondrous Zen riddle, where they are the ones asking themselves the reason. In chipping away at everyday expressions with gestures of affirmation, our social media have created an era of over-affirmation; within this climate, Min Guhong Mfg. strives over and over to negate. In introducing itself, the company mentions only what it “doesn’t do” rather than what it “does” (Company Introduction, 2015). The approach of defining oneself solely in terms of what one doesn’t do makes it impossible to approach that subject; the result is a repeated sliding away from a clear definition of the company. Yet this gesture also makes it possible to escape a realm of unitary rules and order surrounding the company. In a sense, the questioning and principles of negation that give rise to the difference and deferral also help us to understand aspects of the world. It is an approach of picking at the things we think simply “ought” to be, pausing in a fast-turning world to focus the perspective on what others pay no mind to. The result brings us face-to-face with an order to the world that is constantly bobbing up and down over the surface of phenomena—as though drawn into a form of play with différance.
Gallery space and digital display
The web is the basic setting for Min Guhong Mfg.’s activity. Encompassing everything from website creation to software development, design, and editing, most of the company’s activities are structured around the limitless connective possibilities in the vast world that online environments provide. A freedom that transcends time and space alternates between the practical and fantastic, in what generally leads into the construction of some kind of website. Along these lines, the first space assigned to Min Guhong Mfg. is the digital device display. The specifications of these displays represent a surface for texts whose frames are constantly being varied. The company adopts a system that allows information to be supplied effectively to meet different specifications, from mobile devices to computers, with times and depths designed as images, videos, and texts are arranged in defined sequences and orders. Depending on the specifications and formats of the main device or online platform, these might be constructed into flat, one-dimensional forms or into leveled spaces. But while the online environment is infinite, it also faces certain physical constraints based on the type of digital display or program. Fortunately, there are link- and search-based connections to the next information, which allow us to imagine limitless routes. But the pre-designed structure does not display the world outside the screen from the start, so that we can only select a portion of the information from within the iceberg’s tip. In this way, the images and information are altered and the method and conditions of their exposure are governed according to the given rules. This makes them similar to the structure of the exhibition (gallery), as represented by the so-called “white cube.” From the basic conditions of the gallery (the walls where the artwork hangs and the lighting that illuminates it) to the exaggerated installations that visualize the desire to pin the exhibition down in the realm of the visible, the perspective gradually narrows, the gaze not imagining but resting on the immediate represented surface. As if to mock these robust physical structures, Min Guhong Mfg. imagines instead an escape by way of digital devices. In the Wi-Fi sharing device (Regardless of Space, 2022), the wireless internet IDs “from anywhere” and “regardless of space” represent a space that is not constrained by space, one that seeks to exist anywhere and everywhere—an accessible space that exists outside of physical systems. Just as the exhibition format weaves a nonlinear narrative while it alternates and connects among the different images, Min Guhong Mfg. presents itself as a company that can exist everywhere: an open document beyond closed space.
Medium and methods
For Min Guhong Mfg., medium is text, while editing is both a unique creative methodology and linguistic grammar. Depending on the clients’ demands, the company often performs different roles: from designer to program developer and editor. As a company that is actually capable of taking on customized duties for different situations and conditions, it always leaves open various professional possibilities besides these. In To Whom It May Concern, it assumes the role of editor. Min Guhong Mfg. takes the exhibition (gallery) as a book, page, or website to be edited. When it comes to bringing in an audience through the use of letters, it is important for the composition to take welcoming and services into account. In that sense, it is essential to have editing techniques that reflect user convenience. A decision has to be made on which of the various items produced to date should be used for content, and for all forms, the attainment of certain functions and goals must take precedence over the sense of aesthetic satisfaction with the outward appearance. This is to say nothing of a sense for the text: the typeface and size decisions, the layout when it appears on a page or in video, and the resulting visibility and readability must all be carefully considered. Displaying these painstakingly selected items is like another form of editing. As the chosen content is transported to an individual device or frame, where it is laid out and arranged in space, a kind of narrative is imagined. Ordinarily, content can be emphasized in a simple way by having equal margins on either side, with the items placed along the center line. After this linear arrangement, it is re-mixed, scrambling the logical narrative, while the spaces between the lines are adjusted for a sense that precedes linguistic interpretation. Editing becomes like a form of curating. It involves coordination and adjustment—sometimes friendly, other times discomforting. Rather than fixating on individual written characters, this involves forms as masses on the page and video images that generate a sense of rhythm. Through this labor on the customer’s part, the text helps them reach a realm of imagination: another question.
As I mentioned before, this exhibition is an affectionate letter sent To You (2022 ver.). Min Guhong Mfg. has assumed a posture of welcoming whomever it may concern at the entrance (To Whom ‘To Whom It May Concern’ May Concern, 2022), placed suspicious fruit at the door as a cordial welcome to some picky customer (viewer) who is visiting in reply to their letter (In Consideration of the Picky Customer, 2022 ver.), and even turned on some lively background music (Whenever and Wherever You Need a DJ, 2018). It has kindly provided an enlarged listing of the operating hours (Operating Hours, 2022 ver.) and hung a smaller clock on the wall so that the visiting customer can rest easy spending their time in the place of business (Since Numbers Aren’t All That Important, 2022 ver.). It has even offered a Your Signature Randomly Generated by a Random Signature Generation (2022) service on the way out in the hopes that the visitors might become interested future customers. The company eagerly hopes that those who took the trouble to answer the letter and visit can imagine the infinite things that exist between “nothing” and “anything.”
Participating artist : Min Guhong Manufacturinng
Curated by KIM Sung woo
Text by KIM Sung woo
Design by KANG Joosung
Installation technician : Mujindongsa
Photo by CJY ART STUDIO (CHO Junyong)