Focus on Exhibition
Exhibition by Duo Photo Artists Each Representing Korea and Germany
In 2008, two photo artists who have lived in Korea and Germany, two different regions far from each other on this planet, meet each other. They are Erasmus Schroeter from Germany and Ahn Se-gwon from Korea. They have it in common that they press their shutters incessantly towards the objects abandoned or the spaces lost because they are out of use in our human history and society. If we can feel a common sentiment between them who have lived quite different life of time and space, what is it on earth? Although speed and process have been different, isn't it derived from the common historical sentiment involving national division and modernization? Their works stimulate us to reflect on history, polity and society of each nation: Korea and Germany. Upon reviewing their works, we can be aware that art is the company of life and time and that history, society and polity are the strongest power of engine stimulating the art. In 2008, we who have forgotten about our past will meet the two artists who grasp the past not to lose it. The meeting signifies the pain of the time as well as its pleasure.
'Atlantis' One-Thousand-Character Story'
The lost Utopia, Atlantis. It was described by Plato for the first time. In the Utopia of civilization, it is said that instruments were flying already 9 thousand years ago, while the armors similar to our modern tanks as well as the electric power were used. Still, numerous explorers are travelling thousands of miles in search of the traces of Atlantis. As such, the legendary about Atlantis Continent and civilization has stimulated mankind's imagination for thousands of years.
The Atlantis citizens who had achieved a brilliant high-end civilization would be corrupted, while staging a war to conquer the world, and after all, they would be cursed by Gods. Thus, the continent itself would be sunken into underwater over a night. While man and woman were expelled from the Garden of Eden, a paradise symbolizing a perfect natural environment in a given state (datum), Atlantis made by men (factum) as a perfect artificial environment would fall down in a day all of a sudden. 'Downfall' and 'development' may have long co-existed as such like the two sides of coin or Janus.
Erasmus Schroeter and Ahn Se-gwon both of whom select the man-made artificial environment as their subjects tell us the same story. One talks in a macro-scopic way through the deserted bunkers connoting the war history of human civilization, and the other talks in a micro-scopic way through in-city buildings and architecture containing men's ordinary life and living…
The past which has disappeared or been deserted in the history with no revival in our present consciousness becomes a myth often. Like the bug trying to be awake during anesthesia, its intestines and excrements are revealed. Anatomized or dissolved cities are reminiscent of 'a simulated present,' all of a sudden.
To the two artists, light is a carrier of time and at the same time, a unit of speed.
Erasmus Schroeter gives a life to the concrete bunkers deserted but remaining as war relics by using some Expressionism colors created by light rendering, while removing the given spaces to make them 'placeless.' Ahn Se-gwon departs from the brilliant and intense lights of ordinary life to discover the buildings as organisms within the dim lights becoming gradually brighter to still keep the darkness, or sometimes, he finds out the present where past and future co-exist. Schroeter's bunkers and Ahn Se-gwon's Cheonggyue River and Wolgok-dong feature our man-made spaces and places plausibly in both terms of their Authentizitaet and Simulation.
According to Edward Ralph, 'if a variety of spaces should be given a meaning through men's temporal and cognitive experiences, they would form a sense of place.' So, authenticity of a place associated with its identity would confront placelessness of the place that has lost its authenticity. However, in our modern society characterized by the electronic media and digital reproduction dictated not by the paradigm of production but by that of distribution and communication, it might be meaningless to make a qualitative distinction between authenticity and placelessness of place, because we 'design and plan' certain places not for individuals but for the public and plan our world of life as parts of the network driven by an enormous environmental and social power. Today, we feel far less inconvenient for the 'landscape of placelessness' than the days when Ralph lived. In addition, placelessness evolves for itself.
Cheonggyue River, not given but made during Chosun dynasty would evolve not into a natural waterway but into an automobile route and then, has been recovered into a waterway. But it is long ago that its original functions and implications were lost. No, Cheonggyue River recovered in 2005 requires its past functions and implications no longer. The perfect man-made environment or the artificial Atlantis may have collapsed because men needed quite a different model for their life. Just as a Utopia is a placeless pace and at the same time, a ubiquitous place, so Schroeder's bunkers and Ahn Se-gown's Wolgok-dong and Cheonggyue River both allowing for co-existence between Authentizitaet and Simulation seem to be extremely realistic and romantic as well.