Photographers see things with their eyes and then through the camera lens. Photographs of these things are taken and some are chosen at the discretion of the artist to present to the public. This is the general process of the exhibition of photographs. The large-scale photographs now catching on find their aesthetic legitimacy in description of subtle details that escape the eye, huge frames that cannot be seen in their entirety in a single glance and the plural existence of a homogeneous viewpoint in a frame which is impossible via human eyes. This inevitably involves the relative reduction of the act of ‘seeing things’, i.e., the beginning of the photograph. Indeed, human eyes (or the gaze of a photographer) see objects and the world that exist before the mechanical eyes of the camera. It seems that this could be an indicator to provide a new aesthetic orientation to the present trend of seemingly ubiquitous scale-up of photographs.
To Discover and Look at Each Other
Yum Joongho’s photographs are the record of the moments when ‘I’ and a subject face each other, not that of the eye of the camera. In his previous solo exhibition, “Nouvelles Frontieres” (ONE AND J. Gallery, 2007), Yum ‘concealed’ 1) the photographs taken during his travels in many cities (Seoul, Paris, and Amsterdam) in various parts of the exhibition space. Even though the viewers find the pictures, they are unfamiliar ones which get away from the context of travel photos of particular places. No elements of cultural or spatial particularity are found in them. Only the objects which the artist looked at are to be there. In this way, Yum thrusts the eye of ‘(cultural or spatial) difference’ peculiar to travelers out of his photographs and places ‘the photographer’s eye’ occurring in the moment when he found the object. Even when was situated in different places and different cultural backgrounds, the artist maintained the very eye which he had obtained in the process of living his life. It is because it was he who continued his daily routine as the owner of his own life irrespective of the changes of culture and space. This exhibition is also placed in this context. The artist still looks around at what surrounds him as if going sightseeing (regardless of where he is), rambling about and collecting everyday images. His works may seem like a trivial story which he found in his humble daily life. What become the centerpiece in his photographs are disused things such as broken bricks scattered on the roadside, waste dumped in the corner of a construction site, some unknown content put inside a cardboard box bound with tape (or black vinyl) and thrown in the middle of the road, a cement prop dropped by a tree, a sandbag spilling its content, torn vinyl wrap etc. These objects are not fixed in one photograph but reappear to build a story of their own (the narrator of which is, of course, the photographer himself). A small story heard in each photograph is turn into a special one by the artist who presents an object of the same (or similar) context again in a different picture. The broken bricks placed on an iron plate look like a work of Lee U-Fan and are also used as a support for a washbowl. The disemboweled sand bags serve as a footing for a signboard or gather by twos and threes in a corner of the road. In this way, the reappearance of objects occurs throughout his works, filling the blank space between photographs. And the emotional attitude formed in this process constructs a special story which unites all the works of the exhibition. 2)
Now, the story is made into a single book. In the exhibition room, there lies a book instead of photographs put in slick frames and illuminated by brilliant lights. A photography book refers to a sequential collection of individual photographs which are chosen by a photographer at his or her discretion. However, in this show, it enters the exhibition space and becomes itself a ‘work of art’ in the limelight. Each photograph is assigned a page of the book one after another and settled down in it. Thus, this exhibition has a structure where ‘works of art (photographs)’ lie in a ‘work of art( the photography book)’ or a ‘work of art (the photography book)’ is outside ‘works of art (photographs).’ Then there arises the question: why not ‘photographs’ but a ‘photography book’? When photographs are put on a photography book in a sequential way, their order is irreversibly fixed and thereby each one of the former is inevitably made to be considered only in the relation to the latter. 3) In this exhibition, Yum does not give titles but serial numbers to his works. (If there is any photograph left out from the book, the number given to it is meaningless.) As a result, the photographs by Yum work as a part of a whole not with individuality. The sequential arrangement of a photography book provides the audience with the rhythm of the exhibition itself as if controlling the audience’s movement. Nevertheless, when the audience actually visit the exhibition room, they encounter the photographs not in a sequential but in an accidental way. 4) They can find a story forming itself while they follow the images presented by the artist but it matters little whether they are in sympathy with it. Yum had already asked them to create the rhythm of the exhibition by moving and looking for themselves rather than merely to see the photographs presented before them in “Nouvelles Frontieres”. In this new exhibition, he also encourages them to create their own story by offering the fragments (photographs) within a system with a structure. That could be a story of the photographer and also be an entirely different one of an individual viewer. What kind of story did you make up from the photographs by Yum?