1. When Worldly Manifolds Meet Human Perception
〈Aportrait〉 (2017) begins with measuring. PARC Rahm becomes a matter that can be converted into quantifiable figures like height, weight, shoe size, heart rate, number of breaths, and temperature. Via certain calculation procedures, these numbers are then turned into the widths of each brush and the lengths of each stroke distributed evenly across the rectangular sections on the canvas. The resulting painting is like the product of a machine or the output value of software’s computations. Such a function-like operation of the painting is one of the artist’s methodologies found since Magnetic Lasso Survey (2012). In this work, she uses the ‘magnetic lasso’ tool in Photoshop (which creates selections by automatically clinging to the edges of contrasting pixels) to derive various forms from the digital images she collected on the internet. The input data, the rules to process such inputs, and the resulting values of the computation close off the beginning and the end of each work (aside from a certain margin of error resulting from random selections).
At this point, the painting serves as an interface for abstracting what goes on underneath the surface, i.e. the forms placed on unclear boundaries, and converting them into sortable objects. As the subject of the ‘A-portrait’ (as in anti-portrait), ‘PARC Rahm’ is a being in persistent motion, a creature that is physical yet emotional, passive yet active, independent yet relational. However, the medium of painting requires that such complex subjects are manifested in a still manner, albeit tentatively so. This, in turn, necessitates a series of extractions and computational processes. It is no coincidence that several artists including she began applying rather random yet stern rules in these processes, as they came to reconsider how to approach paintings in the context of the visual arts field dominated by the advent of image-editing software and deluge of digital images in the past few years. Granted, artists like she have been suspected of trying to play the game with the surface of the painting itself instead of relying on representation or designation, since their “rule-elicited-painting” imparts the authority of pure rule-making solely to the artist. However, in her case, it is important to note that she saw paintings as a sort of a liquid crystal screen wherein calculations can continue to take place and project across multiple iterations, instead of emphasizing the rules applied therein. Paintings are things that are visible to the eye. Specifically, a painting is a flat-screen coated with a thin layer of paint. However, there are many calculations embedded beneath the visible surface. Of course, such difference only becomes noticeable when the painting is fully activated. How then do the artist’s flat screens operate? How can the reductive and decisive paintings negotiate with what lies beyond the domain of the visible?
2. Art of Superimposition and Activation
“Drawing Exercise draws what’s invisible, intangible, yet drawable.”
In 〈Drawing Exercise〉(2014~2016), the artist expresses what she sought to achieve in the work as stated above. As implied by this declaration, her drawing exercise traverses across and between all directions with the two variables of visibility and tangibility, i.e. what is visible and invisible, and what is tangible and intangible. In 〈3rd Drawing Exercise〉 (2015), a voice directs the amphitheater in front. Imaginary points are placed on several vertices along the stage’s center and edges. These points are then connected to form segments, which in turn spin around certain axes. This process continues to accrue trajectories, marking a moment of a certain invisible and intangible creation. However, this mental process or the operation of software in her mind, or perhaps an imaginative activity within a ‘virtual reality,’ does not operate like meditation at all. Unlike the efforts to train oneself to find a paradise within, drawing exercises take place in designated locations. They place invisible shapes atop the theater space that falls within the visual domain (or the visualization of the theater as allowable within the threshold of visibility). The invisible creates new sections for the visible, while the visible enhances the resolution of the invisible. Meanwhile, the complimentary jawbreaker keeps rolling around in the mouth..
Such ‘exercise’ of stacking the visible and the invisible on each other corresponds with the senses synchronized with various devices. It is likely no coincidence that 〈Call〉 (2017) featured a smartphone screen after the three drawing exercises. Evenly spaced out, the ten number keys hold their ground. Fingers swipe over the keys, touching the liquid crystal screen. The points of contact are connected to reveal straight lines and geometric shapes, which are rolled around and stacked atop other backgrounds. The invisible algorithm, the light that shines through the liquid crystal screen, the fingers touching the screen, the forms drawn in one’s mind based on the movement of the fingers, the eyeball that rolls around endlessly as it scans the space, and the jawbreaker spinning on the tongue. The smartphone’s screen serves as the medium for the groping of the visible, the invisible, the tangible, and the intangible.
Let us return to the 〈Aportrai〉t. It hangs rather like a smartphone screen. Try following the strokes in each box. Lick it from top to bottom, left to right, or the other way around. The assembly of the neatly organized strokes is the resulting value of certain computations and serves as the instructions for movement. The motion of the eyes, additional computations, and the operation of the fantasy software re-positions the strokes as the forms that exist only in their potential states begin to rear their heads.
The artist’s paintings do not simply exist as the resulting values of a series of algorithms but are rather the medium wherein the computations are embedded. They are a rubric that orders the viewers to roll their eyes around and activate their internal software to compose forms. In other words, her paintings exist as a compressed file extension containing the operating system that quantifies the unmeasured sundries, a score that evokes invisible forms, and the performance of rolling the eyes around to create forms. The entirety of it all or the painting-performance composite exists like the smartphone screen, which goes back and forth from the domain within and beyond our reach of perception as the medium between such domains.
The artist says that she strives to create “painterly symbolic forms that can employ today’s space-time wherein the virtual and the real meet.” What sort of ‘symbolic form’ do paintings make in their capacity as the interface between the visibly detectable and what lies beyond the visible?
Erwin Panofsky investigated the perspective of classical angles that operate completely differently than the perspective employed in modern surfaces. He argued that the differences in the perspectives of each era are not a matter of value judgment, but still provide the “impetus for Stil (style).”1) Perspective is an effect that mediates the mind and emotions, i.e. the sensible (as in perceptible by the sense) and the non-sensible (imperceptible); it is a symbolic form already internalized in each era. Therefore, the perspective of each era is directly related to the question of under which pretext the world at the time should be encountered. Meanwhile, Albrecht Dürer strove to portray the world on the surface in the most thorough, empirical and verified ways. In order to precisely measure the distance between an object and the eyes gazing upon the object, he would draw a straight line as a guide for the line of sight and set up a gridded plane between them. This is the surest way to perceive the real world in the most accurate way, as the round human eyes cannot see with full accuracy. In contrast, the artist’s recent works suggest a retrospective calculation of this type of perspective, i.e. the operation to transfer the uncapturable world onto a consistent plane. Stand in front of Je T’(2019), a color field that seems to be an extraction of a series of the present tense; or Pansy (2019), an image that bears rectangles self-reduced to consistent proportions as part of the quadrant. What does one see? Perhaps one will see the evenly laid out arrays of spreadsheet cells, ready to take in a new formula. Or the form of the matrices that provided the basis for computer engineering. One may then see the perspective of today’s era, wherein computation equals analysis, and a mere touch of the screen leads directly to input.
1)Erwin Panofsky, Perspective as Symbolic Form (B-Books, 2014), trans. Cheol-min Shim, p. 27.
YU Jiwon is a curator, writer and translator based in Seoul. She has co-curated YourSearch: On-demand Research Service (Doosan Gallery Seoul, Seoul, 2018) which delves into how platform capitalism has rearranged labor conditions and communication practices. She is working on an ongoing web-based research project ‘notyourtypicalnarcissism.com’ on female selfpresentation in the age of social media. Through a number of pseudonyms, she attempts to work her way through topics of art, marketing, and popular culture in writing. Currently, she is working as an assistant curator for Seoul Mediacity Biennale 2020.