Publisher Total Museum Press Pyungchang 32gil 10, Jongno-gu, Seoul Korea (03004) Tel. 82-2-379-7037 firstname.lastname@example.org Director Jooneui Noh Editor in Chief Nathalie Boseul Shin, Yoon Jeong Koh Coordinator Taeseong Yi Designer Heiin Son Sponsor Arts Council Korea Date of Publication 2018.01 ÂŠ Author and artist The reproduction of the contents of this magazine in whole or in part without written permission if prohibited.
K.NOTe #42 Pictureless Picturebook: Thinking Which Rejects Thinking, Particular Effects from Rejecting the Particular 1
1 Theodor Adorno, Minima Moralia: Reflections from Damaged Life (Radical Thinkers), (Verso, 2006)
Lee Soohyun Independent curator 1 The Moojin Brothers’ videos are characterized by plain narration and a screen composition based on a narrative structure that mixes ideological fiction with mundane reality. They recall the mockumentary approach – perhaps because their works are the result of combining their interpretations of everything they have experienced in society, and also because they reflect the artists’ practical narrative of capturing stories from society. The combination of ideological fiction and objective reality in the videos embodies a journey of seeking out the key determinants for the conditions of living. The abstractions and riddle-like texts that fill the screen come across like an interesting fable, but they also have a side that illustrates the uniform and categorized nature of society, giving the viewer an unsettling sense of loss. This is because the relationships that should naturally form between people in society become distorted and individualized when combined with an unidentifiable social structure. Acutely perceiving this reality, the Moojin Brothers use realistic stories of fiction and the foreign and familiar elements within them to change our perspective. Adorno stated that “the value of a thought depends on its continued
2 Judith Butler, Giving an Account of Oneself (New York: Fordham University Press, 2005)
familiarity and how well you can distance yourself from it.” 2 The Moojin Brothers record the process of mixing and rebuilding the frames of social conditions in order to carry Adornian thought to its conclusion. This is the beginning of a process of seeking out diverse discussions on the meaning of life today.
2 Who are you, and how can you be categorized? With what do your utterances coincide?… Just as our very right to existence crumbled when you kept making us question our own value, I believe that the best thing people can do is shut their mouths and internalize. 3 Mumming Age recalls a workspace where one can sense a master
3 Félix Guattari & Suely Rolnik, Micropolitiques, (EMPECHEURS DE PENSER EN ROND; Sciences humaines edition , 2007)
craftsman’s hands at work.Inside that space, you may meet “Woman #1902,” who is quietly focused on her work. It is unclear exactly what she is. Purely from her handling of machinery and the movements of her hands in making things, she resembles a worker. On the other hand, the way in which the items she makes are connected to surround her body suggests how the irrational structures of reality continue in a cycle. This reflects a reality in which labor, which emerged as a means for living a humane life, is gradually being stripped of humanity. Woman #1902 has fallen into the snare of the capitalistic order without explaining who or what she is. The Moojin Brothers expand on this social structure through the narrative of Scripture of the wind. Scripture of the wind shows creatures trying to preserve something sacred, in a workspace that appears to contain no warmth or exits. The code of behaviour that the two brothers follow as they work with their father seems to be intrinsic to a certain belief, providing a realistic demonstration of how people are unable to hold onto their idealistic and fictional beliefs, ultimately living like convicted criminals who can never be free. The self does not exist as a human with individual desires, but instead in terms of someone’s role or position. A “Myrmecoleon,” which has the body of an ant and the head of a lion, appears as a creature that cannot be placed into any hierarchy. The Myrmecoleon does not belong with the ants or with the lions, and ends up dying without ever determining its identity. What fate would have befallen the Myrmecoleon had it been able to live completely as its own thing without being placed into a role? This represents the fear that in a reality where everything is categorized, a truly unique individual cannot survive. 5
Scripture of the wind
The creatures that appear in Mumming Age and Scenery speak to a reality in which we are forced to live standardized lives in accordance with set rules. Their world they inhabit embodies a world of restrictions, where the gaze of others and hegemonic identity become internalized. 3 The family depicted in Soaring in transition spans several generations, with a daughter-in-law who is suffering because of her mother-in-law, a sick wife, and a husband who is forced to carry all of his family’s baggage. The family, which is supposed as a shield against deprivation, is instead ravaged by violence and poverty. Thus even the family unit begins to lose its humanity due to greed and the standardization of values. In the midst of this process, the serpent-child “Gua” (taking the first syllables from the Korean words gureongi [serpent] and ai [child]) is born. The mythical and personified creatures such as the serpent, the serpent-child, and the “earth bird” are a metaphorical representation of a conflicted reality. They are losers who cannot live up to their real-world identity, as well as a self-portrait of modern people who have been marginalized by capitalism and rationality. While reflecting on the destruction wrought by humans who have objectified, fragmented, and destroyed nature because of their belief they can dominate everything, this work shows us that all they have attained means nothing at all in the end. The self, which has already been eroded by customs and homogeneity, becomes even further diminished in an environment of poverty and development. “Grandma Eetto eetto” in The Heap is a hopeful presence fighting against a devastated reality. Grandma Eetto eetto is represented as a mechanism of communication that governs and connects new life in a world where communities have collapsed. She is like a martial arts expert, who exists apart from the universality of life and gives meaning to that which has been destroyed, while also representing a mother figure who can accept our life for what it 8
truly is. Seeking to find and rebuild things amongst the rubble and share them with others, she shows us the reproductive structure as it has established itself within the framework of capitalism. However, the meaning of these actions does not reflect a realistic mechanism; it simply follows the positive feedback principles of nature. It is representation as resistance to actions that seek to build instead of produce, to construct rather than develop, before a reality that has been laid waste to by capital. 4 Slavoj Žižek has said that our thoughts have been programmed inside a fixed, homogenous system. For this reason, he recommends breaking the very mold of the world we are given. He believes that the best way to overthrow our current identity is by changing our thoughts and behavior.4 Through a character called M, the Moojin Brothers suggest a practical method of critiquing universal identity. In The Last Sentence, M is the main character, a figure who cleans a dark underground tunnel. He represents the individuals that capitalism
4 Slavoj Žižek, The Sublime Object of Ideology, (Verso, 2006)
has created. M plays his part well, having been led to believe slogans such as “enjoy what you cannot avoid” and “youth is suffering.” However, he is suddenly transported to a mysterious place after an accident and discovers a new space. At that moment, everything becomes clear to him: that lives exist outside of his own, and that all of his actions to that point were merely following the dictates of capitalism. After learning the truth about reality and examining a mazelike map, he departs down another dark path. This cannot be interpreted as a simple story of discovering society’s contradictions and choosing to leave. Within repeated social conditions, no practical action holds any meaning. In other words, this means that in a homogenous system, countless differing discourses will be recaptured within that system. In spite of this, M turns towards another realm of darkness, thereby hinting that the current system needs to be overturned. M’s actions and the dark location he finds 9
himself in create an uneasy feeling. However, the Moojin Brothers guide our eyes and thoughts in a way that allows us to find the mechanism that produces this feeling of unease. And on that dark path, we come face to face with Odradek. The fictional Odradek is like a belief that cannot be grasped, an unresolved answer. It is a journey of finding a Platonic ideal of life, depicting our obsession with the thought that we should always be following something. It limns a subconscious world imposed by some thing or another, and reveals that what we view as real life is really just empty fiction. However, alongside the possibility that Odradek cannot be grasped, this can also be interpreted as an invitation to look at a reality that is filled with differences and diversity. M disappearing into the darkness and the presence of Odradek are like hints of a deep yearning to look at reality from a different perspective. 5 The Moojin Brothers take an artistic gaze that originates from within and turn it toward the external to observe communities. The field of M is a work of public art that is designed to examine the identity of communities, encouraging the viewer to find the self that has become lost in social norms. This is not a mechanism to force people to make choices for the purposes of the Moojin Brothersâ€™ artistic practice; it is positioned with the intention of acknowledging and sharing different viewpoints. It aims to use the voices of themselves and others to hear the exploitative and repressive power that capitalism commands, while transporting that intent into public spaces so that it can be carried forward around the world. These voices carry important meaning as they represent an act of resistance in the pursuit of a better life. As Slavoj Ĺ˝iĹžek stated, if we are already part of an ideology, then we need to change ourselves in order to resist it.5 In this context, the role of The field of M is to show that the value of life does not lie in the logic of society or hegemonic identity, but in the acknowledgment 10
of differences and encounters with people who have different experiences. We do not need power or authority to change the uncomfortable aspects of society. The Moojin Brothers remind us that we can create stable social systems through the process of expanding our awareness of both ourselves and others. 6 We currently live in a society where everything is designed to move quickly. This speed ignores the thoughts and observations that lie deep within us, which means there is a desperate need for artists who understand and offer advice on the social context. In this sense, the artistic gaze of the Moojin Brothers, with its perception of irrational social structures, holds great meaning. The broader context of their videos tacitly reflects the reality we live in, and the characters and objects that appear within are representations of people who do not fit neatly in social categories. The endless search for fragmented wounds from a foundation in the universality of life represents the Moojin Brothersâ€™ form of practice and their attempt to take the measure of our social context. They give names to what cannot exist and impart different meanings, transforming and reconfiguring familiar things. The surreal creations that result from this are transformed into thoughts of resistance. We can relate this back to the â€œvalue of thoughtâ€? that Adorno spoke of. This echoes the role of the artist in shedding light on power structures that undermine our ability to think critically. From this standpoint, it is clear what the Moojin Brothers seek to do through their art. The unrealistic characters and narrative structure that urge us to reject everyday thinking may be taken as an alternative analysis toward a new change in perception, and as a discourse for diagnosing the presentness of the present.
The last sentence
Soaring in transition
The Heap 1channel,black and white, 8'56'', 2015
Moojin Brothers Moojin Brothers is a media artist group that consists of Mujin Jung, Hyoyoung Jung, and Youngdon Jung. They studied creative writing, sculpture and photography respectively. They capture strange and eccentric senses and images from stories of people around them, and highlight the new and unfamiliar aspects in our lives. The reconstruct the lives of ordinary people like laborers, writers and youth in various artistic ways and capture various artistic meanings from them. Also, they develop myths or legends from deep inside our lives, historical exploration of time and space and reinterpretation of classical text into film language.
Lee Soo-hyun Lee Soo-hyun has worked as a curator and received her Ph.D. from Dongduk Women's University. She served as curator at the i-Gong Alternative Visual Culture Factory, where she planned a variety of visual exhibitions (2012â€“2015), and as exhibition curator for the Seoul International New Media Festival. She currently works as a freelance writer and exhibition planner.
20 Mar, 2018