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K.NOTe no.8

Bang & Lee

Total Museum of Contemporary Art Publisher

Nathalie Boseul SHIN Editor-in-chief

 Juri CHO Editor

Daeil KIM Designer

September 2014 Date of publication

Š reproduction of the contents of this magazine in whole or in part without written permission is prohibited.

Cover image

Elephant in the living room, 2013 Monitor, optical fiber, projection, video mosaic, sound, neon, LED, halogen, video camera, carpet, furniture, metal, mixed-media Dimensions variable

K.NOTe no.8

Bang & Lee

Bang & Lee Werkbund 2031 Outside of the Matrix Bang & Lee are Jayoung Bang and Yunjun Lee, whose work combines art, design, and research. Their projects are based on the link between art and other cultural practices. Mainly focusing on installation art such as interactive media with performance, kinetic light sculptures in motion along with sound, tangible ceramic instruments, assemblage and stage. The collective conducts an experiment on data processing of variable screenplay, computer-generated montage, and real-time video mosaic. Often concerned with the theme of absurdity and irony, their installations incorporate various historical references, fictions, and emerging notions of social media. All the unfamiliar terms and jargon could confuse those who read their profile. Web 3.0, big data, SNS, co-design, and researchbased data processing and visualization have become a very popular platform for new media artists over the past few years. But limiting the rising multi-player new media art collective to the genre of “new media art” would not be fair to the artists or the audience. Their ability to capture and analyze volatile changes in Korean society, most notably the conflict and asymmetric power structure online, are as keen as a sociologist’s observation. What they have discovered is communicated with random “friends” in forms of inter/hyper text and is turned into narrative or word play, which adds a literary element to their work. The exterior of their works are characterized by distinct mise-en-scène (arrangement of scenery and properties to represent the place where a play or movie is enacted), strong architectural elements, light and sound, moving sculptures with cinematic attributes, and theatrics that emphasize variability and fictiveness. Such theatric installations were said to be the highest form of Gesamtkunstwerk (total artwork), which was the ideal of avant-garde artists one century ago. The visual impact of coming face to face with Bang & Lee’s prototypes of “convergence art,” which is a frequently used term nowadays, is a thrilling experience. Bang & Lee have been consistent with their work since mid 2000s, but there has been a lack of critical analysis due to the fact that the duo has been active in Europe, with Germany as their base. While the Korean market was eager to estimate the commercial value of emerging artists and major galleries were eager to claim artists and exchange pieces at art fairs and other commercial platforms, during the whole period when the

This text was originally published in the catalogue of artist-critic workshop programme by SeMA Nanji Residency 2013.

industry’s interest peaked and declined Bang & Lee were outside of the “Korean art world” matrix. They were spared the rollercoaster ride. They were safe within their system and doctrine as they continued to experiment with their integrated modules. Bang & Lee, Artist as an Institution Bang & Lee started off with a creative practice that enabled them to experiment on various themes between two separate individuals with vastly differing individual experiences. Bang has a background in French literature, art theory, aesthetics, and communication design; while Lee studied fine art, media art, and theatre art. The wide range of disciplines that they cover makes them all the more interesting. Of course, that in and of itself is not enough to make them stand out, rather it is that every element of their background is present in their works, how they go about organically collaborating and dividing tasks, and ultimately creating the final “assemblage.” Bang & Lee became the pivotal figures of a collaborative platform during their last year at Karlsruhe University of Arts and Design. Their partnership continued and further developed during their residency and exhibition at ZKM – Center for Art and Media Karlsruhe. In their entire creative process, from brainstorming to the realization of each piece, Bang & Lee utilize an intricate collaborative network with other artists, school support programs, and other institutes as they conduct and direct the organization, theory, technology, and administration aspects of the project. What catches my attention is that Bang & Lee have chosen to make their works an open structure instead of limiting the project’s scope to their abilities, as they establish the foundation of their work. They continue to tie collaborative relationships with various entities to secure sustainability and quality while they developed into an individual institution. A Land of Friendship and Collaboration towards Nonzerosum The main driving force behind Bang & Lee Werkbund is “friendship and collaboration.” Friendship and collaboration can each be interpreted from varying angles, but the combination of the two is the core theme and methodology that sustains Bang & Lee as an institute. Their teaming up could be easily mistaken as a strategic move to survive in a highly competitive field or even as a romantic relationship. But the potential and power behind

the concepts evaporate when the subjects are contemporary humans. They split responsibility and goals with their associates but the achievements are not shared among the insiders alone. The association can consist historic figures, animals, open source data, A.I., or anonymous Internet users who engage in conversation. The artists track and analyze the “collective intelligence” and “collective ignorance” of the masses in a virtual world that is conditioned by the logic created by multinational media moguls. By this the artists ruminate on the precarious political relationship of friendship and collaboration. In that respect, Nonzerosum Society (2012), the title of Bang & Lee’s first exhibition since their return to Korea, is worth looking into. The title was adopted from Robert Wright’s social science book Nonzero. The artists used texts, sound, lights, and real-time images collected from Twitter to create a mosaic video. Unlike the artwork’s first impression of cynicism and black humor, into a hidden system and conspiracy that injects zero-sum dynamics and the methodology to overcome the structure leaves a lasting impression and evokes thought. The sources used during this exhibition were recurrent in the following exhibitions and were used in a different context to send out a cautionary message or to convey a sense of humor. Therefore, it is important to offer a friendly interpretation of Bang & Lee’s works using philosophical concepts to undo the clues behind the visuals and to deconstruct the technology that is used in the works. Only then will their method and attitude be fully understood and identified with. Bang & Lee Werkbund, 2031 Now that I have analyzed Bang & Lee’s drive as an institute, I turned my attention to Werkbund (association of artists), which provides a clue in categorizing their works and extracting a few bits of narrative. Werkbund implies that the two are a team that experiments by creating and collaborating with other resources while producing art. The term Werkbund traces back to their beginnings at ZKM and perhaps even further back into history to Bauhaus (considered to be the early form of ZKM, German school that combined craft and fine arts. operated from 1919 to 1933). It could also possibly refer to the Deutscher Werkbund (German Association of Craftsmen)1, which was dedicated to producing modern designs.2 The concept of Bang & Lee does not follow the Deutscher Werkbund’s teleological design, nor

1 Deutscher Werkbund: An artist association that was found in Munich, 1906. The Werkbund included artists, architects, designers and industrialists. It was a state-sponsored effort to integrate traditional crafts and industrial massproduction techniques. 2 The number next to Bang & Lee Werkbund is 2013 reversed and represents the future, just as George Orwell’s fiction 1984 was written in 1948 but without the dark dystopian outlook. It reflects the artists’ anti-totalitarian ideals.

Friends in the living room, 2012 mixed-media, projection, sound, LED, fiber optic dimensions variable

3 Towards relational design, Andrew Blauvelt, ‘Design Observer’, 2009 The Walker Art Center’s Design Director Andre Blauvelt said in his essay Towards Relational Design that relational design is, “a system that has an open end, not a closed end, limits and contexts of the real world that are more important idealistic utopia, relational links, the end of divided objects and difficult meanings, and the beginning of interconnecting ecology” are the elements that “suggest multiple solutions.”

does it involve itself to the mass-production system. However, it does have similarities in that it integrates art with design, and the industrial ecosystem, and it relies on interdisciplinary production through research. 2013 was a fruitful year for Bang & Lee. Their potential and capacity as producers has expanded greatly during their time in Seoul as resident artists. They have connected with new artists and sparked new conversations. These exchanges have resulted in a group exhibition called, 4 Dialogues, at SeMA Nanji Exhibition Hall. They were also involved in BikeTAG – Colour Keepers, in collaboration with overseas institutes in Bristol, which were hosted by Watershed and supported by the British Council. The project presented a solution for traffic by introducing a bike tag system that was also “urban play.” Back in their home country they have been working as producers and artists at Arko Art Center and headed a convergence project with Feelux Lighting Co., Ltd. by building a creativity, administration, and technology cooperative. Bang & Lee have been busy all year long with longterm technological collaborations and raising funding and inviting overseas artists to exhibit their work. It must be pointed out that these projects may seem like random events, but they are connected and integrated at Bang & Lee Werkbund. One will always discover interesting facts when examining their work process and relationships. Bang & Lee’s focal point is “relational” design3 and not the final result of their work. The process of establishing communication from various levels and systems connects what seems to be a sporadic practice. I am not mentioning their activities to praise their adeptness and diversity, but rather to understand Bang & Lee Werkbund’s working structure, which enables them to carry out versatile projects all at once. If there were a virtual structure that runs Bang & Lee, it would look something like the diagram below. Such divisions would support and delegate work between each other in an open space. Bang & Lee’s group of supportive friends will continue to grow, while the duo will remains as the only full time employees of Bang & Lee.

Bang & Lee Werkbund


Research & Development

production & Management

Curatorial & Exhibition Design

Education & Archive

External Support & Networking

Drawings, idea sketches, prototype production, and operating tests

Exhibition space design, installation/ dismantling, equipment management and maintenance, shipping, and accounting

Photography and video recording and sharing the work process through online channels

Networking with domestic and overseas companies, organizers, funding, and handling diplomatic documents


Observations from various levels, discussion, overseas exchange, and research

Bang & Lee Jayoung Bang(b. 1977 -) & Yunjun Lee(b. 1971 -) Bang & Lee are Jayoung Bang and Yunjun Lee whose work combines art, design, and research. Their works are based on the link between art and other cultural practices, and often concerned with the theme of absurdity and irony. The installations involved assemblage, interactive light sculptures, tangible ceramic instruments, computer-generated montage, or video mosaics, and incorporate various historical references, fictions, and emerging notions of social media. Some of their latest projects engage in a variable screenplay, not only with interactive media in a geographical range, but also within the virtual world, using hypertext to develop networking based events with emphasis on the particular interpretation of collaboration and friendship. Their works have been shown at museums and festivals including Center for Art and Media Karlsruhe(Germany), The International Biennial of Contemporary Art(Spain), Nam June Paik Art Center, Insa Art Space, Seoul Media Biennale – Media City Seoul, Daegu Photo Biennale, Arko Art Center, Seoul Museum of Art, Art Center Nabi(Korea). Currently, they live and work in Seoul, Korea.

Juri CHO (Independent curator/researcher) Juri CHO studied psychology and art history at Ewha Womans University, as well as cultural policy and management at City University in London. Currently, She is a Ph.D researcher in Design History and Cultural Studies at Seoul Natâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;l University. Since 2006, she has gained wide experience working on public exhibitions, interdisciplinary arts festivals and biennial at various arts institutions. Since 2013, She has readjusted her role of curator as an independent cultural producer/curator. Deepening the curatorial concern on the collaborative working model among creators, the exhibition entitled <Republic of the Two> was presented at Arko Art Museum, which was selected as the open call exhibition in 2013. At the moment, she is involving in various curatorial activities that include exhibition planning, critic writings and consultative service for the private company. By widening her interest into vernacular history of visual culture, she aspires to diversify the role of curator and enrich academic achievement.

K. NOTe is a monthly digital publication that aims to introduce Korean artists and curators to overseas audiences. Much like an exquisitely interwoven Korean ‘Knot’, K.NOTe hopes to become a medium that creates strong ties and solid knots within the contemporary arts scene by publishing e-notebooks of Korean artists and events that are worthy of ‘Note’.


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