Today That Will Be Yesterday By Tomorrow

Jul 4, 2015 7:45AM

Inkie Whang Solo Exhibition

Mar. 12th - Apr. 27th 2014

Savina Museum of Contemporary Art

Supported by Arts Council Korea (ARKO) 

                      Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism,

                      Korea Arts Management Service

Written by Curatorial Team, Savina Museum

Korean-English Translation is supported by Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism and Korea Arts Management Service.

Translated by Ewha Research Institute for Translation Studies  

To date, artist Inkie Whang has focused his efforts on the coexistence of nature and the city, spiritual and material, and eastern and western ways of thinking, by relocating the past to the present through the “digital landscape,” which reinterprets traditional landscape paintings using modern industrial materials such as Lego blocks and artificial beads. Unlike his digital landscape series, this exhibition at the Savina Museum of Contemporary Art showcases 11 different works that expand the concept and form of time.

Having worked tirelessly for the last 40 years on his productions with incessant, flexible self-examination, inquiry, and self-transformation, Whang uses this exhibition as an opportunity to present his critique on materialistic consumer culture through space installation marked by the coarse physicality of the materials used. The title of the exhibition, Today That Will Be Yesterday By Tomorrow, reflects the mistakes made by today’s mankind, such as capitalism’s insistence on society focused on market competition and consumerism, and the subsequent instability in the individual and collective state of mind, through a series of works in which he transforms objects to resemble relics or ghosts.

Today That Will Be Yesterday By Tomorrow, 2014, Mixed Media, 240cm×796cm

The first floor of the exhibition venue features over 50 dusty frames on the wall. Faded photographs sparsely occupy the frames, and muddy plastic wraps replace the glass panes. Within the frames, the photographs depict the popular celebrities of the present, but placed on the dilapidated frames, the discolored images appear as if commemorating old figures and portray fame as fleeting and ephemeral. Excessively large for the photographs, the blanks (plastic wraps) of the frames represent the lightest industrial product whilst accentuating the layered accumulation of time. 

Today That Will Be Yesterday By Tomorrow, 2014, Mixed Media, Variable size  

The second floor gallery features the installation display of 44 old, worn-out bags, which are designer brand bags by Louis Vuitton. The popularity of luxury goods can be interpreted as the insatiable desire for imitation, found in modern society’s aspirations to enter into the upper class, which signifies that the consumer society created by capitalism is fostering uniformity in public taste and values. Covered in dust, the bags are hung on metal hooks with the leather ripped and peeling off. The work, which exhibits the miserable state of the bags, paradoxically expresses that high-end designer bags, considered to be of value in the modern world, can in the future turn into artifacts which had merely been a fad upon passing through layers of time. 

Today That Will Be Yesterday By Tomorrow, 2014, Mixed Media, 40cm×772cm×130cm  

This work features the American weekly news magazine Time, which deals with current events, swiftly delivering breaking news and reports on critical issues of the week in terms of society, economics, and politics. Covering copies of the magazine with layers of dust to resemble worn-out, antique books, this installation reinterprets symbols of the present time into those of the past. Eighty-four volumes of the magazine are neatly arranged in a line like artifacts in a museum, and the lighting is evenly set to a low intensity across the display space.

Today That Will Be Yesterday By Tomorrow, 2011-, Mixed Media, 164cm×209cm×10cm  

The “Chanel logo” installation, made from various materials such as beans, milk, bananas, and lime powder, was placed on display in 2011 when it was at the stage of decay, and three years later, it is now disfigured to such an extent as to render its original form indiscernible. Along with the display of Louis Vuitton bags, this installation represents the illusion towards materialistic capitalism and the concept of temporality, by ruining a high-end brand that is viewed as the absolute value of the present time.

Today That Will Be Yesterday By Tomorrow, 2014, Mixed Media, Variable size  

In this production, four installations reminiscent of tombstones are leaning precariously against the walls as if on the verge of falling down. Full-body images of four different heads of state are printed on the works: North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un is matched with South Korean national flower Mugunghwa (Rose of Sharon), a traditional landscape painting for China’s president Xi Jinping, nuclear patterns for South Korea’s president Park Geun-hye, and numbers resembling those from the film The Matrix for U.S. president Barack Obama. Featuring extremely lightweight materials in contrast to the heaviness typical of monuments, this installation seems to indicate the vanity of power struggles between nations. The work also reflects the theme of temporality, in that powerful statesmen may hold tremendous authority during their time in office, but will be eventually forgotten as time passes.      

Today That Will Be Yesterday By Tomorrow, 2014, Mixed Media, Variable size  

This installation encourages viewers to revisit the concept of a “house,” which is considered an important value in today’s world. Created by printing billboards advertising the sale of new apartment complexes and applying polyester resin over them to harden, this work uses the advertisement to present the impression that buying a decent apartment or house is the path to prosperity or enrichment of our lives, but this is not the case in the reality of the modern world.

“Mongolian people enjoy a comfortable life as long as they have a tent, but people today devote 20 years just to buy an apartment. People in Mongolia do not spend 20 years only for that. So who’s really leading the better life?”

Excerpts from Inkie Whang’s notebooks 

Today That Will Be Yesterday By Tomorrow, 2014, Mixed Media, Variable size  

Today That Will Be Yesterday By Tomorrow, 2014, Mixed Media, Variable size  

The series of human figures installed in the exhibition halls on the first and underground floors features a combination of light and sound. 

Upon entering the hall, viewers encounter an installation work hanging two meters above the ground, which resembles a magic trick whereby a magician covers another person with a piece of cloth to levitate. This work, which exudes an air of mystery created by the light emitting from the inside of the structure, also resembles an empty shell from which the physical body has been shed. This representation of the human body is a reflection of the artist’s own self. The installation embodies the state of being “neither here nor there,” neither a state of touching the ground nor rising into the sky. 

The series continues in the underground gallery, which displays five works of human figures. The installation features a harmony of sounds with huge shadows appearing and vanishing along with the lights, and gives viewers the strange feeling that they are watching the scene of a shamanic ritual.

As a background sound, a summary of Civilized Man’s Eight Deadly Sins is read simultaneously by different voices in seven languages: Japanese, English, French, Spanish, German, Chinese, and Korean. The background sound suggests that modern civilization, created by the human pursuit of development and growth to improve the quality of life, has resulted in sins, and arouses a peculiar atmosphere in combination with the human figures. 

Civilized Man’s Eight Deadly Sins, Konrad Zacharias Lorenz (1903-1989), 1973

Through his book titled Civilized Man’s Eight Deadly Sins, Austrian zoologist Konrad Lorenz points out that human beings destroy the ecosystem that is the source and space of life, in order to lead “civilized” lives in pursuit of immediate economic gains, comfort, and pleasure. The eight deadly sins listed in his book include: overpopulation, devastation of life space, competition against one’s self, entropy of emotions, genetic deterioration, collapse of tradition, susceptibility to brainwashing, and nuclear weapons. 

Today That Will Be Yesterday By Tomorrow, 2014, Mixed Media, 74x130x34cm  

The artist discovers a variety of materials in his studio and surroundings, and produces his installations using materials such as spray polyurethane foam inflated into bubble-like forms, and plastic wraps used for cultivating crop fields. The polyurethane piece was left exposed outdoors for over a year and underwent natural changes in the color and texture of the surface, having faced an array of weather changes such as being under the sun and exposed to rain or snow for a long period of time. On the other hand, the plastic wraps remained buried under the ground for over a year. The common context behind these pieces is that the artist applies temporality to trivial objects and reveals the ongoing process of his affinity with the materials. 

Today That Will Be Yesterday By Tomorrow, 2014, Mixed Media, Variable size   

This work is based on the traces left after creating the human figure series. When working on the levitation installations in the first-floor and underground galleries, the artist laid out cloth on the floor and poured polyester resin over it throughout the production process, during which the polyester resin was accumulated in layers, thereby resulting in the formation of a human figure. He discovered layers of time in the marks left by the polyester resin, and converted it into a separate installation.