Everyday life, constantly repeated with nothing special, and the familiar phenomena and things that we face in it often stay dry in the area of surface recognition, since we believe it to be so obvious through our experience and learning for a long time. However, due to convenience and relief caused by familiarity, it is also true that such inertial habits and beliefs are too rigid to be doubted and countered against. This could become a mechanism that makes still valid the dominant logic of keeping society in a uniform and unified order by embracing individuals into the logic of the whole, although we say that we have come to a new cognition in this pluralistic age. Ironically, the price to settle within the frame of universal order is to voluntarily agree and conform to the control device because of our desire to be identified with the whole as well as our fear of being excluded by breaking away. Feeling the discomfort from discipline and control required by this internalizing logic of governance, Yoo La Shin creates contingent and illogical situations that would make people feel rather strange and uncomfortable within the frame of a fixed perception that she considers to be natural without any doubt, so that the viewer becomes confused.
Shin’s former object works, which consisted of a heterogeneous combination of everyday objects that could not be linked to any common sense, made us rediscover the experiences and values that we turned away from or were numb to because of our familiarity with the routine of everyday, by casting doubt on the order and meaning of familiar and common objects through the uncomfortable and ambiguous sceneries created by the “imbalance of cognition” and the “inconsistency of meaning”. Her recent work goes further on this extension, not only evoking the complexity and irrationality of pluralistic reality that cannot be understood by coherent logic, but also understanding this in another dimension hidden in the base of the phenomenological semantics by intentionally encouraging the paradox caused by the coexistence of conflicting elements like two incompatible concepts or situations, and making the disturbance and overthrow of the meaning system between the objects even more extreme. The paradox is contrary to the common sense in appearance and surrounds itself with self-contradiction and absurdity, but in fact, it is aiming for truth. It is just not captured easily. Her recent works in this exhibition show the contradictory and conflicting elements, such as the present and the past, peace and violence, spiritualism and materialism, beauty and hatred, and grand ideology and ordinary daily life; the contradictory confrontation of these equally conflicting elements is activated, and we face new challenges easy to overlook by simultaneously recognizing and understanding the meaning of both sides within the tension composed by the conflict between the contradictory elements.
The works in this exhibition are different from her previous works not only in terms of form, but also in the fact that many objects have been handcrafted for a long period of time, rather than reorganizing or assembling the collected objects. In addition, the works look more decorative and aesthetic as they are made of more fragile materials, but the relationship between form and content is also paradoxically set in the context of its relatively heavy themes such as hierarchical values, historical perception, otherness, imbalance of materialism and spiritualism. This hybrid work may seem unrealistic and fictional because it did not exist in the cognitive system, but when we uncover the camouflaged layer and look further into it, we realize that what seemed strange is ultimately what we know and that it reflects the multilayered relationship of our society. Flagged Boxes is a juxtaposition of the giant flags made by weaving small rectangular modules from the prosecutors’ plastic boxes – these boxes appear without exception when we come across the reports or articles accusing power related corruption through the media – with blue, green, and white, which are the colors of the prosecutors’ office, and the towels commonly used in daily life. Although both the flag and the towel are fabric, the symbolic or emotional weight of the flag that represents the status and honor of the group acting like a totem with its divine and poetic meaning seems far superior to a small towel that does not have any meaning other than its specific use in daily life. Nevertheless, Shin questions the importance between the power built by all kinds of hypocrisy and falsehood and the everydayness and mediocre of a towel that is silently faithful to its function, making us reconsider their hierarchical relationships.
The Net-Pagoda, which combines another binary oppositional element like spiritualism and materialism, is an installation made by hanging the Murano glass pieces collected from Venice on top of a net covering the form of Seokgatap, religious symbol of spiritual value and sublime. It is no exaggeration to say that no matter where we go and what we do we are surrounded by a capitalist logic constructed like a dense net in this present age. Even religion, the absolute and ultimate spiritual value system, is likely to be subordinated to the economic and material values brought forth by capitalism. Originally a pagoda was a sculpture built to engrave the teachings of Buddha in the remembrance of Buddha’s spiritual exaltation, but at some point it has transformed into a magical tool to satisfy the individual’s desires. Shin here figuratively shows the spiritual value (of religion) in the empty void of the tower standing in a ruggedly empty space surrounded by all kinds of colorful ornaments, and she talks about the state of religion that has been submerged in secular materialism and the status of spiritualism in this era.
Shin’s works create humor by upsetting the expectations from the gap between the already revealed which is intuitively perceptible and the hidden meaning behind it, and they also carry satire in that they maintain a critical perception on social conditions and pathology. On the other hand, it creates dark and unfamiliar fear, but it is far from a pessimistic or autistic landscape. This is because the viewer is asked to take a more active role in deciphering the meaning with multiple eyes, as the expression is ambivalent, ambiguous and multilayered.
Allure called ’lighting works’ creates a paradoxical landscape where ugly, lowly, and grotesque shapes are more fascinatingly illuminated in the light by using disgusting, unpleasant, and insignificant objects like rotten teeth, rat and mousetrap, and unnamed bugs as main materials on top of lighting fixtures and chandeliers that have become the symbol of wealth and grandeur due to their beautiful formality and splendid light. This rebellious imagination of Shin who sheds light on the dark world, in which is the residence of the lowly beings that we want to hide and remove in order to maintain the harmony of our civilization, our society, recognizes their differences as they are and attempts to restore the relationship with them by giving equal status, rather than completely separating the things that are rejected and suppressed as others
Veil Ι, which gives a bright and elegant atmosphere across the exhibition, disrupts the expectation of the audience who wants to trace the back of the work and experience the physical properties and feelings that it gives to the space. This charming curtain instantly puts the audience in a psychologically reversal situation by having them confront the opposite scene from its outer appearance. When the viewer turns his eyes on a picture engraved on the surface, he is confronted with the scene of brutal genocide and gruesome appearance of violence(oppression). The truth is hidden in the most visible surface on the curtain, but the viewer only finds it out through the detour around the curtain. The uncomfortable historical truth that we want to ignore, but which still exists, is not much of a concern or has meaning, even though it is part of the peaceful and comfortable curtain of the present that makes it more valuable. This curtain, which is made by elaborately weaving the two opposite elements, such as exposure (beautiful decoration, peaceful present) and concealment (terrible image of the massacre, dark history), suggests a kind of change in viewpoint from non-essential or superficial illusion as a device that reflects the epistemological attitude of history that cannot be grasped by superficial reading. It also captures that the uncomfortable image that constitutes the curtain itself is the real truth of history that should never be overlooked.
Shin’s work is disturbing, as she denies and rejects the belief of the universally valid (or supposedly), dominant logic that supports the world we live in. However, if we come closer with that disturbance to the essence of the phenomenon and the substantive truth, such as the reality that individuals and society have ignored and the others whom we wanted to ban and expel from us, by causing the cracks in the solid faith and cultivated thought that have been firmly rooted within us and developing keen awareness responding to them, would it not be a healthy disturbance?
, Curator, Alternative Space LOOP
Translated by Heejin Park