Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Image World

We live in an increasingly virtualized world, where the image of reality comes to define reality itself. The invention of photography can be said to have transformed an entire worldview, constructing a particular way of perceiving ourselves and the world around us.  It is a state of constant paranoia. Just like Foucault’s theory of the panoptican, there is a sense that we are constantly being watched, and in return, that we are constantly watching. This element of surveillance is found in one particular work in the "Comfortable" exhibition. Set in a makeshift gallery space that resembles a functional apartment, the piece consists of a telescope that points out the window, directing towards an apartment balcony of a high-rise building above. It is ambiguous as to where the viewer should be looking. The placement of the telescope suggests an intentional location to monitor; yet there is little to no activity to observe. The piece recalls Michelangelo Antonioni's 1966 film “Blow Up”, where the protagonist, a photographer, seemingly photographs a murder in a park. Yet, the more he blows up the image, the grainier the images gets, and the loss of detail makes it impossible to prove what is actually taking place in the photograph. Such is the ambience of the "Comfortable" exhibition's telescope, where the viewer is left in a state of confusion as to what the telescope aims to reveal. Just as our image-mediated world provides an overload of information, the message is lost in the act of looking. In contrast to the traditional notion of observation, which serves as a means to an end, the act of looking becomes a means in itself.

Osang Gwon’s Black Slider, showcased at the SH Contemporary Art Fair, illustrates a similar theoretical framework but focuses on the effect of the individual psyche. Osang Gwon’s sculptures are made entirely of photographs that cumulatively constitute the body.  It suggests that our modern way of knowing is a process of fragmentation. Just as we catch glimpses of ourselves through storefront windows as we pass busily through the city, we understand ourselves as parts. Similarly, it could be said that our identity is constructed through a collection of fragmented images of who we think we are supposed to be. In any case, it is the image that defines who we are, and one might ponder just where authenticity stands facing such a predicament.


No comments: