Ooh, la la

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Ooh, la la

People's notions of what is "ordinary" used to be more subjective; interpretations and explanations varied widely depending on the cultural context. But with popular culture spreading through the Internet, you don't need much help from people outside your culture or context to know what is "ordinary"; it has become more recognizable. That concept is gaining more and more acceptance among contemporary art experts.

Artists analyze ordinary life and present to the public their own perspective, which tends to be "less ordinary." Critics call their works insightful or inspiring when the artists are able to find a way to effectively and powerfully express themselves through ordinary objects.

Twelve artists from France came to Korea to take part in an exhibition organized by the French Embassy and the French Association of Artistic Action, a group that promotes exchanges between French and non-French artists. Through their creations, they search for an identity and an address in today's world. When you see their works you're reminded where the objects stand in your environment; you see what was simple or forgotten with a fresh new look.

That new angle on familiar objects was the guiding theme the curator of the show used when he selected the French artists, whose exhibition is titled "Less Ordinary." The artists used ordinary mediums such as candles, photos, headphones, columns, Web sites and cameras.

The participating artists are young, and show potential to become leaders of generational changes to come in their fields. They made the works they are exhibiting here after they arrived in Korea, so the art is influenced by Korean culture. Their job was to tweak the character of these objects to expose the objects' roles and show how people use them -- tasks that used to require cultural translations. The works are not meant to break down reality or shock; the artists are just being themselves -- but a little less ordinary than most people.

The show runs to June 23 at Seoul's Artsonje Center, then will be at the Artsonje Museum in Gyeongju from Sept. 14 to Dec. 8. For information, call 02-733-8945 or contact www.artsonje.org.

Natacha Lesveur's "Untitled" is a mixed media creation of a doll's eyes regarding a photograph of women's legs.

"If you look at the wall painting, it is the changing style of the Barbie doll's eyes, and the eyes are looking at the legs on the other side of the wall. And if you look at the legs closely, you can see typical French foods used as decorative objects. The details of the legs make the image real. The surface of the photograph is glossy, giving a polished look."

Pierce Joseph's "Untitled, 2002" is a flat-screen monitor, mounted on a wall, that displays objects his students created on computers.

"This was an exercise with my art students. I gave them an assignment to create their favorite objects using a computer, and I just put them into the virtual space."

Melik Ohanian spent two weeks in Korea working on his "Peripheral Communities" project, which is an ongoing work. The first part of the project was displayed in the Palais de Tokyo in Paris earlier this year.

"I wanted to express the young generation in Korea. My work requires concentration, which young people seem to be having difficulties with. If you listen carefully, at one point, the sound in the earphone coincides with the speaker on the screen."

Marine Hugonnier's photo "Towards Tomorrow" looks like an ordinary landscape, but it symbolizes the passing of time. She also displayed a single burning candle in the hall.

"The picture is taken at the international date line in Alaska. I wanted to remind the viewer of the existence of time in our life. The photograph depicts the before and after stages of a certain time slot. One image shows the time that passed; the other time yet to come. The burning light of a single candle also signifies time passing in our life. By watching the candle burn, the viewer experiences the time between before and after."

Alain Bublex calls his camera an "Awareness Box." He has pushed back the boundaries that usually delimit the ordinary camera's role. The exhibition displays every process of his planning and production.

"Cameras leave us with residual images of the past, but when people are looking into the viewfinder, they are experiencing a new kind of awareness generated by the camera. Certain things you never noticed, you see inside the frame. I just wanted to have a camera which can offer people awareness and nothing more. So my Awareness Box cannot take pictures. But it can show you high definition images, kind of like the LCD viewfinder of a digital camcorder. Also, I knew that if I were to present Awareness Boxes that are industry endorsed, I could make a more serious statement to people. So I chose Samsung as my technical supporter. As you can see, my new concept Awareness Box bears a Samsung logo. And the design of the box is rather whimsical, with its tanned leather case and cool silver buttons."

Valery Grancher's sees the younger generation as people whose lives revolve around playing with laptop computers and chatting on their mobile phones. So his work, "Web Site," is a cozy computer station. His new software program (www.wapdrive.com/vgrancher) instructs the users how to stimulate their brains.

"I wanted to stimulate the mobile phone users' imaginations by linking to off-beat subjects and ideas. It's basically about interaction with a new kind of network connecting young people to their mobile phones and Web sites. I've designed a special "google" program: You punch in your favorite word, and it returns strangely grouped words. It's kind of weird, but it makes you think."

Mathieu Mercier likes to work with abstract ideas; his "Untitled" is a group of columns.

"I started with the main column in the hall. There was only one column and I added many more. I like the way the columns divided the space, and columns look kind of like a forest. It's a decoration idea to make an abstract picture."

by Inēs Cho

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