A Web artist goes offline

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A Web artist goes offline

There is a stark moment during “Bust Down the Door,” a video art installation by Young-hae Chang Heavy Industries, in which the music stops, everything goes still and the words “bossa nova” appear on 10 different screens at once. There is nothing on the screens but the text, yet a sense of urgency and a sensual, visual beat pervade.
Young-hae Chang Heavy Industries, the name used by the artist Young-hae Chang and her partner for their work, combines text with music ― mostly jazz and techno ― to create Web-based art. “You Have to Bust Down the Door,” Chang’s first offline exhibit, currently on display at Rodin Gallery near City Hall, works with language and sound, using text as a primary medium.
In “Gates of Hell,” which deliberately parodies Rodin’s work in the same gallery, Chang tells a story about people whose doors have been broken down and who have been taken barefoot out of their homes at gunpoint.
The story is told through phrases flashed on screens built into Zipel refrigerators (a brand that markets what it calls “Internet refrigerators”), while playing with a soft musical beat, creating a dramatic rhythm of sound and text.
There is no context given, or any explanation of whether these phrases were randomly extracted from other sources. Some of the artist’s other works use phrases or words that don’t cohere into a complete story.
But while the words may sometimes seem meaningless, there is a sense of tension and bold sensuality in the fonts the artist uses, and the speed at which the phrases appear, intertwined with music.
Chang’s works are unusual in the world of computer art, which often uses interactivity, hypertext, global networking and other computer technologies to escape the traditional modes of communication between artist and audience.
Chang’s decision to forego some of these major elements of Web art stirred loud debates among critics over whether her works could be considered models of Web art. The debate heated up further after she and her partner, Marc Voge, won a “Webby Award,” the Oscar of the Web art world.
Chang, however, tackles some of the most important issues of Internet in her works, such as user anonymity and globalization as it relates to the English language.
Chang avoids graphics, photos and illustration in her work; she describes this as simply a matter of choice upon which she doesn’t want to elaborate.
In keeping with her works dealing with the anonymity of the Internet, Chang has not submitted the usual career profile for the Rodin Gallery exhibit, and she didn’t show up for the press opening. In an interview with Thom Swiss, she said cultural influences on her work include Marcel Duchamp, “who decided to stop painting, saying he was tired of getting his hands dirty; Roy Lichtenstein, who found a simple artistic vocabulary and stuck to it; and Andy Warhol, who, more than the Chinese government ever could, succeeded with his Mao portraits in putting a certain face on China.”


by Park Soo-mee

“You Have to Bust Down the Door” continues through Oct. 31. To get to Rodin Galley, take subway line No. 1 or 2 to City Hall station and use exit 8. Admission is 2,000 won. For more information, call (02) 2104-6552. More work by Young-hae Chang Heavy Industries can be seen at www.yhchang.com.

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