Art looks at the unbearable lightness of jet lag

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Art looks at the unbearable lightness of jet lag

“Jetlag: Traveling Art” explores the notion of cultural displacement, using jet lag as a metaphor for disorientation in space and time.
The exhibit uses various symptoms of psychological effects resulting from jet lag to explain the pattern of discord a person experiences when he or she is taken to another place, whether one is relocating, immigrating or being cast into exile.
It delves into the changes of space and time, the physical shift of night and day, the subjects of east and west, foreign and native, and the questions that arise from these gaps.
Indeed, the exhibit is an amusing analysis of an emotional state filled with ambiguity and uncertainty.
The show, which was organized as a summer program by students from the Korean National University of Arts and the Maryland Institute College of Art, puts together the works of artists, designers and architects who use the images of trunks and immigrant bag as unifying motifs.
Each of the thirteen young artists from Korea and the United States drew on their personal experiences of the subject.
Joel Bobeck created an installation piece shaped like an immigrant’s bag, which is hung from the ceiling of the gallery slightly above the floor and tied to a cluster of balloons to evoke the sensation of flight and travel. The floating bag also suggests the cultural distance and alienation one might feel during travel and the tension rising from not being able to put one’s feet on the ground.
A collaborative work by Chang Seung-ju and Chung Young-joon, two architects, put up a site-specific installation that explores the notion of an “in-between zone” felt during jet lag. In a hallway that connects the two galleries, where the exhibit will be held, the two architects have hung a stretch of spandex fabric across the rooms, with clocks stuck to the fabric indicating the two different times in Seoul and Maryland.
The installation, whose sagging body contrasts with the firmness of the existing structure, is aimed at connecting and embracing the notion of cultural distance and the idea that jet lag creates an experience of exhaustion and loss.
“Context,” by Samuel N. Ortiz-Payero, recreates the stacking of items in Seoul markets through a photo montage of a pile of suitcases, accompanied by stereo speakers, which play the sounds the artist recorded from inside a suitcase that he carried through the streets of Seoul.
In his “Never Flown Flyer Fantasy,” Woo-Hyuk Bin, who says he has never experienced jet lag, show random images of people floating across a canvas. The images are characters from popular movies set on airplanes.
In a way, the work best encapsulates the experience of jet lag, which is represented by a grey monochrome painting with unsettling images of people with suitcases.
The exhibit itself might suffer from its own topic: “Jetlag” is a traveling exhibit, which will be exhibited in Maryland after the show in Seoul. In the end, the show raises questions about the meaning of artworks as they travel to different cities, and what could happen to art when the context is misplaced, distorted or lost in translation.


by Park Soo-mee

“Jetlag: Traveling Art” runs through July 17 at Gallery Ssamzie. For more information call (02) 736-0088.

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