Yiyun Kang aims for a ‘productive pause' with her latest exhibit
It seems natural that humans, mortal beings with many limits, are born to yearn for infinity. But that’s not true, according to the London-based Korean artist Yiyun Kang, 38, who is presenting a pair of spectacular media art works respectively titled “Infinite” and “Finite” as part of her solo show at PKM Gallery in central Seoul.
“Ancient Greek philosophers thought the infinite is inferior to the finite, because the infinite has no completion,” the artist told the Korea JoongAng Daily at the gallery. It is said that supporters of Pythagoras believed in two basic cosmological principles, Peras (the finite) and Apeiron (the infinite), while equating the former with goodness and the latter with badness. Plato was also influenced by the idea.
“However, later, people began to link the infinite to divinity, in particular, with the emergence of Christianity,” she continued. “And as humankind pursued linear growth and development, people became possessed by the desire for infinity. The digital era encouraged the illusion that infinite quantitative and material expansion is possible.”
The title of her solo exhibition is “Anthropause.” The term, coined by a team of biologists from various countries in June, 2020, refers to a drastic reduction in human travel and other activities that occurred during the early phase of the Covid-19 pandemic. “With my works, I aim to transform this unexpected pause into a ‘productive pause,’ by reflecting on human's desire for and illusion of infinity,” Kang said.
Visitors to the gallery will first encounter a dark room with a round-shaped screen hanging from the ceiling which is constantly rotating. Luminous, abstract moving images are projected on the screen. As the screen partially transmits and partially reflects light, the enlarged version of the moving images and the distorted, fragmented reflections of the images appear on the opposite sides of the dark room. This is “Infinite.”
“The work never sleeps for the entire exhibition period even while the galley is closed,” the artist explained “Three sequences of moving images make one loop. The first sequence takes one minute, the second sequence takes 30 seconds and the last sequence takes 15 seconds, based on the exponential growth of atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration over the last 150 years. The images projected through the circular screen and reflected by the screen on the walls constantly change the appearance of the space, alluding to the changing environment driven by humans.”
Accordingly, each loop seems to represent an accelerating development and the following catastrophic end, while the loop is repeated constantly. The artist said, “Nothing is infinite in a physical manner. The only thing that is infinite is the fact that every entity on the earth stays in an infinite loop of chain reaction, although we often forget the consequences or the prices of our activities.”
In the next room is the immersive video-audio installation work “Finite.” The work starts with the image of a green forest. Soon the forest is burnt and skyscrapers fill the space. But they also disappear with explosions. In the last scenes, what looks like a magnificent snowy mountain or iceberg appears in the dark but soon vanishes into countless pieces.
“I digitally rendered the images of all the scenes except the scene of struggling humans, so as to ironically show the finitude of the man-made environment through the digital technology that arouses the illusion of infinity,” the artist said.
Unlike the images, the sounds are real analogue ones such as audio recordings of city noises and explosion sounds from the World War I and II. The music in the final scene of the disappearing snowy mountain is actually a recording of a performance of string players and the artist herself playing the piano at the gallery.
“Everything on the earth is finite, and that is what makes us even more beautiful and meaningful,” the artist said. “Accordingly, we need to throw away any desire for infinity. I hope my works will help people re-configure the notion of infinite and finite in this period of ‘anthropause.’”
BY MOON SO-YOUNG [email@example.com]