‘Dumb’ stuck in between words

from Wolgan-Misul, Jan. 2009

Daebum Lee (Art Critic)

Photographed in black and white background and arranged in standardized grid, various objects in 9 Objects (2002), once were cherished by someone, lose their intrinsic tastes of the owners. Cities all over the world become anonymous places in Unknown City (2004) as signs and texts used to identify locations are deleted. In Lost in Supermarket (2005), not only a headline articles on the newspapers and strange advertisements are erased but also the bright colors are replaced in monotone. As shown in those works and more, Hyungmin Moon set forth an aesthetical validity by intentionally ‘erasing’ utterance of the subject. What one should not overlook here is that those empty spaces are not filled with his voices either. All he does is just keep wipe subjects out one after another to the point where even his voice disappears. Now he tries to speak out only to find out that he is ‘dumb’. 

a. mute, unable to speak
v. speechless, to put to silence
n. stupid, conspicuously unintelligent

There is, a priori, an absence of communication, but people usually ignore or fail to notice this moment of absence. They do perfect communication in which they believe to be apparent and unmistakable words. However, this idea of perfect communication is impossible from the beginning, as it is only a consolation as to comparable system. Then, recognizing this falsehood that transforms ‘impossible world’ to ‘possible world’ and further reconsidering that idea is very important. In his forth solo exhibition <dumb project: vol. 01>, Hyungmin Moon examines unperceived blind spaces in between words. Along the same line of his previous works, currently exhibiting works are of text deleted, hidden, or substituted by other media. More precisely, what Hyungmin Moon does is not suggesting a new language, but alluding a space existing among words by hiding or changing those words (that we used).

Fictionality hidden under the polished surface

A very refined symbolic character welcomes people from the entrance (love me two times #01). Spotlighted and deliberately placed on top of a tall pedestal so as to make people literally look it up, the Mickey Mouse is an icon even whose implication is flat. Both fixed idea and the physicality of Mickey Mouse are what Hyungmin Moon attempts to dismantle in this work. As Mickey Mouse gradually melts away, once looked definite character is deconstructed. Made with sugar and beeswax, Hyungmin Moon’s Mickey Mouse was not supposed to be hard and firm in the first place. The light that is supposed to highlight Mickey Mouse and the time waiting to be seen are the factors that actually speed up its death. As it dies, its look gets nasty but the exhibition space is filled with a sweet scent of sugar. Despite this change, Mickey Mouse is solid in its position looking around. Then is symbolism of mortal being prescribes this exhibition beyond a mere notion of American capitalist culture? In other words, it is more about fictionality of something (that could be art or language) which seems sophisticated and solid in its structure.

As it is clear in its title A doghouse built out of an artwork damaged due to physical storage and sales problems after spending $3,000.00 of production cost and shipping expense of $6,000.00 for the onetime exhibition in London, the original symbolism of an ‘artwork’ is replaced by a ‘doghouse’. Once was an artwork became a ‘doghouse’ due to ‘storage and sale’ problem. It is a fate of an artwork to be destroyed when there is nowhere to store it or sell it after costing almost $3,000.00 of production fee. Though it obviously became a doghouse in its form, it is again placed inside an exhibition space as a work of art. Then, is this a ‘doghouse’ or an ‘artwork’? Despite the fact that the artist named it a ‘doghouse’, it is a ‘work of art’. It is understandable that the artist himself regards this deed as ‘dumb’ given the amount of money and time spent to produce it. It could be the audience, however, who is looking at the work made of expensive materials as a mere ‘doghouse’ not a new artwork probably due to a long title named by the artist. While numbers directly modifies the word ‘artwork’ referring a good deal of money and time spent for producing original work, there is no qualifier for ‘doghouse’. It is the structure of the title seemingly opposing the words ‘artwork’ and ‘doghouse’ making the audience pay more attention to the derivation of the title not the work itself.

The works following the same line of thought are the virtue of behavior: 45kg, highway star, like hell and by numbers series: Art Magazine A: 2001~2008. At first glance, the virtue of behavior: 45kg appears to be the ideal work directly representing the artist’s intention because of the text ‘the virtue of behavior: 45kg’ in green fluorescent color on a bright pink background. The overwhelming fluorescent colors painted all over the canvas, however, interrupts one’s eye along with the phrase that even the artist himself does not know when and how it came about. In front of this work, audience will strive to figure out the artist’s creative act through this brightly colored incomprehensible text. For highway star and like hell, a Korean student was asked to hear and write pop song lyrics phonetically in Korean, dictate it to a foreigner who does not know Korean language to write it in English and finally the artist transferred it onto the canvas. As lyrics went through a Korean, a foreigner, and an artist, the original text is broken up into different texts made by three unrelated people. They might think this is a point of mutual understanding but really, the outcome is full of distortion made in-between words. This is not just a matter of translation but of communication problem found all over the place. In by numbers series: Art Magazine A: 2001~2008, Hyungmin Moon traced monthly art magazines as he arranges cross stripes of colors representing 10 words abstracted from articles in the order of frequency of use in every September issues from 2001 to 2008. The vibrant canvas is nothing more than a mixture of 10 assigned colors demonstrating that the seemingly glamorous art world is actually played by only a few clichés.   

‘Dumb’’ who does not stop talking

Then what is the line of attack that Hyungmin Moon takes to show this? He gives you an idea about ‘dumb’ in very sophisticated form using standardized words hidden from the surface yet collapsed under the plane. The answer is in standard character Mickey Mouse (though it turns into a monster), a work whose title shows a starting place of the medium (though it is the reason that makes people see a new artwork as a doghouse), canvas filled with pop song lyrics (though it is grammatically incomprehensible), direct narration (yet the artist does not know), and brilliant checks (yet a composite of cliché). Like this, Hyungmin Moon constantly yet calmly questions and deconstructs standardized and polished features in

as the ‘dumb’ hidden in color-blindness test painting. It is not visible if one pays more attention to rich surface colors or figurative format of the work. The ‘dumb’ starts to come into view as one pulls out from the facade looking at them as a whole. Hyungmin Moon has witnessed so many ‘dumb’ that eventually made him lose his speech. It is not because he is a dumb or stupid but because there is too much to say in words. Now all we have to do is waiting for him to speak as seeing ‘dumb’ that he has proposed.

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