It is difficult to visit the past. Already cloaked incidents are suppressed by a shift in technology. News of public dissent was passed on in another way before the Internet, for instance, and in a particularly secretive regime; an unusual period of dissent in South Korea. Here the artist looks at images from this recent past to gauge atmosphere, to try to make moments valuable for now and the future. Photographs do exist of demonstrations and the subsequent military response, yet Young In is trying to piece together a point in recent Korean history in a different way.
From local detail to enormous overview, she wishes to investigate what happened to the national psyche; the personal and the political. Concerned less with linear narrative, ‘The Moon’s Trick’ is an exercise in the utilization of forms where knowledge and mystery can equally appear. Crowds with lights are picked out in thread; close detail is displayed as part of a mass. Across the gallery on the opening night Young In, for the first time ever, performs a score with a sewing machine. The static sewing machine makes the best sound of all for it is associated with function. Lines and signs lead her through. The artist uses industrialised thread and attempts to fulfil all kinds of expectation in terms of artistic medium.
The exhibition is held together by sound and line as well as the movement of performers and audience through space. Neither knowing, nor questioning, the artist attempts to at least reveal a process, to give insight by grasping every element, sense, and piece of apparent information she can. Each individual work, from the transient to the permanent, appears to provide some sort of evidence.
But art about and of a demonstration can also be deadly, too much sameness, too many people. Flat and uniform, the image needs to rise up, politically and formally like Delacroix’s ‘Liberty Leading the People’. Here Young In works backwards with thread, to underplay and gloss over the streets. The photograph is tracked, the outline traced, to find a different kind of sense in another form. Neither comes first, the outline of demonstrating people, the photograph, or the dampened, simplified outline of a police and army response.
Performance is an integral part of the work. Young In uses images of images, film of sit-ins that mimic film of sit-ins, and die-ins as well. Exactitude is blurred. The person playing the Korean Flute moves towards the sewing machine, a mumbling boy provides a sense of place, then a woman sings. ‘Squeak’ ‘squeak’, the audience at Young In’s performance hears the sound already represented in a round about way. Measuring the place, height, table and diagram, the outline can often be presented as enough in itself.
The sound represents a role which musical instruments usually expect to circumnavigate. Mediated, up and down, the instrument reaches a pitch and a high note announces itself around the corner of the gallery out of sight.
The audience stands on the platform in front of a huge mural, which is in itself of a crowd, taken from an image. The sound of the sewing machine, in this context, illustrates more than sound alone. ‘Echoes’ (2017) performed earlier in the year at Turner Contemporary, shows that place is not the only consideration. This exhibition, at the Korean Cultural Centre, however, consists of diagrams, and outlines, a short hand of condensed images from a particular time. A difficult time politically is re-manifested by the artist, the medium shifting then asking to be read, performed, and perhaps understood. The masses move, the violin wanes, and sound moves up and down, and the performer wanders through space. Something portentous obviously off-stage, and outside, is heard. A man and a woman, who have had a tiff, or sex, become individuals heard apart rather than in terms of each other. There is the outline of cities, always, and incident is read, back, front, sideways around and about. No official account is good, healthy or reliable.
From domestic to general and back again, the gallery has been shaped into a different place. It is a re-aligned, non-aligned, venue for Young In’s play on the scenes and avenues, from grand square to side street. She works with evidence of events to take the event away from all of us, somehow. The artist represents and choreographs a topography of lost experience in order to try to analyse a relatively recent past. Young In uses a large range of media and expression to engage with, and represent, with cautious optimism, what for a new generation reinvests action and expectation.
© Sacha Craddock