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Questioning about the border between Art and Non-art

When I heard about the Silk Road project from Jae-Choul Jeoung last spring, I thought that it would be good enough to reveal the artistic and cultural aspect in the discussion of the Post-modernism. Above all the passages of pieces affected by frequent travel around the Silk Road gave more trust on his creative idea. The artist exhibits the work relating this project for several times in galleries. After, as a practice, the artist visited China, Pakistan, India and Nepal for several times after his prior work done at domestic. Finally at his last closing trip, I had a lucky chance to travel few of those countries with him.

I arrived at the Islamabad airport with the excitement waiting to see the reborn of the road, once not only for interchanges of goods but also for study, religion, technology, and language among various social statuses, that of total cultural exchange into one creative space over time.

Today, looking at the world only with one click due to globalization through the network, I started to check the 'site' where the artist visited place by place on the road. Under the name of art, I intended to view how it was realized that the idea of rising contact and duplication among different cultures by replacing banners which encourages consumption in Korean industrial society to the past important commercial place, the Silk Road. Banners were transformed into various shapes: as a blind of stone factory at Taxila, a cover for the rikshaw(kind of automobile) and a bad sheet, a cover for a cabinet or a shelf in a house at Passu, a front door curtain in a house at Kashgar, a fruit store screen at Kuche and so on. Moreover shapes and images of objects made by them (of course they understood letters on banners as images) were balanced with the neat and fascinating interior, clothes, and charming transportations. At there it was more than itself, rather something in-determined containing modified process as useful visual object within the environment.

The artist expressed nothing. What he did was just throwing wrapped clean old banners to the local people after explaining the 'Art Project' few months ago. It included both probabilities of to be developed into art or nothing. However the people who had a conversation with the artist made clear existence as new object within the specific reality. This shows that those banners were conditional art substance waiting for reactions of people while existing by relation among circumstances.

In spite of many changes, most of the modern art work has used the museum-like communication way while keeping the certain distance from viewers. They who visited a museum still appreciate pieces within the visual thought of 'viewing only by eyes' under the tacit agreement of stay away from them. Conversely, Jae-Choul Jeoung asks us to experience the art happening in the real life rather than looking by eyes under conservativeness. Therefore, his art becomes dynamic occurring in real life by locating at the complete spot instead of insisting artistic space. It has taken the place in actual world as a combination of art and daily life. Indeed, his project gains societal values while emphasizing the movement from the private elite-ism to public boundaries.

The banners which the artist hand in to the Silk Road people include various possibilities and those depend on the choice of people's own senses and needs. In fact appreciating the art is a private experience. Therefore people have received it as peculiar emotions by one's individual situation. The meeting with the Silk Road people proved it. Some of them volunteered as a guide for each site with self-satisfaction within the participation in art and others were focusing on explaining their purpose and process of results. Specially, there was a middle age Pakistan man who questioned at us and led the discussion in order to identify the meaning of this project within artistic and societal point of view. Of course, some of them had no idea about it. This kind of meeting offers a motivation to the study about relations between the art and the real world while it notifies the function of the project, pulling general concept of people. Unlike the time of Silk Road, the participation of local people who lives in poor economic conditions was an realization of Meyer Shapiro's philosophy which encourages pursuing the art of being conscious about historical and societal circumstances against the modernism art that was only enjoyed by a certain small groups in capitalism society.

In the past, highly identified artist give out some clear messages to viewers. However Jae-Choul Jeoung project makes the event and focuses on keeping it. It means that viewer moves from the appreciating visual objects into the physical and tactile acting. And the action is physical and conceptual experience. The artist starts and viewer proceeds. It is significant that the artist stimulates unfamiliar mentality and emotion and cheers up the move of public at the Silk Road therefore he made them to experience new feelings. It shows his idea that creative movement can be spread out in daily life.

Eventually the Silk Road project is arguable. Upon traditional artistic concepts, this project has no form, nor any artistic contributions, and due to the peoples' participation, has ambiguous form and undefined meaning. That is way the communication happens between two different cultures. The communication way is the content of this project. Viewers in Korean museum would react toward the thought, feeling, and acting of different culture by seeing records and pictures of the project. Also they would realize new intention and imagination of time and space between different use of banners in Korea and the Silk Road. Closer or non-geological distance banners will be a tool to sharpen our mentality and emotion.

The artist of the Silk Road project develops meaning and culture and consist the relations among people through the communication as a part of his creative work. This shows the changes in contemporary art with the inspired, critical and innovating attitude. And it studies and tests wider range of aesthetic category.

The warm welcome of the Silk Road people carved in me. We, as a stranger were served by kindly made hot tea and bread. Sweet treat stays still in my mind. I also remember the Kashgar girl's shy and bright smile delighted by second meeting with the artist within few months. The art might do something we cannot do.

By Park Sook-Young / Art Critic, Arts Plastiques, professor of Ewha Women’s University

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