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From existence to creation

Ever since he released works featuring robots in 1999, Yongsik Park has employed images of animals cute enough to be from cartoons. These animals, placed in everyday, natural or fabricated situations, are usually familiar to us, such as dogs, ducks, horses, and mice, and the resulting compounds are diverse, including the original sculpture as well as photographs, installations and drawings. Although recent works using twigs seem to focus on connectivity rather than concrete substance or subjectivity, Park's interest in domesticated animals continues. His works may seem familiar due to their subject matter, yet they are not easily understandable, as they do not portray a specific event even though each contain a piece of concern in the world. The face of the dog seems to be crying and smiling simultaneously, and that of the horse, duck, and mice are devoid of expression, like a poker player ready to use the hidden ace in a jam.

The Mazinger Z series from his first solo exhibition featured the artist himself wearing a robot suit, but in later works, the evidence of being a champion of identity is nonexistent from the characters. Self-expression is set aside to condition. Perhaps it is only natural that the audience should read the fact that most of the animal characters being farm animals in costumes arranged in the human society as a metaphor for human life. Although not serialized, the string of dramas starring animals show the animal natures of humans similar to that of fables. Park's works speak through the body language of characters or that of situations, where lies the biological legacy humans and animals share. This emphasis on the common elements between man and animal is not killer instinct as many might think but rather related to peace and coexistence. Animals, unlike humans, are not so reckless as to destroy everything including itself.

Most of human conflicts and violence can be traced back to the density and competition of urban cities. Zoologists say that a realm of nature such as a jungle has no such unnatural compactedness. Park's blank-faced, perhaps even mechanical-looking animals seem to be specimens of ideal natures of animals than that of humans. D. Lestel, in his book 'Animality' points out that completeness of animals is of a different dimension than incompleteness of humans; in other words, the 'completeness' of animals is the opposite of 'completion possibility' of humans. From this uncertainty arises human activities. A smile (of a dog) or the erect posture (of a mouse) that are usually attributed to humans show both the determinacy of animals and the uncertainty of humans. The characters in his works display otherness, the strange aspects of both animals and humans. Matter of self and other is a matter of borders. Park says the continuing theme in his six solo exhibitions so far has been about boundaries. "Not building or tearing down borderlines but acceptance and expansion of obscurity of borders."

'Blurring the Borderline' exhibited in France 2008, features a house made from twigs hung in front of sketches of blurred lines. The sketches are of people and objects from magazines or the internet, rubbed against another sheet of paper to blear the clear shapes. Pieces made from twigs were extensively featured at the fifth solo exhibition, 'On the Borderline' in 2007. The animal formed by clipped tree branches woven together differs from previous characters from its sheer size alone. The pink flowers of sculpted rubber sponge placed all around the web of twigs add vegetability to the already existing animality. These works are not geometrical shapes formed by exact points and lines. The lateral branches cut off for unimpaired shapes of branches are pointing towards the figures of a mouse or a dog, but as complex lines and structure, and the flower arrangements as further interference are added, the borderlines are no longer certain. The borders of his works become obscured 'spaces'.

The same theme can be found in Park's previous works with emphasis on hordes rather than individuals such as mice. Deleuze and Gauttari in 'A Thousand Plateaus' point out that animals are essentially groups and that groups are formed not by lineage but by infection. The outgrowth from the same mold are better understood as results of rhisomatic creation rather than that of organic reproduction or lineal production. The animals in his works are variable according to environment and context, not intrinsic traits such as breeds and species. Instead of clear-cut systemization, the informal nature relying on interconnectivity and dynamics to become a particular installation becomes eminent. 'On the Borderline' series vary to include not only animals but missiles and human hands as well. These display mechanical traits instead of organic systemization as organs dispossessed of function. The branches transform according to the grouping and arrangements.

Twigs, the main medium of recent works by Park, is a model of organic generality, but we should note the fact that he is arbitrarily using the small branches usually discarded. The twigs are arranged as the root and trunk, because Park has a good command of lines rather than point-centric geometrical form. 'A Thousand Plateaus' claims that everything originates from one point, but the line of creation has neither a beginning or an end, no departure or arrival point, or an origin or destination. In the line of creation exists only the middle. Mutation of vagabond lines made up of indeterminate coordinates in any axis form Park's works. The root and trunk arrangements consisting of lines retain tree-shaped coordinates. The space of interconnection connote a myriad of variability. What is borne from this diverse disposition is not a subject of definite characteristics or form but events.

Yongsik Park’s characters are mechanical, strange, and they tell no clear-cut stories. On the other hand, mass media such as games, animations and movies are full of characters more human than humans. Unlike that of mass media, Park's characters stop reflecting itself or human nature and instead begin the nonpersonalization process. His works with their basis in cast sculpture or photography can be connected to cloning. Through the process of many sculptures produced from the same mold and painted the value of the original diminishes. The clones are neither imitations of the subject not placed in a formal setting. His works are created according to the moment's context rather than following a strict blueprint. There exists only a rough outline before it is finished. In Park's works the animals are not merely existing 'as' animals but 'becoming' animals. This is not an imitation; it is creation.

According to 'A Thousand Plateaus' in the theological society of yore, nature was regarded as a gigantic mimesis. Contemporary artist Yongsik Park’s works endlessly call out to nature, but it is free from the symbolism and analogy that forms the inevitable chain of existence. He uses animals to signify the populace of social outcasts, not emotional or mythical models of family or nation. This is a special mode of 'becoming animals' that transcends and includes humans simultaneously, modifying not only animals but humans as well. To 'become', ergo create, is not similarity, mimicry and definitely not identification; it is forming a relationship, not a lineage. It is the roots and trunk of a tree rather than a classificatory diagram or a dendrogram. Park's works, as the theme of 'becoming animals' engage with the contemporary contemplation of rhisome, strive to escape from the narrow-minded humanity standardizing the social norm.

By Lee Seonyoung / Art critic
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