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A Misunderstanding Caused by the Differences in Memory and Interpretation, and a Study to Its Aesthetic Possibility
Kyungwoo Chun has long been attempting to reanimate the enervated senses based on his insightful observations on the nature of human relationships and through conscious experiences of time provided by his artistic creations, which has often been perceived only abstractly. He has also explored new understandings of his surroundings and looked into the complexity of the contradictory. His artistic endeavors can be characterized by the collaboration with people from different social classes in various cultural regions through minimal expression. His fundamental questions about the world and human beings living in it, which have been embodied mainly through the medium of photography, derives from his tenacious inquiry into the nature of photography and its another possibility. 
This exhibition unfolds the artist’s artistic attention to the misunderstandings caused by the differences in memory and interpretation and to the creative images that are triggered by such misunderstandings and simultaneously looks at his search for the aesthetic possibilities of the accidental and the inevitable. A misunderstanding has usually been thought to involve a wrong interpretation or a miscomprehension of the meaning or significance of the concerned. It has, thus, been regarded as something that needs to be corrected or rectified. In his Believing Is Seeing (2007), Chun mounted an artistic countermove against the long-standing vision-centered belief that seeing was believing. And here the artist poses another question: Is a misunderstanding really a wrong thing? If a misunderstanding signifies the diversity of interpretation brought about by cultural and experiential differences, is it not safe to say that it implies that the world has expanded to an extent where a number of various interpretations are allowed?          
According to H. G. Gadamer, a German philosopher who contributed to the development of hermeneutics, a true interpretation of a work of art depends neither on the objectivity of its analysis nor the discovery of its artist’s original intent, but hinges upon the successful ‘fusion of horizons’ through the dialoguing process where the interpreter listens to the question that the artwork puts to him or her and proposes his or her own question. In the respect that interpretation is an activity of identifying the meaning, it is not a matter of right or wrong unlike in the cases of observable facts or descriptions of incidents, and it is unquestionably different from the process of evaluation in terms of good or bad. This exhibition entitled ‘Interpreters’ is about the process through which the artist and the participants attempt to interpret the photographs given to them or the actions asked of them to carry out and to uncover the meanings of such objects and actions in accordance with the cultural and experiential horizons to which they belong, and about the meaning that a viewer may formulate in front of Chun’s photographs.
The production of Interpreters, the title both applies to the exhibition and the artist’s latest photography series, started with the artist’s delivering of the portrait photographs of anonymous people taken in the 1900s, when the first chapter of Korean photography history began in the late Joseon Dynasty, to ten European painters living and working in Bremen, Germany. Having met the subjects in the photographs from the remote foreign country through their photographic images, these painters of the West were asked by the artist to represent with their own touch the unfamiliar figures from the East in garments that they saw but were unable to understand due to the cultural and experiential differences. As the painter and the subject in the photograph face each other during his or her recreation process into a painting, and the breaths and time of the painter are invested, thus coming to inhabit the painting, which is in turn reborn as the artist’s photograph, the encounter between four people—the figure in the original photograph, the photographer in front of the figure, the painter, and Kyungwoo Chun—is enclosed in a single photographic image across the time difference of a hundred years.
This project consisting of twenty photographs having been originated in the experiences of European culture that the artist had over a long period of time is about the realistic perception and understanding of the pictorial representations of myths and religious allegories. The artists went to San Sebastian, a city in the northern region of Spain that is named after Saint Sebastian who was a well-known legendary figure of the Roman Empire period, and searched for the people with the name ‘Sebastian’ . He showed the images of various Renaissance paintings of Saint Sebastian to dozens of Sebastians he found. He then asked each of them to imitate the pose of the figure in the painting that they liked the most. These twenty Sebastians, from children to the aged, came voluntarily to satisfy their curiosity and with the sense of solidarity formed by the fact that they shared the same name. They reenacted with great patience the painfully and unrealistically uncomfortable postures depicted in the images. Among the participants are those who were named such for historical or religious reasons, those who were given the name of the city as their last name because they were lost children in the past, and some were named for no particular reason. This work is an outcome of the artist’s continued interest in the ‘relationship between a human being and his or her given name’ and, at the same time, it is an answer to the hackneyed questions about the ‘pictorial’.
Simultan, whose title is the German equivalent to ‘simultaneous’, consists of a series of photographic diptychs of various scenes, each taken from two different angles using two cameras. The artist raises a question about the nature of the medium of photography whose representational capacity is limited to the two-dimensional depiction of an incident occurring at a specific time and place from a single vantage point and casts a doubt on the long-held belief that the photograph represents the real. This diptych series delves into the subjectivity of the human reconstruction and memory of an identical phenomenon or incident. It was initiated by the artist’s experience during his trip to Berlin a few years ago with his mother: He realized that he and his mother had different memories about the same incident from his childhood. In the works of this series appear two to seven acquaintances of the artist’s, and in each of them the layers of the time in which the participants talked about their shared experience are accumulated in the two juxtaposed photographic versions.
Seventeen Moments, 2012
This video work entitled ‘Seventeen Moments’ was realized in collaboration with seventeen leading European dancers who were highly trained and capable of perfecting a single group dance movement by keeping tune with one another. It begins and ends with the single moment when they stop the act of ‘breathing’, one of the most unconscious and natural acts. Seventeen Moments was conceived from the artist’s belief that ‘a moment’. a common phrase that tended to elope from a universal definition, can only be defined individually in relation to the length of one’s every breath—in other words, the amount of time left for his or her life or the length of his or her life—and his or her perception of it, and from his acquired understanding that the act of breathing, which was carried out unconsciously to be alive, might be seen as the ‘repetitive crossing over the border between life and death’. His images on the two screens delineate life as the reiteration of a moment, which is the beginning and the end in one. For the artist, the exhalation and inhalation in breathing is nothing but another ‘interpretive act’ that sustains life by exchanging oxygen for carbon dioxide or vice versa.
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