■ Works of Dong-jo Yoo:
Pleasure and Awkwardness of Having an Eye for Artistic Works ■
It is really difficult for me to define Mr. Yoo's works. That's surely because I don't have enough understanding of them. There are however many viewpoints from which his works can be viewed. That's why I am greatly interested in his works and they give me a desire and an itch for entering the heart of his works.
Last year in June Mr. Yoo had the first individual exhibition at Daejeon KBS Headquarters after returning home. This continuing exhibition is very unprecedented as the exhibition place(of course consisting usual place) as well as works themselves. The reason why I call the place exceptional is that it is the very indoor fishing place in the basement. I myself have never been to an indoor fishing place. The site inspires me to imagine a peculiar thing. On the point of fishing place, I had only one chance to go to such a place following one of my friends. So I think a fish farm is more or less removed from the essence of fishing; much more that is the case with indoor fishing. It is reflected to me as a abnormal one mistaking the means for the ends. That may be the same even to a fishing-mania. For that reason indoor fishing place makes me imagine of the real shape of the natural place and the shape changed into exhibition site, on the point of my individual comprehension of 'confined space of indoor', 'doing fishing', or 'fishing', 'the atmosphere of the place named fishing place' as well as the shape itself. And I think it will be the very important factor for understanding his works.
The essential materials he uses in this exhibition are water, a boat, Chinese ink sticks and books. The two works are exhibited. One is like this: First, A large indoor fishing pool in the basement is filled with water. Second, Rubbing Chinese ink sticks by machine(I haven't heard about such a machine and thought about being the case the machine needed.) and flowing the inky water into the pool. Third, setting up several canvases into the pool, and then leave the inky traces getting more black on the canvases. The other is: piling up many opened books on a boat. Tearing off a leaf of each book and making(folding) a small boat with the sheet and putting the small one on each book.
His works in this exhibition are so symbolic and speculative: both in the materials and the use made of them. The works represent his ongoing concerns and continue the speculative view of his other works since nineteen eighties. The coherent idea is about, using his words, interrelation between inside and outside, that is, human civilization (culture) and natural ecology(nature of life). The materials used include wind, water, boat, book, ink stick. They mean culture and nature. At the same time, they have symbolic values to communicate with each other.
Now let's see how the materials represent the author's speculative system. The author says: water accepts everything and flows down toward the lower place, finally it gets together at the sea and the sea is the place where the water and everything which makes up the human history flows. Therefore the deep sea is the abyss: the human life accumulated and the place which has the profound depth. Sea water evaporates into clouds and again becomes rain-drops and then flows into the sea. Water experiences the human world(flowing water), keeps in and keeps silent(sea), and gives back(rain). Thus we can be sure the water's cyclical nature is the supreme frame from which he recognizes the world and human reality.
Let's go back to the indoor fishing place again. The fishing pool takes the place of the sea. Ink sticks(It already symbolizes the record and accumulation of the civilization and speculation.) are artificiality heaping up the gulf(abyss). The water getting darker and darker is recorded on the canvases set up into the water pool. And yet here in this work, the sea which is the origin of life and returning point of remnants is replaced by a fishing site, furthermore an indoor fishing place. Of course it can be the inevitable establishment(setting up) acceding to the limit of the place, but it may be also capable of being another cue we understand his works in relation to his past works.
Mr. Yoo has found one of his work's origins in 'fear'. In the KBS (Daejeon) exhibition last year he piled up a wall with wooden bricks. It shapes the protective function against a human being's original fear of nature and the outer world. The wall divides one place into two other parts, in and out, self and other. Maybe 'in and out' is the most comprehensive and implicative coordinate concept. Therefore in this respect that indoor fishing place, representing inner space replaces the sea, the infinite space, and fifty tons of water gives the feeling of the abyssal depth; Mr. Yoo represents reality in his own distinctive way.
Consider the opened books on a boat and then folding a small boat with one sheet torn from each book, after that putting up the paper-boat on the book. As you see, a book, like ink stick, means the accumulation and history of civilization or speculation. Then what does the boat mean? Regardless of East and West, boat means the beginning of civilization(a modern convenience), spiritual and materialistic transporter, and refuge.
Ten years ago Mr. Yoo had an action(performance): he floated a boat loaded with small trees on a large lake, left it to the blowing wind. On every shore he reached, he planted a tree. In this action he established three themes, 'From Where(Wind)', 'Where(Earth)', 'To Where(Water)'. Each item corresponds with Creation(Past), Existence(Present), Extinction(Future). Understanding these three things as a cyclical structure, he makes them the frame of his own recognition, accepting the outer world and things. Since then this cyclical structure has become the pole of his working procedures. There, the boat is the present and the reality of the life that makes the artist's existence carry(transform) according to the flowing of time(or wind).
On the other hand the books(accumulation of knowledge) which are loaded in the boat are changed into paper-boats and laid on it again. It can be the circumstantial evidence of his cyclical recognizing-system and the transience of human reality. That is his own method: I speculate, he twists, enjoys, and appreciates things. Primarily in their practical faculty, the materials, he uses, strengthen the symbolical function of visualizing the author's speculative system. By the way, intended or not, the materials are not emblems belonged to any one side, named 'in' or 'out' but the installation which functions going and coming between culture and nature, inside and outside of the wall.
I speculate, his materials imply extremely various possibilities of interpretations. The three parted organism, 'From Where, Where, To Where', and the question of the existence merge into each other very much. Therefore we can consider that in the questions his works raises, perhaps there lies something related to existence. His works make us feel dizzy peculiarly. Can it be the reason they make an attack on the viewer's thinking of the objects and the entity secretly and give us a certain confusion? Something that upsets the blocked and harden conventional things from the bottom. It does so consistently, starting from the way materials are introduced to his works, using them and forming the themes with them to the question the themes bring in.
It's surely our pleasure and challenges to perceive his works, however, at the same time it's also the reason we get some embarrassing, anguished questions. Something that has the extremely speculative forms and disturbs the habitual, conventional secure is bound to produce disquiet and speculation - this is the virtue of Mr. Yoo's works.