REVIEWED: Gimhongsok: Good Labor Bad Art

By Tiffany Chae 
Gimhongsok, Canine Construction, 2009

In Gimhongsok’s new exhibition Good Labor Bad Art at PLATEAU, Samsung Museum of Art, one should be cautious about believing what one sees. The viewer first encounters Canine Construction (2009) just outside the gallery entrance and this fabrication of stuffed black plastic bags is an unmistakable appropriation of Jeff Koons’s Balloon Dog (1994-2000). Although Gim’s dog looks much more fragile and lighter than Koons’s, its actual finish is resin casting and weighs approximately 600kg. Likewise, many of Gim’s works often trick the audience with visual irony and fictional narrative. RECORD - A4p3 (2005) comprises two framed panels including Korean and English texts, seems to be presenting historical facts related to political situations and governmental policies of Korea in the 1970s. The viewer can become confused as the obviously false segment follows: that residents of Seoul’s 14 districts had to mark themselves in the shade of paint assigned to their district.

Gimhongsok, RECORD - A4p3, 2005

The exhibition rooms are medium specific. The first room contains sets of panels of drawings and texts. The second room on the right consists of video works and a stage setting and the third room on the left features works done by traditional medium such as painting and sculpture. Gim taking on the role of trickster and the manner is which language itself is used, are the key players throughout the show. Public Blank (2006-2008), 16 framed drawings and texts proposing 8 public art projects in the first room sound rather like a collection of art performance proposals. For instance, Gim suggests the construction of a conceptual plaza of 100,000 square metres in an existing vacant space through the participants’ walking trails. Demarcating five points and walking from one point to another will form a star shape - the trails are marked out on the ground with the action of dropping paints whilst walking. When the action finishes, the walkers are meant to ‘sing of the bright future and gain in self-confidence’ as the artist affirms. Given that the artist never reveals his true stance, the viewer has to decide whether or not to take this as a serious proposal.

Gimhongsok, Public Blank, 2006-2008

Gimhongsok, Camera Specific – Public Blank, 2010

Camera Specific – Public Blank (2010), the single channel video installed in the second room is a statement on Public Blank delivered by a lady who gives a speech on the rationale of the work on behalf of the artist. However, she has never been involved in the making of Public Blank and only read the proposal once, and says it from her memory. Hence, given that the speaker’s memory or interpretation would influence the re-enactment, her statement cannot be identical to the original. Similarly, in Camera Specific – The Fake as More (2010), a man gives a lecture on appropriation and translation in art. In fact, the content of the speech was not the man’s original thoughts and he was only asked by Gim to re-enact the lecture which the artist himself had previously given. Here, Gim does not necessarily problematise the authenticity of information but focuses on the phase of knowledge transformation and points to the aesthetics of reproduced knowledge instead.

Gimhongsok, Good Critique Bad Critique Strange Critique, 2013

Good Critique Bad Critique Strange Critique (2013) is three critics’ performance on the stage in the gallery space. On the 22nd of March, Gim asked three curators and critics to critique his two new works, Self Statue (2012) and MOP - 120512 (2012). Two things were agreed upon between the artist and the three art professionals for this performance: the rights to individual critiques belong to the individual speaker whilst the collection of criticism stands for the artist’s own artwork. In this two-hours-long performance, curator Jinsang Yoo summarised Gim’s art as ‘contemporary art mise-en-scene’ and pointed to the stages of ‘co-referency’, ‘free-association’ and ‘derivation’ in his works. Art critic Hyun-suk Seo highlighted the concurrence he reached with the artist and repeated the logic of Gim’s performance by hiring an MA student to talk about Gim’s piece on the critic’s behalf. A couple of questions arise: Can the critics’ original ideas and opinions be substituted as the artist’s own work by the ‘contract’? Is the artist’s use of the critics’ labour as art contents ethically pertinent?

Gimhongsok, various works including: WIPE -130111 (2013) and STIR – 130111 (2013)

Gim’s questioning of issues around the authenticity of labour in art creation continues in the final room. WIPE -130111 (2013) and STIR – 130111 (2013) seem to be gestural abstract paintings and resemble the styles of Richter and Pollock at first glance. In fact, the works were produced by labourers who were asked to wipe or stir the three-metre-long canvases with urethane lacquer. An artist hiring workers for art making is thoroughly acceptable and very common in the art world since the introduction of the readymade by Duchamp a century ago. However, if the viewer is not privy to such information of non-artists’ labour behind the art creation, is he/she being cheated?

Gimhongsok, A Study on Slanted and Hyperbolic Constitution – LOVE, 2011

A Study on Slanted and Hyperbolic Constitution - LOVE (2011) appears to be an anti-art version of Robert Indiana’s LOVE (1970, sculpture), as the composition of taped parcels and rolled mattress creates the word ‘LOVE’. The cheap and disposable materials are actually covered with resin, which improves the work’s durability and financial value. Conventional notions of materiality lose relevance; the work merely stands as a prop for Gim’s set. The gallery space thus becomes a stage for the artist’s play - perhaps a theatre of the absurd. The simultaneous and random voices of the different speakers in the video installations have an uncanny quality and in spite of featuring many actors (many of the speakers are actually professional actors), the artist’s presence is strong throughout the exhibition and therefore Gim firmly positions himself as the director of the play.

7 March – 26 May, 2013