| “A 360-Degree Rotation of the Scene”
-Intervening in Song Myung-Jin's Paintings
...Interpretation proceeds infinitely, and cannot meet any object of interpretation that is not already an
interpretation itself. Thus, the signifier endlessly bestows, reloads or produces the signified. The form always comes from the signifier. Therefore, the ultimate signifie (signified) is the signified itself, which is in a state of surplus or "excess."
-From G. Deleuze and F. Guattari, Mille Plateaux-
“Landscapes, truthfulness of the sounds?”
On the landscapes shown in the paintings: As our eyes move along the road arbored with stubby
trees, they reach a monotonous grey building with many windows and covered in ivy, and a white
space, which freezes and captures everything. Song Myung-Jin's paintings are like this. In a field of
midget mountains, small red ketchup-like volcanos erupt abruptly, and the canvas plane, which
contains such state of movement, is painted in white as if it was unaware of the circumstances.
The strongness, and at the same time, the weakness of painting against filmmaking, are the aspects of "time and sound." In general, we consider the facts that painting cannot show linear time in the
progressive tense (～ing), and that it lacks sound, as shortcomings compared to film. If so, how can
the aspects of time and physical sound become advantages of painting under the same conditions?
This can happen where we erase the linear concept of time and physical sound.
“Time and sound" as merits of painting opposed to film, is only possible when "frozen time" and
"visual sound" have been achieved in a specific work. In other words, "frozen time" does not mean
that it is possible when the painting is closed from the external-actual time, or the experienced and
perceived time is "represented," but takes place when a certain time and certain event (even if it is
something virtual) is substantialized and "frozen". In the same manner, "visual sound" is not sound
that is sensed through actual auditory organs, but rather meanings created by icons, visual images
and signs that are sensed in our brain cortex. For example, when we see the words "ring ring," we
hear the sound of a telephone bell somewhere inside our ears.
Song Myung-Jin's paintings target such "frozen time" and "visualized sound." Each painting does not contain a story based on a linear time-frame, but a landscape chosen as a subject, which goes
through a process of fixation-freezing by a graphic painting technique, demonstrating not the past time or time to come, but a "temporarily stopped" time, or a temporarily fixed landscape. In other words,
Song shows us the ritualized, sensed and perceived landscapes in sudden "freezes", adding the
question mark to the "landscapes, objects and truthfulness," which we think we know all so well, and
prolonging the punctuation.
If the lack of sound and oppression of sound by vision-centered expression are natural by the innate nature of painting, Song does not add different media (audio, etc.) to overcome this, or borrow the
characteristics of other genre (such as movie sound), but does so only by "transforming sound into
visual signs." As we look at the fragments of volcanic eruption in her painting he hear the explosion,
and at the moment we see a bird captured in mid-flight, we hear the flapping of its wings. This is
how Song's intented paintings truly achieve "visual sound" within painting.
Of course the achievement is not made quite yet. This is possible when the viewer is reborn into not
just someone that looks, but an observer, who intervenes in the object. In other words, the artist's
paintings must give birth to the observers and urge them to experience a "360-degrees of thought."
[Spectacle] Montage of the exceeded signifie
We all remember the scenes of terror committed on the World Trade Center in Manhattan, New York
City broadcasted on TV. For some reason, I recalled Song Myung-Jin's paintings as I watched the
enormous amount of black smoke coming out of the destroyed buildings.
When we say something is "like a movie" or to use the trite expression "picturesque", the fact we are
trying to convey is that it is unrealistic (exceeding reality), and it is visual and subjective, rather than
tactile. Our "interest" always connects us with the existence of the object. When the object becomes
a problem for me is this or that way, my interest for that object is triggered.
When explaining the concept of "sublime" by Kant, an example that is often used is the feeling we
have as we watch the raging winds of the ocean from a safe location, or the complex delight or
discomfort we feel about the inevitable power of nature such as awe, fear and spectacle.
I want to apply this example to the term "spectacle." Anyone who is able to say that the tragedy at the World Trade Center was "like a movie" or "a series of spectacles" is someone who did not experience the hellish event or are already dead. They are those who objectified the event through TV, news
photographs, or from a nearby building away from the site. If so, on the other side of defining
spectacle, should be the concept of the cold "viewer" and his/her perspective. The spectator is the
beholder of the cold perspective, but is a sort of scripter, rather than a subject of reason in the
Descartian sense. In my opinion, the "spectacle" is where the signifier called images overflow, and
such surplus signifier are montaged by the scripter, as signifiers interconnect, slide and exceed
themselves in the language-sign structure.
Let us return to the point where Song's painting overlapped with the image of the World Trade Center
tragedy. As the scenes of the event, taken from a safe distance, were edited and sent to hour homes
in the form of video images (photography is essentially non-interventional), in the process of such
editing and communication, the event became a "stopped image (even though it is video footage)",
and a "spectacle sterilized (of danger)", the black smoke in Song's "Munggae munggae" becomes
"stopped (cluster of smoke)" and the bird's flapping of its wings becomes that of a "stuffed" bird, as
the artist intended.
Repetitious as it may seem, in a spectacle, the signifier of "events" is not present, while only signifie, the shell of events--signifiers-- are overproduced, and in Song's paintings, only the signifie of "time" and "sound" are not present, but their signifiers--the surplus of the signifiers montaged by the artist--
are seen. To create messages there and reconstitute the signifier (still) to signifie (movement) is the
role of the observer.
“A 360-Degree Rotation of the Scene”
Those who preached the continuity linkage of signifiers, the sliding of
signifies, and the loss of the signifie by the signifier were not just Deleuze and Guattari, but also Saussure, Heidegger and Derrida.
But as Heidegger put it that though one must erase the signifier of "being" in order to think about "being (sein)," for the sake of declaration the signifier of "being" must be left under erasure, I believe that in
order to do (think about) painting, one must place it under erasure as well. So adding on different
media while calling it "escape from painting" or "mixture of genre", or embellishing the superficial
effect by borrowing various shells of media, in the strict sense, is neither "thought on painting",
"escape", nor a "mixture."
It is my belief that perceptional, expressional and methodological contemplation on current painting
can be achieved when the "negation" of Modernist painting is not denied, and the "diversity" or
"mixture" of Post-Modernism is not appropriated superficially.
Earlier, I defined Song Myung-Jin's painting as a "montage of exceeded signifiers," and said to create messages and recompose the signifiers into signifies were the techniques of the observers. On one
hand it is an abstract method, and on the other, it may accompany concrete action. The former
means that spectators that see Song's paintings will not just accept the landscapes presented (or
frozen) in her paintings as reactionary images, but will reconstitute the continuity of certain events
(time) in their brains from a 360-degree angle based on the clues in the paintings, and the latter
means that you should look at the circumstances of the paintings displayed in the exhibition space
while literally rotating 360 degrees. For example, when looking at "Black Smoke", one may recall
the U.S.World Trade Center Tragedy, or find hidden (rather sexual) images within the hardened
image of smoke. He/she may also look at the large painting of the volcano eruption in the center
of the space, and from there, go around in a circle to see the other scenes of the same picture
(with different viewpoints, or the paintings of birds flying somewhere outside the large painting)
that are spread out in a panoramic view.
Finally, I would like to add that in order to overcome the "world of immobility and death, and the world of tautology" as described by Roland Barthes in criticising the self-referentiality of Modernist painting, and bring painting back to the world of flesh and blood, and the world of irregularity, Song Myung-Jin, in addition to her experimentation in her work, desperately needs "contemplation of intervention that
freezes the present moment of history," where she stands today.
Why? Because she has "de-self"ed herself from her studio.
Kang, Su-Mi (Aesthetics)