Thirdspace, by Jungmin Ryu



Daehyung Lee, Director, Hzone Curating Company




To put down roots into space is a basic human desire, and should there be a situation where a person is uprooted from, or isolated from said space, it is inevitable that defense mechanisms are instigated. Simultaneously, the desire to create new space moves the person to new grounds. The two disparate desires repeat through a process of interference and inter-reaction, tearing down existing space and in their place creating numerous new spaces. Through such repeated process of interference, space is indulged by countless fragmented memories, the reason that over time, space gains personalized, contextualized, and politicized. Lexicon of focus in this discussion, however, is not space, but place, as subject matter must be approached not as an abstract subject of aesthetics, but as an arbitrary subject of interaction. And in that sense, the concept of place is defined within the complementary relationship of memory and space, an organic crossbreed of memory, space, and time. Thus given that place is relative, not absolute, arbitrary, not logical, it becomes disjunct from space.

Ryus photography starts from this relative, arbitrary disjunction. Her fixation on placeness began during her studying abroad in Germany. She had sought Germany to refresh her bearings on photography, but what met her was a high fortress that would not be easily surrendered. The linguistic barrier and cultural disjunction severely curtailed Ryus sphere of activity, and confrontations of the heterogeneous became an inevitable daily chore. Residing within a culture sans substantive interculturalization, Ryu began contemplating her mundane space not as a subject of subjugation, but of observation. This opportunity was a prerogative and threshold of a Diaspora, one who finds oneself between Germany and Korea; physically in Germany yet emotionally rooted in Korea. Ryus thorough positioning as a completely extraneous observer unbound to any single culture, Ryus objective distance provided the logical brick and tar for completing her multilayered structure. Suggestive of a cross-section of a fossil bed, Ryus composition is a perspicuous exhibition of the oppressing reality bearing down upon the life of the contemporary man.

Eventually, the question arises of how should memory be reconstituted? As prior discussed, Ryus definition of space starts with observation of a place of alienation and disparation, and from there, the artist discovers structural dilemmas not before tangible, such as identity issues, cross-culturalism, discordance between the individual and the whole. Through this process, Ryu willingly suffers the consideration of how an individuals memories and experiences can be reinterpreted to a universal message. She boldly eviscerates the function of objective reality in her work, distorting time and space, drawing the onlooker to a strangely unfamiliar storyscape. As far as Ryu is concerned, photography as a representation media is not a realism for reality reenactment. Through digital-collaging, the artist deconstructed and reconstructed a space nonexistent in reality, on the canvas of memory and story. As a result, though the fragments of reality and memories are used, the product is far from real. It is place that is simultaneously reality and fantasy, Korea and Germany, past and future.

Ryus interpretation of space, her revolt against the exclusive nature of binarity, is suggestive of Edward Sojas Thirdspace(1996). No longer were the distinction between foreground and background in composition, and brought in were special memories to the realm of mundanity through repetition. What resulted was deconstruction of dualism, of ideals of objectivity and subjectivity, abstract and actual, real and virtual, repetition and difference, mind and body, conscious and the unconscious, Oriental and Occidental, and the mundane and historical. Cityscape constructed as such is not so much a collage of space as it is an accumulation of fragmented memories. The Path of Error #4 rises above the clouds, much like the way the Tower of Babel once did synonymous to mislaid appetite for industrialization and urbanization. The paradoxical collage is not about contemplation of cityscape structure, but a projected feeling of an enigmatic city.

Latest digital photography technology employed by Ryu to collage memory and space, that is to say, both the physical non-physical realm, ironically succeeds the artistic syntax of Oriental art. Collision between contexts are purposefully drawn together, but neither the point of collision nor overlap are fixed to a singular focal point. The structure instead requires multiple perspectives. This is a structural mechanism that disallows the onlooker from setting root on any single point. Much like the way Ryu had experienced, the onlooker maintains objective perspective from the screen, freely displaced from one point to another. Considering this, the collage is animated not by observation of objet but of process. So to understand Ryus collage as an artistic mechanism is to overlook it as a philosophy that consorts personal memories and interpretation of the times, history and the daily mundane.