Modern Times 2.
Modern Times 3. gloomy rhythms
Modern Times 4. jingle jingle
Dot + Dots.
A better place to kiss you.
Photoraphic Look 1. a construction
Photoraphic Look 2. a sign
Hyun Hong presents his pictures in pairs, not as a single one. A pair of pictures look unfamiliar, rather than evoking familiarity. That is why the two photographs paired with each other capture the objects that seem extraneous at first blush, like the pair of pictures featuring the urinals or faucets standing in a line.
Hong's mated images collide with each other, making viewers feel their experience as something discontinuous, not continuous. His jarring juxtaposition of photos or images includes two meanings: one is that the messages his work particularly conveys lie in 'between' the two photographs, not within each one, and the other is these images are carried by the effect of their clash, not by their accord. In other words, audiences experience a certain relation between two images in the course of discovering them. If so, what we find out in his photographs? And, what message we encounter through this experience of discovery?
By juxtaposing two photos in pairs, Hong Seung-hyun has the viewer closely compare them with each other. By intentionally coupling the objects and spaces that seem to remain completely irrelevant in their purpose and use, Hong alters them into the subjects of a close comparison. In this case, the two objects specially mated in his photos are in no way irrelevant and have something to do with each other. In pursuing a certain relation between them, the point we first discover is their 'visual similarity'.
For instance, the coffee machines, elevators, public telephones, and electric safety switches placed paratactically are all different in their uses but quite resemble in their appearance. While witnessing such visual resemblance, we come to realize that is not a mere outer similarity but an inevitable consequence derived from the 'structural functionality' defining each object's attribute very strictly.
There is no functional difference between railroad track and conveyer belt in that the two are all for the transportation of passengers or freight. What we finally discover in Hong's pictures, together with visual similarity and structural functionality, is the relation unexceptionally controlling a variety of objects, namely a 'uniform system'.
To our astonishment, every corner of everyday life and everyday surroundings is thoroughly systemized by the uniform functionality. We are surprised to discover the uniformity of both objects and daily environments in Hong's work, which carries further messages that there is no existence of humans.
Hong's photographs are often empty of people. There are, of course, many pictures to bring about the alienation effect by intentionally blotting out traces of people. The theme these photographs explore, however, is mostly about the alienated relations between man and object. The alienation effect Hong's paired pictures generate is not merely derived from the relations between man and object or object and object. His works obliterating traces of people naturally extend such relations into the relations between man and man.
The truth we encounter by enlarging the scope of our gaze from object relations to human relations appears to be extremely serious. That is why through these object relations, we witness real look of our existence that is maintained by the functionality given or forced by society.
Hegel had early dreamed of achieving a utopia through the Master-Slave Dialectic. With the help of reason and technology, it implies, human beings have the forces of completing the utopia of freedom and happiness, escaping from the subordination of nature. If Hegel's prediction comes true, in the modern ages quite naturally, we should be the master of this utopia. In this utopia are we really the master? Or, we are another object living blindly under the uniform environment controlled with irreproachable functionality? Hong Seung-hyun's work takes off the mask of modernity, posing such acute questions.
Kim Jin-young, Art Critic.