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Chan-Hyo BAE Occident's Eye

2020/MAR/13 - 2020/MAY/31

: MoPS
Curated by
: The Museum of Photography, Seoul
: Chan-Hyo BAE
  • works_view

In the form of photography Chan-Hyo BAE has continuously visualized the ‘alienation’ he had sensed as an Asian man living in the Western world. He expressed the uneasiness resulting from the alienation, and he has explored the cultural prejudice underlying in the society he is part of, through a variety of photographic projects. Over the past 10 years he has assembled his past works, starting from Self-Portrait as well as Fairy Tales, Punishment and Witch Hunting, into his Existing in Costume series. He presents himself in the artwork as a western woman, who penetrates into the world that had alienated him and have them otherized this time. Working on the project, the artist came to face the truth that absolute human faith lies the core of the cause and the progress in justifying the collective violence that many ‘others’ experience. Witch hunt in particular was an oppression on the minority implemented by the ones with power masked under the absolute faith defined by justice and truth. Witch Hunting expresses it by identifying the ‘witch’, a social taboo at a time when religion was the social order, with the ‘other’ from the contemporary world where scientific mind forms the core of social order. Categorizing something by their differences inevitably results in comparison of objects and installation of standards, establishing a relationship that gives superiority to the creator of this standard. The West claims they regret their faults from the past like the act of witch hunting, but in reality the minority is still suppressed in multiple ways in the name of absolute faith to justify the West’s ethnic, racial, and cultural superiority. Chan Hyo BAE’s new project Occident’s Eye is an extension of the Witch Hunting to expose the violence of dominating relationships and to express the relative perspectives on categorization. The focus was on violence towards the outsiders and the absolute faith that justifies such violence. The definition of religion, myth and superstition and their relationships are the subjects of his work and he materialized the protest against the absoluteness as visual works. Myth is not a religion. Nobody today regards the Egyptian or Mesopotamian myths as articles of faith. Still in the ancient days, they were the center of social order and all there is to believe. We call this now-fossilized faith as myths and conflicts or collision are absent in its relationship with religion. Yet things are different in the case of superstition, which still coexists today with religion. For instance, shamanism in the past played the role of wishing for practical happiness such as well-being of life or prosperity. Yet today’s shamanism, totemism, and animism are all defined by scientific rationalism. In such ways power play of the present is in motion on the borders of religion and superstition, while the artist questions the criteria of such boundaries and categorizations. Furthermore, he questions the distinction between ‘us’ and the ‘others’. An alter is a place where religious act of worshiping god takes place, a human made object empowered with absolute faith and religious legitimacy. The artist built an altar of his own to experience the absoluteness it creates and as a result each of the artwork presented in this exhibition is completed as an altar. While absoluteness is encountered through collision of the different religious altars in different forms, absoluteness is simultaneously observed in a ‘distorted’ way. After all, his works express the ‘violence’ that objectify the faith, and protest for those alienated from power. Until now the purpose of his work was to understand the relationship between the West and himself, an individual Asian man, but this time the project has expanded its discourse to the realm of humanity itself and the society or culture. While the project is a continuation of Existing in Costume, it is also a very new attempt in terms of formats. Like the Jumping into The Oil paintings series, the new artworks are also photographic images printed on animal skins and not paper. As a result, the leather that represents absolute value is mutilated. It is a process of expressing humanistic thinking that’s generous on death of animals and the uneasiness felt from such absoluteness. He also expanded the format of his expressions by combining the photographic images with stones and trees, an attempt to ‘add significance’ to nature that coexist with humans. Physical limits of photographic medium were a challenge to the artist but after countless efforts, in his new series he expands the fixed, two-dimensional perspective of photography by harmonizing with multi-dimensional substances of nature. Chan-Hyo BAE’s project started from distinguishing the West from the East. Yet it makes us face the truth that we too easily define those of different race and different descent as ‘others’ and draw a line between them and oneself. Rather than seeking some type of answer on the injustice, his work results from trying to ‘question’ the complexity that cannot be easily defined from our relationship with the society we live in and focusing on the artist’s feelings and expressions about them. No matter what narrative the artist express through his works, his well-organized compositions and excellent decorative results opens the possibility to the viewer to interpret autonomously. Through Occident’s Eye, which is a process as a completion of Existing in Costume and goes beyond to the expanded field, viewer will be able to find his constant questioning and active attempts towards the limits of photography.