See the Unseen

Younggi Kim

Chief Curator, OCI Museum of Art



White blank is just hanging

Scanning repeatedly, but ‘can’t see anything’

‘Still installating?’ ‘Is it the wrong place?’ Quickly check the exhibition period, stay calm and keep eyes wide open with a new mindset. After a short silence, the bloodshot eyes finally catch something on it. A feeling of uncertainty. Anxiety. Cautious. Always become timid in such a situation. Should be confident when appreciating art by the way.

Wait, I can see something. A face? One of the gallery docent can’t stand my tilting head and doubting without grasping the whole picture and gives a hint. ‘… Buddha? It really is!?’ “Then, is this the queen?” That’s correct. My confidence comes back. Shrug like Mr. Blind Shim who has just restored sight and stare at the next picture. Well, I don’t know who it is. It must be ‘a face’. “This is the artist.” ‘Oh, dear. I didn’t ask for the answer.’ I know I probably can’t guess it anyway, but frown a little at the docent. Finally, I stand in front of the last frame. ‘I can see it now’

Even if I rub my eyes and take the sharp angle, there is no focus even after 10 seconds and 20 seconds. The docent watches me. I imagine ‘a man of laughter’ behind the mask. Well, no wonder. Because it was really an empty frame.

The brand new army knife (macgyver knife) overwhelms the old-fashioned Excalibur. Even if you do not major in photography, not carry Canon, and not confront rain and wind, you can get decent images with ‘a phone camera’. Whether you draw the sword at a mosquito or shoot at it, mosquitoes are going to be blown with blood. The quality of the built-in camera lens and image sensor of mobile phones have already exceeded the daily demands. What remains for both the seller and the customer is the title of ‘superiority’. Whether it’s a sword or a cannon, you’ve got it. So, if you don’t use it, you are making a loss. Take a proof shot on a new phone, take a comparison shot with a friend’s phone that has been too old to use, take a picture with the good smell of food, take a picture with such an emotion, and also take a picture to commemorate 100 likes. 100 million pixel high-definition images are overproduced and piled in every corner of the world.

Most of the images flooding over this planet today have been produced by the masses. I mean the public who were just consumers a hundred years ago. The biased power of image production finally achieved justice in distribution, and its honey like power has been evaporated. At the forefront of this situation, there is the spread of cameras. [1]  The sound with the most number of plays in history would be the sound of a camera shutter, not BTS or anything. It conquered one by one like that. Photographers gave everything to the public, not only records, perspectives, sensibility, attitude and passion, but also visual awakening, re-examination, raising problems, and discourse based on the characteristics of the media. It’s the very generous tree. “Ugh, what do I shoot now?”

Sungfeel Yun, who has been contemplating this topic for decades, decides to take the real thing (寫眞, photography). Silver bromide photography, as the name implies, uses the property of the (halogen-based) silver compound (silver salt) in the photosensitive layer of photo paper that decomposes and darkens when exposed to light. The difference in the degree of exposure is the content (image) of the photograph. The process of highlighting the difference and making it visible is the phenomenon. Terminating the development with the stop bath and blocking the photosensitization with the fixer turn out to be the gelatin silver print that we see.

Suddenly, he pours bleach. At last, the fixed layer on the surface of the photograph gets damaged, and the silver ions composing the image produce a compound again. So, it becomes white. Almost all of it is erased, but the invisible silver particles are barely left. An emergency restoring agent can still save some parts. It can settle as it is. Cold-hearted confirmation. It can’t turn back anymore. Nevertheless, photosensitization with silver particles still remains as a matter of fact. So, is the image there or not? Is the existence the cause and effect of action? Or is it the effect itself? If you say something is ‘unrecognizable’, doesn’t it mean that you already recognize it?

It can be seen as a confrontation between ontology and epistemology. But this artist is a materialist no matter what. There is no smoke without fire. Just like phenomena, recognition is also the result of effect. The unknown parts are the source and substance of mystery. Our big brother, Gödel (Kurt Friedrich Gödel, 1906-1978) identified the disappointing and discouraging fact that ‘something that cannot be clarified forever exists inevitably’. Therefore, what we can’t see and touch will always bother us. But Sungfeel Yun goes one step further and says, “It does not just exist. It’s everywhere, overflowing. Almost all of them are like that.” The realm of the unseen and things that cannot be grasped is much larger. The fact that the ratio of dark matter and dark energy[2] is about 96% of the universe is to tell us ‘There is something invisible! Much! Most of them!’, and it is a dark shout from the night sky. It’s not as it seems.

If you can see the last picture, the artist will directly appoint you as the owner of the Mind’s Eye. In fact, there is nothing. So, it is impossible even for Mongolian nomads wearing glasses to see something out of it. No matter how much you see, it’s not everything. However, it feels like something is awkward. A picture that is not showing? Truth is invisible. ‘Photos that show the unseen’ would rather be nice. This is such a work and such an exhibition.

The definition of photography in dictionary is a citation of the real thing. However, to him, truth is the principle of the world itself rather than the actual subject. Such ‘autheniticity’ usually behaves haughtily with its name value. The fog surrounding it is thick, close yet far away, hard to see even if you open your eyes wide open, and hardly recognize… His picture frame, which is frustrating because it is white, is like ‘a test tube sample containing the real thing’ as it would be. ‘Invisibleness’ is taken clearly. The ‘visibility’ like thick fog around it is all erased with bleach. Originally, it looks like that, but the model of principle, the nude of principle is much more visible now. Photographers have never shown in this way before, and it makes us remind the meaning of photography.

What I want to say is, the photography is not a matter. Where is the end of the visual arts? The art that discards the visuality is the visual art. Visual artists do not attach to visual anymore. Visual artists say, ‘Don’t get caught up with the visuality, don’t stick to it, and overcome the delusion of it’. I suddenly think of the owner of the lottery store who said, “Don’t even dream of getting rich.” Isn’t this such a gourmet who seeks the true taste of meat by biting his own flesh?

[1] The second contributor will probably be A.I. imaging. The two are complementary. The assemblage of photos becomes an endless pool of A.I. learning samples, and A.I. intervention in photo production will save more sources.

[2] Ad hoc to explain the insufficiency of the Accelerating Expansion of the Universe. It cannot be proven by direct observation. So, the modifier “dark” has been added.