Video ex­plores elu­sive con­cepts

Palm Beach Daily News - - OPINION - By JAN SJOSTROM

If you’ve emerged re­cently from a screen­ing of Alien: Covenant or Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 you might be flum­moxed by Yeon­doo Jung’s Doc­u­men­tary Nos­tal­gia.

Where are the special ef­fects? The chase scenes? The bat­tles? The ac­tion, for heaven’s sake?

Jung shot the 85-minute si­lent video with one cam­era in a sin­gle take. With an un­flinch­ing stare it re­con­structs six scenes from the South Korean artist’s mem­o­ries as stage hands clad in orange jump suits me­thod­i­cally as­sem­ble then dis­man­tle each scene. For long min­utes, noth­ing much hap­pens.

De­spite the com­fort­able seat­ing and big screen, you might be tempted to desert the dark­ened gallery at the Nor­ton Mu­seum, where the video is ex­hib­ited in a show ti­tled Yeon­doo: Be­hind the Scenes.

But hey, it’s sum­mer­time. What’s the hurry?

As with last sum­mer’s Giverny: Jour­nal of an Un­seen Gar­den, Mark Fox’s video in­stal­la­tion documenting the change of sea­sons underwater in the lily pond fa­mously painted by Claude Monet, the video trans­forms the gallery into a “med­i­ta­tive, quiet and cool spot,” said cu­ra­to­rial fel­low Kris­ten Rudy.

For Jung, the in­ac­tion is the point. The artist de­lib­er­ately vi­o­lates the ex­pec­ta­tions of video and pho­tog­ra­phy in pur­suit of elu­sive con­cepts such as the ir­re­triev­abil­ity of mem­ory, the bound­aries be­tween fan­tasy and re­al­ity, and the un­re­li­a­bil­ity of so-called re­al­is­tic me­dia.

His first video, the 2007 work brought the artist world­wide at­ten­tion.

“Doc­u­men­tary Nos­tal­gia is a doc­u­men­ta­tion of mem­o­ries, but the word it­self al­ready con­tains a con­tra­dic­tion,” he said. “Nos­tal­gic feel­ings can­not be doc­u­mented un­less you take a cam­era to the past.”

Jung, 47, found that out years ago.

“When I was 20 years old, I climbed up a moun­tain and hiked for 30 days,” he said. “I thought it was a most beau­ti­ful land­scape and vowed to come back when I was older. Af­ter 15 years, I bought a map and marked the places I thought to be those beau­ti­ful places from my mem­ory — but I couldn’t find them. It is par­tially be­cause the land­scape has changed and de­vel­oped, but also be­cause I per­ceive it dif­fer­ently as I get older.”

In the video Jung re-cre­ates the liv­ing room of his par­ents’ house, the street out­side his fa­ther’s pharmacy, a rice field, a cow pas­ture, a for­est and a moun­tain­top us­ing hand­made props such as ar­ti­fi­cial trees and grass, and painted back drops. The dead­pan re-cre­ations are in­ter­rupted by oc­ca­sional whimsy, in­clud­ing a rain­storm sim­u­lated by stage­hands bear­ing wa­ter­ing cans.

In­stead of mim­ick­ing re­al­ity “I would like to re­veal the stitch marks,” he said. “... We are so used to and trained from child­hood to sus­pend dis­be­lief. I want to in­vite the au­di­ence to find them­selves pulled into the scenery, all the while know­ing that it isn’t real.”

As they con­tem­plate the scenes, Jung hopes the ini­tial bore­dom view­ers might feel will mu­tate into a more par­tic­i­pa­tory ex­pe­ri­ence.

“Dur­ing the awk­ward quiet­ness, the au­di­ence will re­al­ize that time is still run­ning and have enough space to think about what will hap­pen next,” he said. “I want to cre­ate a video work that has plenty of space for the au­di­ence to draw out their own mem­o­ries to fill the empti­ness of the scenery.”

His ad­vice: “En­joy the slow­ness!”

Cour­tesy the artist and Kukje Gallery

Yeon­doo Jung’s in­spi­ra­tion for his video, “Doc­u­men­tary Nos­tal­gia,” was a hike he took in the moun­tains of his na­tive South Korea when he was in his 20s.

Cour­tesy the artist and Kukje Gallery

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