Sunday, November 28, 2010

'Imma gonna eat choo!' Zhiwan Cheung: recent paintings

When the sky turns black... why do I feel so blue?

I went to see my friend Chris's art show the other weekend (2010 November 13).  The details are as follows:

Imma gonna eat choo!
Zhiwan Cheung: recent paintings
November 7 - December 31 2010
갤러리뉴욕 Gallery New York
경기도 광명시 철산 3동 426
서림빌딩 3층 광명뉴욕치과
(Just outside Seoul, South Korea)
mon-fri 9:30-7pm, sat 9:30-4pm, sun & holidays closed

Gallery New York actually shares a floor with the New York Dental Clinic, with the unfortunate web address.  They have a good animated map.  The subway stop is 철산역 Cheolsan station, on Seoul subway line 7.

The show is big pictures of kimchi and big pictures of stomachs.  Stomachs with ulcers.

Culture Vultures

These three paragraphs were provided to describe the exhibition.  The English was presented second, but here it is first:

"Eat me" screams a canvas of Kimchi, fermented and bloated to match its cultural importance, and "inflame me" whispers its gastric doppelganger.  Many will take for granted these dialogues of food and body.  In Korea, Kimchi IS the significantly insignificant commodity.  It IS the most important edible cipher in society.  But, it is often relegated to vats as "readily available" and rarely the "specialty."  And, for all its significance - the long fermentation process, the regional varieties, the passionate titular debates over "kimuchi vs. kimchi" - Kimchi is orphaned at the table, jealously eyeing its other side dish cousins get happily eaten.  Nonetheless, Kimchi is constantly consumed on a daily basis, in varying quantities - ambrosia for the tongue and the ultimate workout for the stomach.  The turbulent adventures of our tongues and stomaches continue.  We are entranced.  We are rendered gastronomically catatonic.

And thus, the Internet spews photographic fountains of Kimchi.  The paintings themselves monstrously grin "eat me" and the internal organs mix in an orgy of bloody corporeal colors that seduce one into believing that the qualms of the stomach are nothing but a chimera.  The canvas enlargements are yet just a further representation of how humans consume in mass quantities and to excess and gain malfunctions to the excess.  These paintings glamorize the malfunction and show ulcers in all their grand cadmium rivers - perhaps to parallel the degree to which we have allowed our consumption to have access to our bodies.  And because of this, perhaps, Kimchi is all the more beautiful.  Thoroughly smitten, the stomach has nothing to say but:

Feed me.

How totally banal of you to ask what I really mean

The two kimchi paintings in the main room of the exhibition differ substantially in technique.  The one at the top of this page ("When the sky turns black... why do I feel so blue?") is more refined, with much smoother brushwork.  It is also the piece that was selected for the show's promotional materials.  I really like this one though ("How totally banal of you to ask what I really mean") with its splash of green.

I also really experience visual art through titles and descriptions.  When I go to an art museum I like to see what everything is called, and often the title and description is more fun than the actual piece, for me.  Maybe my art appreciation skills are not finely tuned, maybe my brain is just really text-oriented.

This painting is called "How totally banal of you to ask what I really mean."  While it may just be saying that you should trust the artist's explanation and not second guess it or insist on finding some other meaning, it also reminds me of my sister's standpoint on her art, which is basically total refusal to explain herself.  But whether you provide text hooks for visually impaired folks like me, or only put up the paintings by themselves, modern art is about pushing your head around, as far as I'm concerned.  Art museums are like playgrounds for your brain; a million different things you can mess around with.

Happy be happy

Here's the Korean version of the show explanation:

김치로 꽉 찬 캔버스가 소리지른다, "날 먹어"! 발효로 부풀어 오른 모양이 김치의 사회적 중요성을 서사하는가하면, 위 속의 도플갱어는 "날 불태워버러"라고 귓속말로 속삭인다.  많은 사람들은 음식과 육체 사이에 존재하는 이러한 대화를 간과하곤 한다.  특히 김치는 한국에서 하찮은 상품으로 존재하면서도 중요한 사회적 먹을 수 있는 암호로도 작용한다.  김치는 "어디서도 구할 수 있는" 정도로 격하되고 "특별한 것"이라고 생각되는 경우는 드물다.  긴 숙성을 거쳐 나온 각양각색의 전통 김치는 명목상으론 국제적 이슈가 되기도 하지만 ("김치"라고 표기 할지 "기무치"라고 표기 할지에 대한 논란), 막상 식탁 위에 오르면 다른 반찬들에 비해 소외시되곤 한다.  여전히 우리는 매 식사마다 당연하듯 다양한 양의 김치를 소비하지만, 그것의 육체적 경험, 다시 말해 김치가 몸 속을 통과하면서 혀가 느끼는 암브로시아와 위가 행하는 거친 운동의 경험이 무의식 속 우리를 도취시키고 우리의 미각을 긴장시킨다는 것을 의식하지 못한다.

인터넷이 김치의 다양한 사진을 뿜어 내는 한편, 나의 김치 페인팅은 "날 먹어" 라며 기괴하게 웃으면서, 내장을 연상시키는 광란의 핏빛 색깔은 뱃속에서 느껴지는 꺼림칙함이 단지 일종의 키메라에 불과하다고 믿게 만든다.  캔버스를 꽉 채운 김치의 클로즈업은 우리의 과소비와 거기서 오는 후유증은 생각하지 못하는 것을 상징한다.  내 작업은 과함의 후유증을 미화하고 궤양의 웅장한 카드뮴 강을 보여준다.  하지만 이러한 양면성 때문에 김치는 더욱 아름다운 것일 수도 있다.  김치의 매력에 철저히 엄습당한 위는 결국 한마디 말 밖에 남아있지 않았다:

"내 배를 채워죠."

Infinite Jest

And these three untitled paintings were in a separate room: one big one which I guess is kimchi, and two little ones that I guess are stomach.  These ones are the hardest to identify, in my opinion.  At first I thought they were all stomach.  Now I think they could all be kimchi.  They're just pictures, really...

The end!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Translating The Social Network

I finally got to see The Social Network, which was released 2010 October 1 in the US but not until 2010 November 18 here in Korea.  I don't know why there was such a lag.  It's tempting to guess it's for subtitling or something like that, but some other movies have been released on the same day in the US and Korea.  Anyway, let's take a look at the American and Korean posters.

The American poster says "You don't get to 500 million friends without making a few enemies."  The Korean poster says "5억명의 온라인 친구 / 전세계 최연소 억만장자 / 하버드 천재가 창조한 소셜 네트워크 혁명!"

Interestingly, the Korean poster is nothing like a translation of the American poster.  It says, roughly "500 million online friends / The youngest billionaire in the world / The social network revolution that was started by a Harvard genius!"

Especially as I'm working on some subtitling right now, it is interesting to me how different these are.  The American poster focuses on the personal drama that the movie actually tries to deliver, and that American audiences presumably want to see.  The Korean poster emphasizes the financial success and prestigious college association of the lead - explicitly accessing Korea's twin obsessions.  It may also be attempting to provide more background information for a Korean audience that is less familiar with facebook.  But it also totally removes mention of interpersonal conflict, which Korea certainly has but doesn't like to talk about so much in public.

Of course these are just the posters.  Watching the movie I noticed mostly that the subtitles really summarize a lot.  It's like reading an abstract of the film.  It may be particularly the case for The Social Network because a lot of the characters talk really fast, but there was a lot of simplifying between the original script and the subtitles that Korean audiences were reading.  Something I may take into consideration as I write some subtitles.

The movie itself was fun.  I really enjoyed all the references to computer stuff that I used to be into.  It was cool to know what they were talking about with all the "Linux Apache Perl MySQL emacs root" stuff.  I've installed/used/had all those things!  The early scene where Zuckerberg is "hacking" for pictures was pretty fun.  Made hacking/blogging seem pretty neat.  Even though the "hacking" was really just finding quick ways to download photos that were already publicly accessible on the web.

I didn't know that Napster guy had any involvement in Facebook - or that he was played by Justin Timberlake.  Huh.

The movie also kind of made me feel like I should quit doing a normal job and take over the world somehow.  Yeah!  Innovation!  Breaking the mold!  Yeah!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Logan's Run

So I downloaded and watched this 1976 movie.  I feel like I heard about it somewhere before, and it's kind of similar to a story we teach at ChungDahm.  Like that story, everybody is supposed to die at a certain age, oh my gosh, but there's no good reason for the world of the story to be the way it is.  It just doesn't make much sense.  The movie is fairly crap.  I read the wiki page for the book and the book seems a little bit better.  And it looks like they're working on a new movie version.  Anyway, I can't recommend the 1976 movie.

PBS "The Human Spark"

So the iTunes store started renting nonfiction TV shows and I downloaded and watched PBS's "The Human Spark," a three-part series hosted by Alan Alda, that guy from M*A*S*H.  The show was trying to get at "What is the nature of human uniqueness," which is something I think about a good deal.

Naturally "language" is the biggest answer, but maybe not the only or fundamental one.  One interesting thing was that they linked, as I've seen before but hadn't been thinking about recently, other symbolism and art with the symbolism of language.  So ancient pierced shells used as decorative beads could have been worn symbolically as markers of same-grouped-ness, expanding the cooperative groups of humans beyond immediate family or whatever, allowing for trade, etc.

This reminded me of the Cosmides and Tooby paper "Can race be erased?" that showed that clothing coalitional cues strongly influence people's ideas of group belonging.

Another interesting thing was what one of the scientists on the show said: "I don't think you can separate society from technology."  He was talking about the way society, communication and sharing, spreads technology from the inventor to other users.  And now technology spreads people's social communication etc.  The social network and all that.  An interesting quote.

Another cool thing, which I may have heard before but forgotten about, is this: Dogs understand and follow human pointing, but wolves do not - even if they are raised like dogs.  It seems that the ages of domestication have bread an understanding of pointing into dogs.  Pretty crazy.  It's a kind of symbolization, like beads, language, etc.

Overall, the three shows are a fairly entertaining introduction to a bunch of neat stuff, but necessarily not very comprehensive or anything like that.  And it's a little weird how they try to make Alda some sort of "star" of a documentary.  Whatever.

TMS: Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation

I was a volunteer in several fMRI studies when I was in college.  It's cool to get a picture of your brain, but I think most people know about, if not functional MRI, at least MRI generally as a medical diagnosis tool.

Just exactly once I was a volunteer in a study that used TMS, and I keep thinking that it is so cool and so relatively unknown that I should write something about it.

Not me, but I probably looked pretty similar.

Just as the name says, in Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation they use electromagnets outside your head to stimulate brain activity, which is basically electrical, inside your skull.  It's effectively similar to putting an electrode into your brain, without the hassle of cutting your whole head open.  Maybe you've heard of the studies where they stick an electrode into somebody's brain, and he starts to see butterflies and stuff.  It's like that, but without sticking things in.

IT IS BASICALLY TOTAL BRAIN CONTROL and that is pretty cool.

When I did it I didn't see any hallucinations or anything.  They were targeting my motor cortex.  They made my left pinky move, as I recall (this was several years ago).  It doesn't feel unnatural or anything; your pinky just moves, just like if you wanted it to.

So long story short, this is pretty much the coolest thing ever.  The experience dramatically shows the extent to which your body/brain is just a machine.

I guess they use TMS for some medical treatments too. Whatev.  Read the wiki if you want.