Friday, April 29, 2011

Bernar Venet: Paintings at SeMA

I went to the Seoul Museum of Art (SeMA, 서울시립미술관, exit 2 from City Hall station 시청역) for the first time, thanks to friend-of-a-friend 신이슬, on Sunday April 10, 2011, just after the Chagall exhibit finished. I'd been thinking of going to that Chagall exhibit for some time, but alas it was not to be.

We went to see the Bernar Venet exhibit. I was interested because I heard that he used math in his paintings. I was further interested because when I went to wiki him, I was unable to find an English-language wiki page. French yes, German yes, but no English wiki for 베르나르 브네. He's better known for his big arc sculptures, and some of them are even in the US. I was more interested to see this show, which I guess was first shown in the Centre Pompidou (Paris) because he seems, at least by wiki standards, less well known in the English-speaking world.

Bernar Venet
Paintings 1961-2011. A Retrospective

I've never encountered such strict restriction of photography in a gallery. Here's a picture of the exhibit brochure.

I had thought initially that Venet was the kind of guy who used mathematical techniques or computer graphics or something to make pretty works of art. But for the most part really what he does is make big painted enlargements of illustrations from math textbooks and technical journals. It wasn't what I was expecting, but it was actually pretty fun. Some of the stuff is easy to recognize and understand, like the examples shown above. In his later work, however, he just has overlapping, unreadable text from proofs (some from Gödel, for example) and long lists of numbers. I doubt whether the artist himself really knows what all the symbols mean. Here's the text from one of the explanations on the wall, in Venet's own words:
I do not rule out the idea that the paintings I produce can be seen as attractive. This is certainly a matter of taste, of a tendency to derive pleasure from a cold, non-expressive aesthetic. I would say: it's an aesthetic specific to them. But let's be careful: what appears beautiful to some people does not appeal to others. Often enough, incomprehension results in rejection. Some people think it's necessary to decipher these equations in order to appreciate them. This raises a question that seems interesting to me about what is meant by 'understanding' works of art. The various characteristics that we are in a position to perceive while looking at a work of art, even the most conventional, are infinitely less than the total number of characteristics belonging to that same painting. Certain people find beautiful only what they understand and can clearly identify. With my new paintings, viewers are challenged by a high level of unreadability, and are either ignorant of, or insensitive to the context that has generated this type of work. The average spectator turns away and cannot even imagine that one can speak of aesthetics.

I really did think the paintings were attractive. Especially the ones with math, graphs, numbers etc. that I didn't understand at all. They were just pretty. They could hang easily in a living room or a dentist's office. The explanation continues:

During my conceptual period, any relation to formal or aesthetic problems was excluded. My works remained austere, and as neutral as possible in order to focus attention on their contents. I did nothing to improve their presentation; I had to avoid the risk of seduction. As I've grown older, I've learned that jouissance is not prohibited and that pleasure is not outlawed. So color has been introduced into these new works - why not? 
Here color has a function, a signaling function. These colors have no poetic connotation. As far as the murals are concerned the color could be changed according to the place where I exhibit them. The choice of color has no particular significance.

I thought the exhibit was really well designed. It started with a very early painting, from when Venet was just 18, and which is vaguely figurative and symbolic (called something like "Life is a reprieve from death" in English). Then there was a series of paintings all just black, black, black. Not even paintings - Venet found some tar somewhere outside, just natural tar, I guess, and he spread it across a frame (probably not even a canvas, I guess; maybe just over wood?). So he made these big, black rectangles. The tar is glossy, thick and luxuriant, almost like lava flows. The interesting thing for me was how in his later pictures, the background colors and even the character of the painted text was similar to the consistency and sheen of those old tar paintings. It's somehow glorious, rich and natural. The absoluteness of those colors was part of the beauty of the paintings, for me, and somehow connected all of Venet's painted work across his career.

A very nice exhibit!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

토픽 대비반 글쓰기 7

2011.3.26 인간 복제 인간

의식, 또는 자각이라는 것은 철학자들에게 정말 어려운 문제이다. 직접적으로 다른 사람의 생각을 알 수 없으니까 증거로는 다른 사람이 자기 자신처럼 참된 의식이 있는지를 알 수 없다. 그래도 사람들이 모두 다 보편적인 의식이 있는 것으로 추정이 되어서 기본적 인권들이 생기고 문명이 된다.

그런데 의식이 언제, 어떻게 생기는지에 대해서는 합의가 없다. 난자와 정자는 분명히 의식이 없는 것 같은데 둘이 만난 후에 의견이 갈린다. 천주교에서는 수태된 난자도 인권을 얻어 낙태가 금지된 것인데 어떤 사람들은 아기가 출산 후에 인권을 얻는다고 믿는다. 태아가 어제 완성된 사람이 되는지는 뚜렷하지 않은데 의식이 이 주제에 한몫을 해야 할 듯싶다.

복제인간의 경우에는 아예 의식이 없다고 생각하는 사람이 있을지도 모르는데 그렇게 생각할 이유를 찾기가 어렵다. 기술적으로는 복제가 인공 수정에 길이 멀지 않고 유전적으로는 일란성 쌍둥이의 경우와 다른 게 없다. 생각, 지문도 똑같을 것이 아니니까 부부가 복제로 아기를 낳고 싶으면 반대할 필요가 없다고 본다. 물론 문제가 생길 가능성이 있겠지만 이것은 자연 생식과 마찬가지다.

종교적으로만 생각하면 인공 수정도 반대할 수 있다. 그러나 지금의 추세대로 부모님의 의견을 존경을 하면 인간 복제가 큰 문제가 안 된다. 어떤 수단으로 생기든지 사람은 사람이다.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

토픽 대비반 글쓰기 6

2011.3.19 인간다운 인간, 진정한 지도자

우리가 살고 있는 세상에는 인간들이 문제도 되고 문제의 해결법도 된다. 이렇게 사람들로 구성된 세상에서 특별히 노력이 있는 사람은 대중을 지도해서 세상을 바꿀 수 있다. 이런 사람을 지도자라고 한다. 주변 사람들을 도구로 이용해서 목수가 도구를 잘 알아야 하는 것처럼 인간관계 관리가 아주 중요하다. 지도자가 갖추어야 할 자질은 인간관계를 관리할 이해심과 전달하는 실력이다.

첫번째, 남을 지도하려면 그 사람을 이해해야 된다. 그 사람의 감정, 의견 등은 그 사람의 반응과 앞으로 할 행동에 큰 영향을 준다. 이러한 정보를 알아야 어떻게 만나야 될지를 결정할 수 있다.

상대방을 이해한 뒤, 상대할 수 있다. 이것도 능력이 필요하다. 물론 말도 잘해야 되지만 말로만 하는 것은 아니다. 지도자의 몸짓, 태도 등 다 한몫을 한다. 마키아벨리의 이론도 있는데 대부분의 경우에는 사람들이 지도자를 좋아하는 게 바람직하다.

지도자가 경계해야 할 것은 좋은 인간관계에 반대되는 것들이다. 갈등, 의심, 분열 같은 것들이 다 독이 된다.

지도자가 그런 문제를 피하고 사람들로 하여금 움직이게 할 수 있으면 어떤 목적이든 이루어 낼 수 있다. 제일 강한 영향력이 있는 지도자들이 좋은 것들을 위해서만 일했으면 좋겠다.