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Exhibition visit: LUX — New Wave of Contemporary Art

The current video art exhibition in what I assume is a large disused car park underneath 180 Strand comes to an end in a week’s time. It’s well work a visit. In a vast space and in the absence of natural light, the curators have been able to display a range of large-scale video pieces in one exhibition without one work’s sound and light encroaching upon its neighbour’s.

mysterious blue wave in a darkened room
a’strict: Starry Beach (2020), installed at 180 Strand, 28 January 2022

The work that features in many of the publicity images for the exhibition is the huge wave installation by a’strict entitled Starry Beach (2020). It is probably the most immersive installation in the exhibition, to the extent that you find yourself backing away from the waves as they appear to advance across the floor, to avoid getting your feet wet. Mobile phone footage does not do the experience justice, but understandably any more advanced photographic equipment was not permitted in the exhibition space.

a’strict: Starry Beach, 2020

Two-channel video installation, dimensions variable, 2:45 minutes.

Starry Beach the multi-sensory installation invites the audience to a surreal space full of luminous, surging waves resembling a brilliant, starlit night. Accompanied by the sound of crashing waves, the high-definition projections of waves rushing up and down the walls punctuate the pitch-black surroundings with a unique visual rhythm. a’strict takes inspiration from the infinite complexity of nature, particularly the diverse visual and sonic characteristics of water.

The unit’s unprecedented digital interpretation of waves and ability to powerfully choreograph water within an interior architectural space successfully envision the marriage of contemporary art and technology at its finest, stimulating the viewer’s subconscious and evoking our shared associations with and reliance on water.

The synesthetic qualities of Starry Beach transcend elements of mere visual spectacle or sentimentality by reinterpreting the physical properties of water, effectively transforming both the viewers’ perceptions of the space and their bodies.

a’strict had a second installation in the exhibition, a high-tech tribute to Joseon dynasty paintings of the auspicious peony flower, involving two transparent OLED screens with see-through x-ray like animations of a peony’s petals falling to earth. One marveled at the technology in creating the work, and still more the technology used in displaying it: you felt that the images simply had to be projected from somewhere – but there was no projector seemingly in sight.

a’strict: Morando, 2021

Multi-channel projected installation with sound, dimensions variable, 3:00 minutes
55″ Transparent OLED 2EA

two transparent video screens with translucent peony images
a’strict: Morando, 2021, installed at 180 Strand, 28 January 2022

Morando is a two-channel video installation depicting glowing peonies that are repeatedly blooming, reminding us that all life goes through birth, life, death, and rebirth. It is composed of two transparent OLEDs that are facing each other in a dark setting. As the audience walking through the room, at some points, the two peonies—distanced from each other—overlap and eventually become a more colorful and abundant flower.

Peonies, a symbol of wealth and prosperity, were the most beloved subject for flower paintings in the Joseon era (1392 —1910). At that time, peony paintings (called Morando in Korean) were used for various events such as weddings and funerals. Inspired by narratives and beauties of peony paintings, the unit reinterprets the traditional painting through technology.

This detailed expression of peonies was made possible by x-ray technique that captures entire petals which cannot be seen through human eyes. The piece also employs the time-lapse method to create a work that captures the blooming moments of life.

The second Korean artist showing in the group show is Je Baak. I have always found his videos of illuminated fairground rides menacing and disturbing: the infernal machines take on the likeness of slowly rotating space stations drifting on a throbbing trajectory through space. His Universe magnifies and intensifies the experiences projected by his smaller video works from ten years ago. The experience is strangely hypnotic, rooting you to the ground in much the same way as a car’s headlamps might immobilise a rabbit in the instant before the creature is run over.

Je Baak: Universe, 2019

Animation Designer: Lee Yoojun, Sound Designer: Yang Yongjoon
8K, stereo sound, 3D animation, dimensions variable, 4:03 minutes
55″ OLED 1×8 8EA

illuminated merry-go-round drifting through space
Je Baak: Universe, 2019, installed at 180 Strand, 28 January 2022

Universe is a developed virtual piece of Je Baak’s previous major work, The Structure Of. It employs a surreal expressiveness to depict human emotions that are subjected to algorithms and produced in physical forms.

While the spectacular structures at amusement parks are intended to provide pleasure to people, the mechanical devices drifting in empty space, endlessly revolving imply the cycle of life. It arouses feelings of insecurity and somewhat distressed looking at the deserted, yet a glowing movement.

Je Baak is inspired by the extreme emotional bipolarity of amusement park rides where fear and pleasure are the only emotions that can be experienced. By depicting structures that never cease, he points out the condition of modern life that leaves the future an empty husk. The work realizes mechanical devices where artificial intelligence interprets and generates ’emotions’ raises a question on the relationship between humans and technology, and asks what makes us human.

photos: LKL | text in boxes: from the information boards in the exhibition.
LUX: New Wave of Contemporary Art is at 180 Strand until 20 February 2022. Book via their website. The exhibition also contains work by Es Devlin, Hito Steyerl, Julian Knxx, Refik Anadol, Carsten Nicolai, Cao Yuxi, Cecilia Bengolea and Universal Everything.

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