■ - Water-Installation for W-PIP - Buckets, Water - Contemporary Art Space Osaka, Japan, 2008 ■
2 0 0 4 - 2 0 1 4
When there is water, there isn't "WATER",
When there is no water, there is "WATER"
This “Water-Performance & Installation Project 2004-2014” was planned to be done on the lakes in twelve countries of the world by Dongjo Yoo, Korean environ installation artist from 2004 to 2014. Opening with the Baegun Lake in Korea in 2004, five more had already been performed and installed: on the Ørn Lake in Denmark in 2005, the Atn Lake in Norway in 2006, the Burley Griffin Lake in Australia in 2007, the Lake Tonle Sap in Cambodia in 2008, the River Nile in Egypt in 2009, the Lake Man Sagar, the Lake Fateh Sagar, the Lake Jaisamand in India in 2011, the Lake Poyang in China in 2012 and the Lake Baikal in Russia in 2013. It will be annually held on the Titicaca in Peru, and the Superior between in America and in Canada in 2014.
In a boat, the artist plunges the stone on which one upside down character had already been engraved. Only when the stone stands and meets water, we can see the right shape of each letter of a word, WATER, in upside-down form, on the surface of real water which reflects it.
The number of the stones, about 30-160 kilograms each, is decided in accordance with that of the letters in a word meaning water of each country. For instance, in case of the English word 'water', each letter of W.A.T.E.R is carved on each stone in upside-down shape and thrown into five spots of different depth. The artist wants the stones thrown into a lake not to be discovered and he prays to the water on the way of the performance. When only even one of the stones is naturally discovered, it proves the change of the quantity of the water and means the mankind faces a great change. If the stone in the deepest site were exposed, only the last man could see it. In other words, all the water is dried up, it tells the last of the mankind.
This represents another example of an exhibition as an extended concept of installation and sculpture. With the hardness of a stone and the eternity of water, the preservative characteristic of a deep lake will make this work the longest installed exhibition. It's possible because we believe that the stones carved with 'WATER' will be exist in the deep lake forever. As far as the water exists, it can be an everlasting hope. After all, plunging stones into 12 lakes is considered as the paradoxical acts of hoping the water of the lake would not be dried. This is also closely related to the incantational ceremony of the ancient magicians who pray the rain falls or stops correlating water and stones. When art is derived from all the incantational acts that they invoke the human welfare and prevent the catastrophes, that is concerned with the apocalyptical and the preventive characteristics. The stones in the water will show many problems being able to be brought about from ecological and environmental damages as a barometer(hidden barometer) at the present day.
"An object or act becomes real only insofar as it imitates or repeats another’s ritual act, that is to say, reality could be achieved only through repetition or participation." -Mircea Eliade-
Refer to Pictures on the pages 13-20 of Art Magazine "NORTH" number 154 (2015)
Picture 01, 02, 03, 04, 05, 06, 07, 08
Graduated from Dept. of Painting, Art College, Youngnam Univ. in Korea
Graduated from Dept. of Free Art, Hamburg Plastic Art College in Germany
Water-Performance and Installation Project 2004-2014 (Personal Art Project)
"When there is water, there isn't WATER,
when there is no water, there is WATER"
2014 Lake Titicaca in Puno, Peru
2013 Lake Baikal in Irkutsk, Russia
2012 Lake Poyang in Jiangxi, China
2011 Man Sagar Lake in Jaipur / Fateh Sagar Lake in Udaipur Jaisamand Lake in Jaisamand, India
2009 River Nile, Aswan, Egypt (Special Event)
2008 Lake Tonle Sap, Siem Reap, Cambodia
2007 Lake Burley Griffin, Canberra, Australia
2006 Lake Atn (Rondane National Park), Hedmark, Norway
2005 Lake Ørn, Silkeborg, Denmark
2004 Lake Baegun, Euiwang, Korea
Main Individual Water-Installations
2010 Water and Dream; “Water of Residents in Deaheundong” (Space SSEE, Daejeon)
2009 Water of Nile: Carving "WATER" in Arabic upside down on the Rock of a Desert
Island as Installation, (in cooperation with Aswan Headquarters for Protecting and Development of River Nile, Aswan, Egypt)
2008 Water-Installations "Water of W-PIP" and "Message of Water" (Contemporary Art Space Osaka, Osaka, Japan)
2003 "Three Kinds of Water", "Art Likes Water" (Gallery Kunststück, Hamburg)
Main Group Shows
2016 Geumgang Nature Art Biennale (Gongju)
2015 The Exhibition of 30 Nature Artists in the World "Remembrance of Nature" (Geumgang Nature Art Center, Gongju)
2014 Horizon of Deaejon Art (Deajeon Museum of Art, Daejeon)
2013 Beyond the Art Media (Gangneung Museum of Art, Gangneung)
Two Korean Contemporary Artists (With Space Gallery of 798 Art District, Beijing, China)
2012 Project Daejeon 2012-Energie (Daejeon Art Center, Daejeon)
2011 Exchange Exhibition in Daejeon and Saint Etienne (Daejeon Museum of Art, Daejeon)
2010 Korean Art Issue 2010-National Division (Deajeon Museum of Art, Daejeon)
2009 Over the Channel from HICA in Korea (Contemporary Art Space Osaka, Japan) ▶ Contemporary Art Space Osaka website
2008 Science Spirit and Korea Contemporary Art -Traveling Art Museum of National Contemporary Art Museum (KIST, Daejon)
2007 Segment-Korean Artists (2B Gallery, Budapest, Hungary)
2006 Art Canal 2006 (Biel, Switzerland / Daejeon, Korea) p'ART Project (Residency Art Project) -Hedmark Kunstbanken Art Centre (Space for Dongjo Yoo: Water Usage Museum, Sollia, Norway)
2005 6 Contemporary Artists from Korea (Silkeborg Bad Art Centre, Denmark)
Concern on the Way (Total Museum of Contemporary Art, Seoul)
Peace-Please : organized by International Artists Group"AOW" (Jeju Peace Museum, Jeju Island / Donghack Revolution Movement Tower, Gongju)
What can be really an authentic Korean art in the 21st Century? This thesis is related not only to the question of an individual artist's identity, but also to the fundamental aesthetic problems of thinking about "what is art?" in general. Ancient Greek philosopher Plato divided human lives into two separable activities, the high based on rationality and the low on sentiment. In the reality of 21 century cultural situation, however, thinking events of the world and arts just in a simplified pair of those two, we can expect from our experiences some ointmented rhetorics of catastrophes which continuously produces much of fallible perspectives. When we ponder the concept of globalism in the sense of Korean situation from a point that detailed aspects of art exist simultaneously with same weight, we may loose the core of the meaning in the sense of looking for the essence of our reality because dualism based on simplicity of thought can not provide truthful sources for our Korean perspective. Let's think about the Korean identity in art before we fall into the fallacies of misunderstanding of dualism. The problems of contemporary Korean art become an assignment achieving reinterpreted perspectives of existing traditions in terms of internal reflection. Thus, deconstructing procedures of pre-existing vocabularies of art can offer an excellent device to build some cultural codes of our own.
Artist Yoo Dongjo has conceptualized in his works the process of conscious stream which sets the connections among human activities and the nature, art and human, and the human and the world. To make this possible, 유동조 has drawn 'harmony' into his art to ascend his themes to make penetrate into his art. Solving the problem of unknown closed signs of his art on the basis of harmony, he started building a system of artistic direction toward 'harmony' which has been functioned as a leading magnetism in his course of artistic creativity. To undiscover his yet indistinctively defined 'harmony', he found the water as his main subject matter and introduced conceptual aspects into it. Water, for him, is essential element of nature and considered as original matter of constructing the world. Water such as original matter can not be an object of judgement in current state because it is changeable, but essential matter. (The problem of thinking about the water also raises a task to prove its existentiality in Yoo Dongjo‘s art like that Plato problematized the uselessness of art in the sense of contribution to his Republic.)
Creating the last state of harmony, one should make dynamic balances among many elements. For instance, western medical doctors try to find the root of bodily disease and eliminate the disease itself, but an oriental medical doctor examine the damaged organic functions in the process being attacked by the disease. In oriental perspective of curing disease, human body recovers from the disease when each body organ rehabilitate the original balances between organs and then produces energies in itself. This is a way of that Yoo Dongjo wants to realize in his art. Even if we see through general artistic point of view, the aesthetic justification of 'harmony' basically can be possibly brought when the organic qualities, which human and nature and other living things commonly have, can make close relationships among them. Thus, the artist, putting the 'harmony' as his subject matter and the concept of explaining his artistic objectives, intended to present human existentiality beginning from the nature as his primary aesthetic thesis. (Though the artist continues to expand his aesthetic possibility in actual art works in terms of negative dialectics.)
Human beings must achieve by himself perceptive knowledges about spiritual and physical conditions. And seeing from another perspective, that should be necessarily self-reformed critical distance from the nature itself. However, those things mentioned above also should be achieved in the process of self-introspection. Some belief that objective standards are existing so that we should accept the existence of universal truth in this world has been a legacy of modern myth of Kantian aesthetics. Modern myth of the ontology of objectivity or critical distance from the world events possibly is a matter of faith or confidence. Often our mentions about objective events, situations, or the state of things mostly belong to the territory of ethics (this also can be related to theological belief), the problem of scientific causality, or a matter of human activity based on reality. In this sense, "Intersubjectivity", a Kantian concept, consensus between subjectivities, will offer much more needed explanation about artistic activities within the scope of diverse human affairs. When one see this intersubjectivity in a sense of cosmic system, it makes him/her easily think about the beginning of evolution. Still this point of view is far close to philosophical truth rather than factual objectivity. Seeing inversely art from the expansion of subjectivity, the perspective of expanded sentiment in the line of subconscious has been contributed to establish conceptual orientation of modern and contemporary art. The viewer can find a discursive artistic proposition that Yoo Dongjo presents in his works, i.e. recovery of forgotten essence from his and our everyday lives. To structure this kind of art, the artist often make an attempts to share his conceptual artistic conscious with the viewer. So the viewer can find some indicator from his actual art works caused not by plastic forms, but art works themselves. This is related to the existential self-reflection brought about art works. Therefor, the art of Yoo Dongjo brings up a philosophical problem of universality of human will beyond conceptual topology of art.
The works made of blue jean cloth show us the base cutting line to make dresses.
In these works, he gropes for clue to his artistic course of advance. The vertical and horizontal baselines, the cutting lines suitable for upper body, and the short baselines fitting into the synthetic finish can be regarded as a beginning point of solving his artistic agonies. This makes the viewer understand why the resulted artistic structures and elements of his works show minimalist qualities and why some suggestive elements exist. The works are result of his aesthetic consideration that he wanted to realize in his artistic career in terms of trial returning into the state of non-artificiality. The process of non-expressive or minimalized expression in his art also appears in his another blue jean cloth works such as.
In this work, he reflected the quality of nature though that is not really coming from the nature, but an image of frottaged laundry board. This work let the viewer guess and feel his artistic sense towards a beginning of perceptive knowledge. He mutually inverses art into nature and nature into art with human activity including art work which resembles the traces of nature-like figure.
Artwork, the uppermost artificial product made by human intuition (in Kantian sense) and the opposite of an art work can establish 'relationship' in a way of fostering internal communication, so that the artificiality smudges its borderline between "I" and "the Other". This can be the best thing for him that he has wanted to put into his work. This also can be a discursive thought he will search and find in his later works because the practice of art making always let the artist ponder the origin of 'what art is'. This problem of making art in Yoo Dongjo makes him incessantly consider every possible moment when he can achieve really a monumental aspect of art though that is not revealed as a physical monumental scale, but as sometimes figureless conceptuality. This is worth of recognizable aspects to understand his artistic journey. Through that spiritual monumentality he set in his art he wanted to find a crossing point of nature and art. This crossing point can not be revealed by physical materials, but his aesthetic confidence.
His willingness toward non-artificial art is more specifically shown by his <Writing Small Letters with Big Brush, 1989>.
The brush is too big to deliver his artistic skill and power, so the resulted painting is influenced by external circumstances and conditions. Here the brush symbolizes a point of compromising between his artistic will and the circumstances. (The compromising point means not the process of sacrificing all the rest except artworks.) To make his aesthetic concept realize, he had to look for something material substitution and that was the water. Then the concept which was corresponding to the water was 'harmony".
Water is the origin of living things. As every philosopher says, water is a constituent matter of the world and complete ecological system of this world. Water adjust itself to the law of gravity. It flows from the top to the bottom as ancient Chinese philosopher Mencius said. It means that does not create logic to fit the situation into the logic and does not make rhetorical devices to explain situation, but just follows the natural course of the world. This can be compared to ‘uninterested interest’ in the sense of Kantian definition of critical judgement and the contemplative quality to the objects made by human endeavor, art work. It is an awareness that we need to have veneration to nature and composure to ourselves.
His first artistic expression he unfold in terms of water, his artistic medium, is his performance installation work <Nach der Natur, 1991> that he carried out in Germany. In this work, water stirred by wind, is the medium performing artistic activity possible. And he focuses on movement of water. The movement occurred not by the artist's will, but by water containing the energy of nature. He started to put water's property into his work to achieve conceptual aspects in his art.
He projected turned over letter of "WATER' onto some hundreds of small bowls filled with water on the gallery floor. The letter "WATER" inversely projected suggests that it is not looked from human perspective but from nature's. The water in bowls vapours in the course of time and it reflects the weathering. As time passes, the original image of "WATER" becomes distorted. Yoo Dongjo represents his art as a part of nature and with this he conversely raises the ontological problems related to human essence. He casts some questions such as 'why we live like this?', 'How we live?', and 'What is fundamental agonies in our lives?' and he introduces these questions into his process of making art to find possible visions for human wellbeing. This makes him thinking about 'How can be art possible?' rather than 'What is art?'. He investigates art in the light of sophist approach of perceptive knowledge.
Art is the activity of representing images through imitating the reality, and the reason that art is not reality based on concrete fact but imitation of reality makes Plato negate art, so art must be deported from his Republic. However, in the history of art, though he considered art as the result of imitating reality, that can be the concept adaptable to the early period before Renaissance. (Of course, in the history of art, some conceptual devices such as perspective and chiaroscuro, which much strengthen technical aspects of form and content, became important after Renaissance.) I would like to enlarge the concept of imitation into the principle of artistic creation and into the principles of traditional Asian thought of art. Asian artists gave conceptual representation priority to create a way going back to nature in their mind enlightened by elaborate system of natural order, and the synthetic state of 'I'(human) and 'the Other' in nature can be called 'harmony'. Artworks and artistic activities in his works become a catalyst of essential communication between human and nature. In this sense, <A Man Who is Talking about Water, 2005>, a studio version of his performance installation work about 'water' shown in gallery space, give viewers a chance to think about themselves who have to live in nature. Water is a catalyst which make us realize the right way of going back to nature and evoke the essential quality of water. His intention going back to nature through art also has continuously performed in nature and he resultly lets his art return to nature. He, therefore, can encompass nature into his artistic Idea.
Yoo Dongjo’s works related to water back into 1990s. But he had performed much more enlarged scale of water works started from 2004 until today. His water performances actually remind us environmental art. Such as Lake Baegun of Korea, Lake Baikal of Russia, the Nile river of Egypt, etcs., can be called performative earth work. These performances and earth works express the essential bonds between living things and nature in his art. There exists artist's spiritual agonies to find ontological legitimacy in his performance earth works. That may come from his desire to create an art work, most adaptable to nature and most revealing the characteristic of nature's properties through art. From this perspective, "harmony" is the most thoroughly explaining concept about Yoo Dongjo‘s perception of art. Harmony reveals not just the encounter between subjectivity and objectivity, but the ontology of the world and cosmos and the limitation of human ontology not escapable from his living conditions. Thus, aesthetic longing for another dimension to do rapport between this world and the cosmos becomes a process of artist's aesthetic pondering.
Harmony has been a standpoint to perform aesthetic judgement and the most important aesthetic principle for him. Harmony is a concept which produces balance, symmetry, and other aesthetic criteria possibly exist and also a concept indicating the limitation of human will. Inclination toward continuous harmony presupposes imbalanced values in human life, the will to recover from the state of being biased signifies that much of human activities are out of balances. Though abstract balance or order still can exist, that is not a factual quality into our lives, but a factor intending concept, i.e., somewhat close to Aristotelian a priori ‘the unmoved mover’, the first cause of movement.
Yoo Dongjo‘s art talks about some conditions which can be recovered by human activity(art). Those conditions can not be fulfilled, but he wishes his art contribute to offer viewers healing chances and guide them toward the realm of human wellbeing in terms of recovery of balances exploited by value judgement. His artistic concept of harmony is revealed eminently by <Tears of Glaciers, 2009> and <Breath on Greenland, 2012>. <Dream of Minority Races in the Arctic Circle, 2014> shown in Daejeon Municipal Museum is a current version of <Breath on Greenland, 2012>. In this work, frost on the surface of glass panel onto which a video is projected, becomes melting down by the actor's breath and the text written on the glass panel becomes smudged along with the molten frost. This is a work about destroyed and contaminated natural environment of Greenland because of the development of natural resources by western countries, and artist's anguish is revealing with the speed of melting frost. The frost on the surface of glass panel metaphors melting glaciers.
The work shown in Dajeon Municipal Museum <Dream of Minority Races in the Arctic Circle, 2014> contains text "We worship the harmony with nature and follow in forefather's footsteps." The viewer can find "harmony" from this text. To Yoo Dongjo, harmony makes us think about what benefits we can get from civilization, and harmony can offers a way going back to nature and the nature gives us a good way of healing our distorted mind. Here the healing agent is water. Buddha achieved his awakening in front of the river and Jesus was baptized in the water by St. John. Water not only washes actual dirts, but also symbolizes purgation of cleaning complicate mundane thoughts and worldly taint.
Art can be anti-thesis against human civilization seeing from Yoo Dongjo‘s perspective. In Hegelian sense, sometimes art is a conceptual realm of continuous negation against current state of culture. However, symbolism of art revealed by physical media stimulate functions onto every momentum of our lives, and this process relate us to the bodily aspects of dialectical procedure. To Yoo Dongjo, art stirs us to depend on the essential healing power nature disseminates. Through this process of solving problems and setting up his self-assigned artistic freedom, the artist purify himself equivalently to the level of nature. Establishing close relationship with nature, he knows how to respect harmony and communicate with nature. This allows him to give his art universality of humanity in the sense of seeking the spiritual height. Consequently, Yoo Dongjo‘s art becomes Korean art different from that we had seen. He connects universality nourished by nature with art, which visualizes some common denominator among human conditions, and discovers some different type of art characterized by his art.
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