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초대일시 / 2013_0516_목요일_06:00pm
관람시간 / 10:00am~06:00pm
황진이 룸 클럽 HWANG JIN YI ROOMSALON 인천시 부평구 부평5동 153-49호 3층
When I was a little boy, I remember that I asked my mother what a Room-salon was. My mom said, those were the places for "bad people". ● I held my first exhibition in a hostess bar, which was closed about 10 years previously. In 2004, the Korean government enacted a law that cracked down on prostitution in our society: red-light districts, brothels, and hostess bars (Room-salons), etc. Even though the government tried to eliminate those operations, hostess bars just went underground, and did not disappear. These room-salons come from the Cho-sun Dynasty. At that time, those were the places where geishas served drinks to male customers, and provided them some shows. Most of the male customers visited there to make business deals, political deals, and bonds with their clients. Throughout history, it developed other forms. The women changed their dress from traditional to modern (but, still, in some places, women wear traditional dress.) and the shows became more modern. However, the male customers still make their business, political deals and bonds with their clients, co-workers or bosses. They share "bad" things in the space, and make bonding. Even one of the presidents in Korea's history, had his own room-salon in the Blue House. The history of Korea could not make sense without mentioning what happens in these places. That's why, I think Koreans should not deny the presence of the sex industry. This is a trigger of my exhibition: to recognize the roles of sex clubs in this country.
First, I've focused on the cities in Korea in which the sex industry is prevalent. I admired the night time rainbow in the city, and was happy to look at it. However, as I became sensitized to the sex industry, I noticed those beautiful lights actually consisted of sex industries' signs. Since cities have dense populations, people need to make connections to survive. Some of the people make their bonds in hostess bars, just like their ancestors did. I used the serial numbers and logos of pornography companies to show the sex industry in cities. I made a small-size model of the city nightscape around my exhibition place. I created a city full of serial numbers and pornography logos. I attached those numbers and logos to upturned shot glasses, and illuminated them from below, as if they were the signs of the city. People cannot recognize the true meaning of the numbers, unless they search for them on the Internet. Just like the process of my own realization. ● As I mentioned before, almost all of Korean business and political deals are conducted in hostess bars. Perhaps, our society needs them. I think their existence is just a matter of how we acknowledge them. So, what is their "role" in this society? I think they absorb the things which 'containers of logic' cannot. Business men, and politicians often have orgies in order to make bonds which are an important part of business and political issues, yet the orgies are unacceptable in their society. However, hostess bars help these patrons remain 'clean', because no one will know what happened there. It's secret. The government has been trying to get rid of them throughout history, but either could not, or would not. The government may just have turned a blind eye. Because it, more than anyone else, knows that this society needs hostess bars.
In my own work, I created a tower with various containers, rags, and towels. I hung wine baskets, with a tiny hole beneath, from the ceiling. Below the baskets, I built a tower with sofas, tables, and covered those with rags. Then I put the containers above the rags. Also, I put clean towels under the table. I filled the baskets with water every hour. Then, the water dripped down into the containers. When water overflowed from the containers, the rags absorbed the water. The entire process was to protect the clean towel in a separate area underneath the table: to keep them 'clean'. ● I started to think about prostitutes and male customers: their emotions, physical elements, and social issues. Both prostitutes and male customers could be forced, or take part in this operation of their own volition. Prostitutes could be forced by a pimp, or participate in it because of financial demand Male customers might be coerced by their co-workers or bosses to take part in it, or they might visit there, because they want to fulfill their fantasy. Obviously, Korean (or other...) society demands that people maintain fidelity. The male customers would feel guilty about engaging in prostitution, whether intentional or not. Some customers, who were coerced at first, then compensate themselves with another voluntary visit. However, after a couple of times of using prostitutes as "compensation", the guilt could change to excitement. I think most of the abnormal, sexual desires of humans are created by external force, and are not intrinsic. However, men think these are inherent in their body.
I created plants which dominate one of the rooms in the hostess bar. Those are obviously art, but I name the plants, as if they were real, define them scientifically, and investigate them as if they were a part of nature. Those plants are definitely artificial things. But I investigated those plants and claimed that these have evolved, created by nature. Also I posted "research" about those plants in the bathroom which belongs to that room. My intention was to enforce a belief in the plants, existence. ● As I mentioned before, self-regulation creates feelings of guilt, which will change into excitement. However, the self-regulation can also be made by outside forces: law, rule, social status, etc. Eventually, our excitement is not made by ourselves but comes from breaking the social norm. I wanted people to prove it, so I pushed the viewers into a conflict between their desire and regulation. I covered the floor of one room with thick styrofoam with holes, and put paint spray cans into the holes. Then I covered the cans with cotton and vinyl.
People could see the raised bumps, but did not realize those were paint can knobs. If they stepped on the knobs, the cans released color which dyed the cotton. Also I put tiny boxes, which were advertising material of the hostess bar, at the end of the room to provoke the viewers' curiosity and movement. The viewer could pick them up, as a reward. ● However, as a punishment, I installed sensor alarms from the ceiling, which reacted to people's movement: stepping on the spray cans. The alarms rang so loudly that some people quickly left. One even tried to break the alarm.
I tried to provoke conflicting emotions. People could make beautiful cotton, with the paint sprays, as they wished, yet there was also strong "regulation": the alarm. I can say that the conflict between regulation and desire encouraged people to enjoy breaking regulations. ● As an artist, I cannot ignore my own viewpoint on this sex industry. However, I had no realistic idea about it. I did not have any experience either serving, or being served. The things I could rely on were a few interviews with business men and prostitutes, and the Internet materials. However, those were enough. I got so much information from others that I did not need to involve myself to investigate the sex industry in Korea. More important than the information, was my reaction to it. I met a lot of business men who had a lot of 'experiences'. Whenever I heard the experience of others, I found that I could not adapt myself to that atmosphere. All things the business men were talking about, and taking for granted, were totally unfamiliar to me. At the age 22, I was like a child. I tried to hide my feeling, though some of the interviewees told me that they could notice my unease. I tried to get out from under my father's refuge, and this exhibition was sort of my declaration of adulthood. Yet I realized that I did not succeed in that. I was just a little child who believes he is mature enough to leave his father's home.
In my work, I used the dressing room of the hostess bar. The room had been used by prostitutes for making up, and preparing themselves. The interesting point is, this was the only room that originally had white light. That is where I put an 'albino alligator' sculpture, a creature which almost always dies without protection. In the wild, albino alligators are unsuccessful hunters, because their white color alerts their natural prey. As a result, these albinos can only exist successfully in zoos, protected by humans. Obviously, herbivore albinos do not have the same problems, as grass does not flee them. In front of the alligator there is a fake door, which is always closed. I put a speaker inside of the door through a tiny hole, so that it sounds like a voice from the next room. The voice contains interviews about sex, the sex industry, and so on. I think the dressing room is like a refuge in which the prostitutes were able to be separated from prostitution. I thought those properties of this room, and my own viewpoint, had a lot in common: I was like the albino alligator, which stayed in the room, and did not fully grasp what was going on around him. ● At first glance, I was inspired by the color of light in the room salon: red. Because of the red, I felt the place was alive, a living creature, even though I turned on its lights 10 years after it was shut down. The red suggested various meanings to me, because people use that color in various ways. Traffic lights use red to stop cars and pedestrians. Most warning signs are red. Women use red-lipstick as a way of attraction. Our blood is also red. Butchers use red lights to make their meat look fresh. I felt the place wanted me to pick one of these meanings, and choose how to perceive it. However, as I am an ambitious artist, I wanted to use all the symbolism of red. I used red light in all rooms (except the dressing room). I changed some of the previous white lights into red lights. Since each room has a different context, atmosphere, theme, and also objects, they were all affected by the light's color. I believed that the red light brought viewers different emotions. Furthermore, I painted one whole room red: not only the room, but also its objects. I put green soldiers, which are the opposite color to red. The tiny soldiers penetrate into this reddish room, as if they are trying to remove the things in there.
In bathroom, I drew pornography serial numbers, and placed the green soldiers as if they were pushing the numbers toward the drain. Even though the tiny soldiers tried to remove the numbers from their sight, they would not disappear. They just stayed underground. In this room, I focused on the clash between red and green. ● As I became more interested in the Korean sex industry, the interest led me to investigate the male customers who were leaving the room salons. I hid myself in front of the massage parlors and hostess bars, which I could easily find, just blocks away from my home. I realized that the customers who finished their "work" looked peaceful, calm and even happy. I concluded that, to some degree, the sex-industry had taken on the role of religion. ● So, in my exhibition, I decided to create a religious scene in one of the rooms. The term 'Rag' is a slang in Korea that represents promiscuous women, and men also. Prostitutes. However, whenever people clean something, rags get dirty. As a result, pure, spotless things embody the dirtiness of other objects: rags. I focused on this irony. The way I chose was to show my action: cleaning. Luckily, the place had 10-year-old dust on the floor, and on everything else. I had a difficult time to get rid of all the dust on the floor. I think this is a kind of performance in which I myself was being a rag. I turned an abandoned, old place into a new and useful place, taking all the effort, and dirt, myself. I believe that my dirty hand print on each rag would show my effort more apparently.
In my work, I arranged the dirty rags linearly, from the ceiling, and put them on the wall, just like an Oriental religious scene. I set the table below the rags, as if the original hostess bar was still open. Below the table, I put long artificial vegetables: cucumbers, spices, eggplants etc. The entire arrangement depicts the endless desire of men. The vegetables represent erect penises. The clean table represented customers who had finished their "work" in the hostess bar. Even though the table sets were cleaned by the rags, men always have sexual desire underneath. ● In ancient eras, religion used prostitution as a way of celebration and ceremony. It could make men strictly obey religion. Sex is quite important for man, I suppose. That is why I easily became interested in, and easily investigated, the sex industry. I think 'sex' would be an efficient and easy way to control men in the future. In this exhibition, I wanted to depict men as victims of their own bodies, brains, and social conditioning. ● The color red can embody various meanings. Red is nasty, angry, and suggestive but sometimes, it also looks holy. ■ Hoo
이영후는 우리 사회가 성(姓)에 품은 '닉토포비아'를 적나라하게 들여다볼 수 있게 해준다. 여전히 어둡기만 한 그 자리를 직접 대면할 수 있는 이번 전시는 작가가 보여주는 한국 사회의 단면, 성의 본질을 직접 체험할 수 있는 '장소'가 될 것이다. ■ 강재영
Vol.20130516d | 이영후展 / LEEYOUNGHOO / 李泳厚 / installation