최종 수정일: 2021년 12월 13일
By Iksong Jin / in New York / November 27, 1991
My identity can be found in Eastern ideas. All of my expression, as an Oriental person, has been based on Oriental thought, and I cannot deny that it is my total self, because my identity is my reality, and it is the value that I have, and also it is the artistic language with which I can render today's era. Also, I am a person who is standing in the court of a Western society. I am an accuser who is criticizing a style and form that is shaping this era, and, by my identity, criticizing any error or self-righteousness. But this court is a court which can remind an individual of his existence and true character, but cannot render a conclusion.
New York, where I am presently standing, is the field of irony, where traditions from all over the world are swarming before our identity can be formed and where a generalized and extremely fragmented identity exists. Jean Baudrillard, the French sociologist, states his opinion frankly that "Post-modernism, with its non-existing origin and center, prospered greatly in the U.S.A., because the country, United States of America, originally began without origin and center." Practically, the United States of America established itself without any mythological origin or absolute center, and, in contrast to Europe, its culture could be based on democratic and popular culture. But, today, the situation is such that the U.S.A. -- which has already become the world center in spite of the spiritual stream which has begun while denying its center -- is confronted by a new irony whereby its origin and identity, and the spirit of post-modernism are co-existing. Today, this place, which has already become the center while denying its center, is a kind of large mirror. It is a mirror in which we realize every individual's identity -- transcending race, culture, and region.
I am a human being with 5000 years of the history of Korea, an Oriental country, and now I am an artist who wants to look at myself in the mirror that is called New York -- a city that furnishes a laboratory of the variety of modern thought. Nowadays I have come to realize that my identity which has formed me is considered such as my complexion, the style of clothing I wear, my customs, my own way of thinking, etc. I did not seriously consider these things before I existed in this society, but it must be a very important self-awakening. Leslie A. Fiedler, American critic, confessed in a conversation with a Korean in 1979: "It seems to me that when I am staying in a foreign country, leaving the U.S., I come to know myself more vividly. In other words, it is as if I can see and judge matters happening in the U.S. more accurately. We come to be surprised after realizing that, when we are in a different culture, we can understand our own culture more precisely than when in our country, and that we can observe our culture in different dimensions."
Since Post-modernism, scholars of the humanities, sociology and natural sciences in Western society have attempted to combine with Eastern philosophy through the whole of science, culture and art, and this is not so surprising. Orientalism is no longer an area of idle curiosity in this society, but is becoming a deeper part of this society. Today's situation is such that it is a method by which these scholars can examine traditional Western metaphysics, which has been dominated by absolute truth and by rationalism which formed the basis for it. The result is that they have resisted the arrogance of self-righteous truth, the system of dualistic order, etc., and others' discovery and recognition have begun with that.
Leslie A. Fiedler, in 1955, in his book, An End to Innocence, loudly declares that "the U.S.A. must escape from its naivety!" by which he means that "We must get out of the naive notion by which we believe in a human being's virtue and perfection, and must accept a human being's imperfection." This is in accord with the thought of Zen Buddhism, which Allen Ginsberg has mentioned. He said that Zen Buddhism presents the harmony of objects, concordance, and union, and, at the same time, permits transcendental thought, by which the mental can freely frequent the spiritual boundary line; and he recognizes nature as sinful, and simultaneously, he recognizes evil as a definite companion, not an enemy. And he believed that, when Eastern thought and Western thought were harmonized with each other, for the first time, an idealistic world would be built.
Particularly, in the fine art today, all Post-modernists are fated to become Dadaists. What does that mean? German Dadaist Kurt Schwitters said that I became a Dadaist with the stated intention of becoming a Dadaist. The Dadaistic character of my works was a means to make art, and so it was not Dadaistic art, but the result only is Dada."
Since a Dadaist, Marcel Duchamp (French born Artist), all modern artists have been greatly influenced by his metaphorical expressions. He transformed "ready-made" objects from a practical relationship to an aesthetic relationship. He showed, through his "ready made", that an artistic creation was not governed by one fixed rule or by the hands' skill. His metaphorical conception is founded in the thought of Mencius (B.C. 372-289) in the East, before Jesus Christ. Mencius said that a man of virtue makes love influence an object of non-love. Here, the love he mentioned can be interpreted as the aesthetic stage. The man of virtue (here, the man of virtue can be interpreted as "a person who has attained a higher perception or spiritual enlightenment ") can be explained as extending this aesthetic stage to the stage which we considered as one of non-beauty.
Wassily Kandinsky, in 1910, in his book, Concerning the Spiritual in Art and Painting, in particular, expressed a similar opinion to Mencius with respect to the color vermillion (red), as follows: "Vermillion is quenched by blue, for it can bear no mixture with a cold color: more accurately speaking, such a mixture produces what is called a muddy color, scorned by the painters of today. But mud as a material object has its own internal appeal, and therefore to avoid it in painting is as unjust and narrow as was yesterday's cry for pure color. At the call of internal necessity, what is outwardly foul may be inwardly pure, and vice-versa."
In the West, the excavation and introduction of Oriental thought is undermining Dualism, which has dominated the Western consciousness from Plato to Kant (1724-1084). Now, Post-modernism itself has arrived at a point in time as if it, too, is almost going to be arranged historically. But what comes after Post-modernism? Where, who, and how is Post-modernism to be succeeded, and how and how much will East and West be harmonized and changed? I, at this point in time, would like to express a focus which I have illuminated through the word, laboratory. (Here, the laboratory means the very self.) This laboratory is located at a place where East meets West, and in it, I have made an experiment, mixing Western rational thought with Oriental thoughts such as Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism. The success and failure of his experiment is already not my concern, but my only great concern is what kind of work will come out of this laboratory.
I believe that the philosophical, cultural and artistic exchange between the East and the West has not freed us, at last, from the stage of curiosity and preconception, and it will help us to progress to the (next) experimental stage. I think that it will be a work in which man finds that his true identity and reality exists in his humanity, not in his divided, fragmented self. And it is a situation foreseen in which the philosophy of the East and the West will not exist separately and will be developed individually.
In such a sense, my work can be recognized as a sort of dissolution work designed to destroy the wall of preconception, bias, and error existing in each race and class of human being. This means that I am a worker intending to destroy -- not a worker to create -- any routine category that interrupts the Way to the Truth, expecting that truth and reality will appear after the work's destruction.
In Loving Memory of an Innocence X
Mixed media 22 1/2 x 20 1/2 inches 2005