Korean artist Bohyun Yoon‘s ‘Structure Of Shadow’ installation was created back in 2009. It is not only a technical lesson in light play and shadow but a deeply moving artwork that highlights the destructive nature of political and military power – a commentary on Yoon’s time in the South Korean Army during which time he read Michael Foucalts classic treatise ‘Discipline and Punish’. It’s probably easier to let the artist explain it in his own words:
As soon as I entered the military in Korea, my superiors tried to brainwash all the new soldiers in regards to who our enemy is, why we have to obey them and so on. This training methodology and military law were very well structured and very effectively organized to control new troops. I was reading Michael Foucult’s “Discipline and Punish” in the military and this book is all about how Western governments have historically developed all kinds of punishments and penalties to control citizens in a very intellectual way. I could analyze the military system better through actually experiencing it. In the end, I felt that humans are weak and fragile, spiritless animals under certain rule, certain harsh conditions.
This work is an installation piece in which I present a mix of male and female toy-like rubber figures hung with strings marching in one direction, one after another. Hanging like puppets, the figures portray the idea of a group as opposed to an individual. A simple light and shadow trick is key in this work and becomes a metaphor for invisible power or tricks of politics in our society. The work is interactive: when a viewer approaches, a motion sensor shakes the light bulb so that the crowd’s shadow moves around the space. The viewer’s engagement plays a fundamental role in completing the work.
We never hear much in the media about the negative aspects of South Korea, its politics, its militarised society which must always feel on the brink of all out war with its estranged brethren in the North. This constant stress on the body politic, on the people, must infect all areas of society and we should be thankful to all Korean artists who give us a small window into this reality. Yoon’s work is important to us all.
Via Sweet Station
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