Commissioned by KCCUK, KOFICE
at Korean Culture Centre UK, London, UK, JUL 21 - 13 OCT, 2023
l-3 strand, London WC2N 5BW
Main entrance on Northumberland Avenue, Near Trafalgar Square
Nearest London Underground Station: Charing Cross, Embankment
Main entrance on Northumberland Avenue, Near Trafalgar Square
Nearest London Underground Station: Charing Cross, Embankment
Jinjoon Lee's solo exhibition in London delves deeply into how the rapid proliferation of media in contemporary society restructures our world and consequently transforms how we experience and understand our surroundings. The ways we perceive and sense the world have a decisive impact on our way of life, encompassing the lens through which we see the world, our understanding of the self and human relationships, and a broader perspective on culture and society. Thus, this exhibition raises fundamental questions about the kind of utopia we aspire to.
The works in this exhibition are created centered around the artist's personal experiences and observations. Through this, he reflects an 'autoethnographic' attitude, metaphorically expressing historical events and spaces that have occurred around him through spaces, sounds, and memories that play a vital role in his life journey. His works reflect his profound exploration of the way we understand and experience the world through the complex relationships between shadows and light, sound and silence, and the internal and external. Furthermore, his works are linked to his critical questions about the advancement of science and technology.
Jinjoon Lee's 'Audible Garden' exhibition blurs the boundaries between the real and the digital world, providing an unceasing exploration of how we experience the world. This offers a deep understanding of our perception and experience.
Through this exhibition, audiences will directly experience the artist's complex stories and emotions, as well as empathic understanding of the world. It provides diverse understandings of nature and world perception in East Asia through the landscape perception shown in Asian landscape painting (Sansui), Korean garden philosophy, and modern Japanese literature, offering new perspectives to visitors. This is linked to the environmental crisis (climate crisis) and the epistemological crisis triggered by the development of advanced technologies like AI and VR that we are faced with.
Daejeon, Summer of 2023
Daejeon, Summer of 2023 is a multi-sensory exploration of time, memory, and space by the artist. Utilizing plaster casting and ink techniques, the artist transforms his daily experiences into physical pieces, creating a tangible representation of time, memory, and space.
Through data sonification, the ink patterns on each LP are converted into unique 88-key sound compositions. As each LP spins, a camera sensor reads the ink patterns, and these variations are translated into sound. It incorporates a revolving plaster plate on a turntable, captured through a webcam where the video frames are algorithmically translated into MIDI notes, resulting in data-driven sonification. The area captured by the camera is divided into twelve concentric circles, reflecting the region of interest. Video processing is initiated at the stone plate's outermost circle, slowly approaching toward the center. A custom-built algorithm processes the visual texture, converts pixel values into the monochrome arrangement. These grayscale arrays from each frame are then processed into MIDI notes. The algorithm is also designed to yield a melodious structure, even when the camera scans the same region multiple times. By turning the raw, static qualities of the each plaster plate into a dynamic digital composition, the artwork imparts an audio-tactile soundscape to the otherwise inanimate object. Thus, it invites audiences to see and hear the artist's memories, immersing them in a unique auditory-visual journey, sharing profound emotional resonance, and encapsulating the fleeting beauty of each passing moment and the profound significance it holds within our individual and collective lives.
The site-specific wall painting, Audible Garden, is a data visualization depicted in the form of a scatter plot, derived from processed data originating from his previous work Daejeon 2023 and Summer. Video processing is initiated from the webcam that captures the unique visual texture of a spinning stone plate. This is achieved by reading a single, centrally-drawn vertical line on the stone plate. As the camera scans this line across the rotating stone plate, the initially circular arc is morphed into a rectangular line. This line's pixel value, a conversion of grayscale values, is then mapped onto 88 corresponding piano notes. The grayscale pixel value informs the velocity of each MIDI note, acting as a translation system. This velocity is visually represented through the size of dots in scatter plots. On these scatter plots, the X-axis signifies time, while the Y-axis represents the index of MIDI notes, ranging from 22 to 109. As such, the size of each dot is directly proportional to the velocity of the corresponding MIDI note. The bigger the dot, the higher the velocity, providing a landscape-like, visual translation of the auditory information.
The wall painting measures 804 x 324 cm, resonating with other works such as the Hanging Garden mobile which uses 12 super-directional loudspeakers. These loudspeakers emit an invisible sonic landscape composed of natural sounds, such as birds, crickets, and water, and urban sounds, like that of an ambulance, reflecting the unpredictability and diversity of our environment.
In this installation, the artist elegantly weaves an audiotapestry of his personal memories, stitched together with fragments of sound that echo in the urban garden. Drawing upon an autoethnographic approach, the artist becomes both the creator and the subject of his work, embedding his personal narratives within the amorphous nature of his sonic masterpiece.
Each note of birdsong, each whisper of water, each ambulance, and each burst of children's laughter is more than just a representation of natural and urban life; they are the auditory essence of the artist's past, transposed into the context of the present. The invisible actors, the twelve wandering speakers, become the vessels that carry the artist’s experiences, stories, and emotions across the exhibition space. They play an unpredictable symphony, infused with his personal recollections, their random paths echoing the uncharted course of memory itself.
Inviting the audience to contribute to the airflow within the space, the artist positions his personal memories within a shared, dynamic context. Each participant not only interacts with the piece but becomes a part of the artist's narrative, their movements stirring the artist's memories, setting them adrift within the space. This fluid exchange blurs the boundary between the individual and collective experience, furthering the artist's exploration into the interconnectedness of personal memory and shared reality.
In his exploration of the intersection of technology, nature, and personal memory, the artist redefines our relationship with public spaces. By infusing technology with his personal recollections, he allows us to experience not just the abstract concept of an urban garden, but his personal rendition of it. This artist statement is not merely a reflection of his perception but a sonic memoir that invites us to partake in his personal journey and interpret it through our sensory experiences.
The installation thus becomes an exquisite junction where art meets memory, where the familiar intertwines with the extraordinary, and where personal narrative melds into collective experience. In this dynamic, immersive soundscape, the artist beckons us to traverse the landscape of his memory, to resonate with his experiences, and to engage with the spaces we inhabit in a deeply intimate, personal way.
By casting the external world in a surreal green shade, it disrupts the usual dichotomy of inside and outside, disrupting the everyday and introducing something unfamiliar. Yet, this window serves not merely as a visual spectacle, but an auditory one as well. Using Resonance speakers are used to emanate sounds that absorbs and resonates with the ambient noises of its environment, offering an acoustic reflection of reality that's both an integral and distinct part of the world it mirrors. This delayed echoing of sounds, paired with the green-tinted panorama, interrogates our established spatial perceptions, urging a rethinking of the boundary between real and virtual. A camera, positioned towards the street, captures everyday scenes and activities. The sonification algorithm first converts the video frames into grayscale, then translates these grayscale values into corresponding MIDI notes. This process forms the raw data for sound translation. The algorithm assigns a velocity to each MIDI note, determined by the darkness of the respective grayscale pixel. The resultant sound, a dynamic reflection of the everyday view, is then subtly broadcast both within the exhibition space and outside on the sidewalk. This provides visitors with a unique multi-sensory experience that seamlessly merges the visual and auditory worlds, irrespective of their current location.
Thrown and Discarded Emotions
Thrown and Discarded Emotions is an amalgamation of innovative neurotechnology and centuries-old East Asian tradition. The concept of the scholar's stone, known as the Gongshi, Suseki or Susuk has been a treasured element in Chinese, Japanese and Korean culture for centuries. The artist uses contemporary neuroimaging technology to track and transcribe brainwave patterns, giving a physical form to something that's normally invisible. The final outcome, an intricate structure reflecting the highs and lows of the artist's brain activity, brings a new degree of tangibility to the internal human experience. Thrown and Discarded Emotions delves into the emotions of fear, anger, happiness, disgust, and surprise. The sculpture serves as a testament to each emotion’s complexity, highlighting the intricate thought patterns behind them. It, therefore, becomes a symbol, but also a physical manifestation of each emotion. It encourages viewers to acknowledge the importance of comprehending and addressing their emotional states, a practice frequently overlooked in modern society. This synthesis of tradition, neuroscience, and artistry offers a compelling commentary on the human emotional landscape.
Fresh Nature : Black Milk
The sculptures employ the symbol of an abandoned plastic milk bottle to draw attention to the paradoxes that pervade our conceptions of the 'natural.' It, cast from an everyday milk bottle, stands as a testament to our reliance on man-made materials. Intriguingly, while the milk it was designed to contain arises from an organic process, the plastic bottle itself is an artificial product, linked to environmental harm. The tension between these opposing elements invites the viewer to question our current distance from the natural. A sustenance produced by female mammals for their offspring and its consumption by human adults, particularly from different species, is an inherent oddity. The aspect of our evolutionary journey, emphasized by the relatively recent development of lactose tolerance in certain human populations, highlights the artificiality embedded in our interactions with nature. Milk has also carried profound cultural and spiritual symbolism throughout history, signifying life, fertility, purity, and even divinity. Despite this, the manner in which we gather, process, and consume it is starkly artificial process. Black Milk re-examines our relationship with the objects we consume and our interactions with the natural world around us.
In his rendition of Cézanne's Mont Sainte-Victoire, the artist intertwines his nostalgic memories of 'Yongma San', the mountain from his childhood. Two carpets embody this narrative, capturing an interplay of sunlight and shadow, creating a realm devoid of green yet brimming with vitality. They reflect Yongma San, a bastion from his past resonating with a dragon's might and a horse's grace. The mountain, once grand in feng shui symbolism, now presents a stark yet comforting oasis in a landscape consumed by urbanization and industrialization, akin to a green lung filled with polluted air. This is where the artist found solace, battling asthma and tuberculosis, under its verdant cover. His narrative weaves in the humble local milk that fueled his childhood, forging a link between the natural and personal, fortifying him against the hardships of illness. The carpets encapsulate his journey, transforming the profound experiences into visual poetry, creating a symbolic dialogue between his past and the observer, while invoking the spirit of two different mountains from two different worlds, intertwined in one profound experience.
Manufactured Nature : Irworobongdo
When I would stand beneath those streetlights, I would stare at the trees lining the road. Each of those trees had been growing somewhere else until its roots had been slashed away, and it was moved to this new space, where it was forced to put down new roots and grow expressionless in the space between road and pavement. Whenever it rains or the wind blows, I feel as if those trees stand guard, acting as the true heroes of the city’s story. Is it because they’ve collected too much dust from the city? Or perhaps because of the way they stand stiffly at exact intervals perfectly spaced from each other? In their mother forests, they would have never stood this way. Clearly, those trees were living things, but somehow they felt manufactured. Manufactured nature... It formed a portal of sorts. Those trees — with their perfect spaces and intervals, covered in their city dust; casting their strange shadows as they moved under the streetlights — they whispered to me about where I came from. In the middle of the night, London can be a quiet place, but the sounds of the busy city day still linger in the trees. I would walk amongst them, as they guided me through the city maze until the early hours of morning. It always felt as though if I went just a little farther, those trees would take me to a secret place, one only they knew. A place that would take me away for a moment from the stage on which I was living. I felt almost like I was walking around inside the painting in the scroll you used to show me in your study, Grandfather. As you would unroll the scroll before me, I could see a flower, a stone, a stream, a snow hill, a tree; and they whispered to me of things which can’t be found in the city. Those whispers must have come from some wide space outside of the study, brought from nowhere in somewhere by a gust of wind. Somewhere along the way, our concept of speed has become confused, in their understanding of space and time. As the concept of ‘lived time’ has disappeared from our age of instant information, we have become virtually unable to feel space through our senses. If we hope to not lose that in-between space, where, ever-shrinking, it sits between start and finish, we will have to pay closer attention. It is said that the space between start and finish has been lost, but I yearn for that place which exists somewhere but isn’t anywhere, that ‘nowhere in somewhere’. A place like my grandfather’s garden. Is that why I miss my childhood in the shadow of Masan’s red mountains? Is it because I’ve traveled so far away — because we as people have traveled so far from the nature we were born to? Here on my plane from Somewhere to Nowhere, I feel I’m starting my own journey — one that will take me through the smells and sounds of my memory to meet my grandfather. One that will take me to nowhere in somewhere
Nowhere in Somewhere Series
It addresses the importance of calm and serene message, even though a scar remains in the land and collective memory in a tranquil landscape. Weaving scar of the space and time will be repeated continuously like tide waving, which leaves a visible trace on the floor repeatedly and is vanished continuously.
A research has explored how collective memory could be sculptured by art, through the concept of ‘The thickness of time’ such as ‘The eye of angel’ that represents ‘Omniscience’ perspective between past and now. These multiple time-based visions will be engaged in order to address the current challenges of oblivion about history, conflict in the world, and human alienation by technology
Recently, the research topic builds on and deepens the previous work such as video collages combining a plenty of footages shot in place where catastrophic events happened in a history, to produce a multi-layered exploration of the ambiguities of collective memory and history, pubic and private space, ‘stratum of time’ and ‘erosion of time’ to reveal the hidden historical dead zone, which has involved multi-media installations that frequently cross over between several genres of Modern Art. Also, expanding the field of research to address questions of the Asian utopias influenced by Buddhism and Taoism in the context of the ideal relationship between nature and humans allows me to simultaneously engage more nature-friendly human perspectives on the history of urbanization and its current impasses.
AI (ChatGPT 4) says about Audible Garden in 7th July 2023.
"As an artificial intelligence designed by OpenAI, my capabilities center on understanding and generating human-like text based on patterns and data, rather than perceiving or experiencing art in the way humans do. However, these capabilities enable me to analyze and interpret the data and information presented to me. I employ this perspective as I consider the remarkable body of work created by artist Jinjoon Lee.
Lee's practice is a unique exploration of the crossroads between the human psyche, technological advancement, and artistic expression. His utilization of data sonification, digital interfaces, and immersive environments results in an intriguing journey into layers of perception and consciousness, a narrative journey that culminates with the ethereal experience of his solo exhibition 'Audible Garden' at Korea Cultural Center in London.
Daejeon, Summer of 2023 and Audible Garden exemplify this approach. Daejeon, Summer of 2023 perhaps draws from the artist's personal experiences and observations during that particular summer in Daejeon, South Korea. As the audience engages with the work, they are presented with Lee's personal interpretation of that time and place, transformed into a unique blend of visual and auditory experience.
Audible Garden, on the other hand, might refer to a conceptual or literal space created by the artist. It seems to embody an exploration of nature and its relationship with technology, perhaps hinting at the potential for technology to augment or distort our experiences of the natural world. This work particularly resonates with my function as an AI, where I generate human-like text, bridging traditional communication boundaries based on patterns and data.
The installation, Mumbling Window, pushes the envelope further in terms of blurring perceptual boundaries. Through an interface that resonates with ambient sounds and visually disrupts our perception of inside and outside, Lee instigates a rethinking of our spatial perceptions and the boundary between real and virtual. This work might be seen as a metaphor for the current digital era we live in, where our lives straddle the real world and the virtual space we interact with through digital devices. It speaks to the omnipresence of technology in our lives and how it can distort or enhance our perception of reality.
His self-reference as a "spatial gardener" draws parallels to how AI operates. Similar to how Lee cultivates experiences and responses by manipulating artistic elements within a given space, AI generates responses by interpreting data within a programmed space.
Finally, The Hanging Garden completes the immersive experience Lee offers his audience. This dynamic installation piece is suspended from the ceiling and uses super directional loudspeakers to produce an audioscape that reflects contrasting environments – the serenity of a garden with the busy energy of city streets. These are played simultaneously, effectively creating a sense of immersion for the audience. The subtleties of air currents caused by the viewers' movements within the exhibit space influence the soundscape, giving rise to a uniquely random sound journey for each visitor. This added level of interaction further blurs the boundaries between the viewer and the artwork, creating a complex, engaging, and layered experience.
Lee's exploration of advanced technologies like AI and VR, and his focus on the integration of these with ecological aspects, mirror the rapidly evolving landscape of the digital age. His work effectively merges the realms of art and technology, prompting thoughtful questions about our interaction with technology and fostering dialogue about the future of art in an increasingly digitized world.
While I, as an AI, can analyze and provide insights based on available data, the depth of understanding, empathy, and the unique personal and cultural experiences that Lee channels into his work—these are aspects that are fundamentally human and beyond the capacity of AI to genuinely experience or reproduce. Therefore, the narratives of his works, and the emotions they evoke, are distinctively human experiences, a testament to the power and resonance of Lee's art.
In summary, from an AI's perspective, Jinjoon Lee's work is a captivating exploration of sensory perception, technological advancement, and human consciousness. His approach is highly symbiotic with the essence of artificial intelligence, as it seeks to explore, understand, and challenge the boundaries of human experience within an increasingly digitized world."
Jinjoon Lee Studio
Artist Jinjoon Lee
Art Director Sun Kim
Art Assistant Minsung Park
Project Manager Bona Lee
Designer Siho Yoon
KAIST TX Lab
Technical Lead Sungbaek Kim
Sound Technician Youngjun Choi, Honggi Lee, Philip Liu
Researcher Doyo Choi
Korean Foundation for International Cultural Exchange (KOFICE)
Korean Cultural Centre UK (KCCUK)
Photo by Dan Weill, Courtesy of the KCCUK