The Republic of Hybrid, exhilarating, mild, yet serious..

Choi Tae Man (An Art Critic)

In Greek mythology, the goddess of the moon, Artemis, who is also known as the sister of Apollo, the sun god, possesses eternal youth and virginity. Artemis is usually depicted as a young, untamed woman who enjoys hunting. School of Fontainebleau's 'Diana the Huntress' represents her well. In the painting, Artemis carries a quiver on her shoulders, wearing a crescent-moon diadem which is a symbol of the goddess Diana. There is a faithful dog walking by Artemis to help her when she hunts. The beautiful goddess shown in the forest of Fontainebleau has been appropriated indiscriminately in Yeo Hyun Kwon's work for making hybrid images which are eccentric and surreal. Instead of using the crescent-moon diadem in his painting, he has replaced her windblown hair with wriggling snakes. Also, there is a snake encircled around her strong forearm. The forest with bushy tress has been replaced with pine trees. In an extremely two-dimensional painting, a bike appears all of a sudden with an owl sitting on it. The owls make up the lower half of the bodies of people, and a chameleon is stealthily crawling around the space of the canvas which represents the stage in the painting. It is obvious that the chameleon's head represents the painter himself. The fact that this painting is the Republic of Hybrid and 'the appropriated of the appropriation' can be detected in many places. The Nightjarman, a half bird, half human is a familiar image seen from Max Ernst's surrealist painting. Max Ernst's image has nothing to do with mythical or literary theme. His image is created for the sake of image itself and chosen in order to throw us into confusion. In Ancient Greek mythology, an owl was a creature sacred to Athena, the Goddess of the night who represented wisdom, and the protector of Athens. An owl represents wisdom. It stays awake alone at night with sparkling eyes to protect and light up the truth. Therefore, the unexpected appearance of the owl is as strange as the appearance of himself who has transformed into a chameleon. Furthermore, the snakes that are hanging from the head of Artemis represents Nemesis(who killed Niobe's children including Gration, Tityos, Orion, and Actaeon), the violent and angry goddess of vengeance. In Ephesus, the goddess of abundance and fertility is identified as Medusa, the youngest of the three Gorgons. As Artemis, the goddess of the moon and the hunt, who strolls about in the night forest has been associated with powerful Amazones, the head of Medusa attached to a beautiful body shows that this goddess represents Medusa and Amazones. The image of the dog from the school of Fontainebleau's painting is an appropriation of Albrecht Dürer's engraving. In his engraving, the faithful dog follows the knight who moves forward in order to keep his faith. Yeo Hyun Kwon also uses appropriation to create the Republic of Hybrid. In the Republic of Hybrid, there is Artemis, the goddess of the moon, and an owl from Greek mythology, pine trees from traditional Korean paintings, and Duchamp's ready-made objects(the bike reminds us of Duchamp's Bicycle Wheel). A chameleon roams around the territory of Hybrid which is a mishmash of images. All the appropriated images have equal rights in the Republic of Hybrid. In that sense, the true protagonist of his painting is not 'Artemis-Medusa,' but the artist himself. He is the true sovereign and the grumpy fairy of the Republic of Images where one can change the color of his body in order to protect himself in any kind of environment. He uses appropriation, displacement, depaysement, and juxtaposition in his work. The art of speech which he uses in his system, is the law and custom of his land. He uses them in order to make his Republic of Images more fertile. In his work, art history is his treasure box which is like a spring that never runs dry, and can never become exhausted. Artists have used art history like raising water from a well which never becomes exhausted. The fact that he uses appropriation in his work implies that his art is a parody and a pastiche. According to Frederic Jameson, a pastiche is a 'dead language' without the satirical impulse, but in Yeo Hyun Kwon's work, combined imitation is as important as a parody. Although he has raked images from different places, it's not an epicene imitation but an idiosyncrasy of a schizophrenic which is based on a daydream, a phantom, an illusion and a paralyzing nightmare. The abandoned ego is always the protagonist, but it is always in danger of being banished and that is the factor which compels and strengthens its narcissism. As Artemis is ousted to the edge of the painting, and the chameleon takes the center, he is the dictator of the images, but also a pitiful therianthropic monster who begs for life and love. The appropriation of Gustave Moreau's Oedipus and the Sphinx is a good example of this. Sphinx is a creature which has been created by men, as well Amazones, Judith, and Salome. The sphinx is looked upon as a 'femme fatale' who seduces and destroys men. Therefore, Moreau's painting shows the compulsive fear towards women, but in Yeo Hyun Kwon's work, the role of men and women has been switched. The female who takes over the place of Oedipus looks dignified, but the male, the artist himself, who has lost his power hangs on to her piteously. The change of their roles is not about an obedience of women. Kentauros is depicted as a monster who kidnaps women, but he often gets killed by Hercules, or gets drunken and killed by the tribe of the Lapithai at their wedding ceremony. In a sense, Kentauros is only a pathetic half man, half animal creature who gets killed or banished. This shows that his victory is directly connected to his defeat. In a way, his paintings work as psychodrama which includes role-playing. The artist can change his roles and become the faithful pilgrim(the reverent worshipper from Paul Gauguin's Jacob Wrestling with the Angel), Pygmalion(the artist), the disseizor(the lion from Henri Rousseau's The Sleeping Gypsy), the bystander or witness(the bird that disregards its race being sacrificed from Rene Magritte's Young Girl Eating a Bird), the Emperor(Napoleon from Jacque-Louis David's The Coronation of Napoleon), the scholar who leads a free and quiet life(the monk from Ahn Jung Sik's A Scholar Puts His Feet in the River), the tiger being hunted(hunting scene). The artist appears as a being who can become anything or anyone he wants in his work. He can live the life he wants in his paintings and enjoy the freedom as a protagonist or an antagonist(as a hostile existence toward the protagonist). Like a pendulum hanging at the apex of its swing, he switches back and forth between personae. It is a game and a masque where there is no danger and he can truly liberate himself. I have mentioned that the artist uses appropriation in his work, and it is necessary to examine Yeo Hyun Kwon's appropriated images to understand what leads him to create combined imitation. As a key concept to his exhibition, he suggests a newly-coined word 'syntagmbrid' which is a combination of syntagm and hybridity. Since his work is based on the usage of combined images which represents the Republic of Images, 'syntagmbrid' suits and depicts the characteristic of his paintings. I believe further explanation of the concept 'syntagmbrid' will help us understand the contents and characteristics of his work much better. It might be improper of me to define the word 'syntagmbrid' since I am not a linguist. My level of understanding of 'syntagmbrid' is that if it is horizontally connected by the syntagmatic axis in correspondence between syntagm and paradigm, then paradigm represents the vertical axis. . In linguistics, the meaning of syntagm is the combination made by the interaction of signifiers. For instance, in this sentence 'That + person + ate +food', each word is combined together, and the form and the meaning of the sentence is what Ferdinand de Saussure would define as the 'chain'. The combination is made according to the law of the sentence structure which can be either explicit or implicit. For example, the sentence is the syntagm of the word. Therefore, printed advertisements are the syntagm of the visual signified. Syntagm is often defined as continuity or temporality such as language or music, but it also expresses a spatial relationship. Relationships combined spatially can be found in drawings, paintings, photographs, dramas, movies, televisions and webs. All these include syntagm which is spatial and temporary. If so, Yeo Hyun Kwon's work is not the only kind which forms the combined structure of syntagm. What is more important is that it becomes mixed again in his work, and causes the disturbance of images and segmentation of meanings. 'I' can be defined as myself or other beings that are around me, and make me who I am. It is not a correspondence or an identification of a subject as the butterfly dream of Zhuangzi(a Chinese Philosopher), Yeo Hyun Kwon's work rejects such an idea. From insignificant creatures to men who wield absolute power, from monsters that should be punished so that men can reign on earth, Demiurgos who can create things which do not exist on Earth, listless bystanders to enthusiasts; he hovers amid art history, and plunders its treasure in order to carry out his adventure of dissembling his identity. He is not satisfied solely by dissembling the unification of original pieces. He modifies, distorts, conducts, and destroys the images. Picasso made parodies of his own language by using masterpieces such as Velasquez's 'Las Meninas' and Delacroix's 'The Women of Algiers'. Although it is the fabrication of masterpieces, in a way, it becomes newly written art history. There is no use in arguing about the defamation of the minimum universality and what masterpieces should represent in art history. After all, artists are egoistic and they feel consolation toward justification of their existence when they act as they please. Yeo Hyun Kwon dissembles art history and changes it at his discretion, and according to circumstances, he adds things. Nevertheless, he never disguises it as creativity. In his work, the original pieces appear in photographs openly and shamelessly, and seem dignified in the basis of his work. An interesting point in his work is that, the original pieces take place as imitations in low-quality images. If he skillfully forged the original pieces, he would pay the penalty of fame due to plagiarism, and wouldn't have to deal with critical controversy in justification for using parodies. In his work, syntagm becomes hybrid, and his visual language mixes the logical structure of the original pieces recklessly. In order to achieve this confusion in his work, he mobilizes his students and they become his accomplices. Many of the people who appear in his work as leading stars, supporting actors and actresses, and extras are his students. This takes an important role in his work. In a way, there is a systematic change in structure of hierarchy when the students and the teacher exchange their roles. As mentioned above, through the reversal of the relationship, the exit for relieving his illusions, daydreams, and paralyzing nightmares is provided. The desire the artist has about becoming a great artist like Gauguin is discouraged by looking at an image of his student who is disguised as Gauguin in his painting. Nevertheless, we should not overlook the fact that the artist has made a divine sacrifice by concealing his desire in his painting. He disguises himself as the Asian Christ and it works as a shield to conceal his desire. If so, his paintings which represents syntagmbrid are a kind of confession which he makes about his multiple mentality. However, the final conclusion in his work is always narcissism. No matter how the artist changes his persona, he cannot reject the temptation of going back to himself. Therefore, his usage of combined imitations are subject matters mobilized to lead himself to victory. It is not a scheme to dismantle authority of the master pieces in art history by keeping an objective distance and using cold, dry language toward it. The artist becomes the emperor of the millennium of narcissism which penetrate deep into the gap made by the disassembled language of the original pieces. He is the sorcerer who is proficient in the art of conjuration, the talented acrobat, the rhapsodist of an epic playwright, Apollo who has to deliver the oracle which can be ruinous, and Oedipus who has been cursed and obliged to follow his unfortunate fate. However, these roles made in the paradise of images are never dangerous or impious. The scenario of his dramas can change anytime, as if when you face danger in a dream, your defense mechanism operates in order to protect you. It is not dangerous at all, but rather delightful and he builds his territory as the producer of the role-play. Thus, although the artist puts himself under hypnosis in his work, he could never really get into the roles he plays since he is a solid being who is the fruit of self-love.  

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