Oct, 2007

ixtlan_stop.jpgSep. 11th to November 4th, 2007

Arario Gallery
Shinbu-dong, Cheonan-si,
Chungcheongnam-do, Korea
Tel : 82 41 551 5100,5101
Fax : 82 41 551 5102

Her work is a restructuring of a mysterious event that unfolds in a dreamlike manner, the way a mystery novel develops as the investigator patches together the pieces of evidence found.

1. The Story

“I think the best way to describe my work is that I am inspired by things that peak my ‘interest’. Therein lies the back story and the evidence behind these unsolved mysteries.” -Among the artist notes

The above statement is artist Yoon-Young Park’s self-professed central idea surrounding her work. And it is true that Park is drawn by events that stir her curiosity which in turn lead her to conduct her own set of research to get to the bottom of it. The Pickton murder, the Virginia Tech Shooting, the Logheed Highway incident, the Riverview Mental Hospital, Vancouver’s downtown east side, Martin Luther King Jr., the Mt. Baker, Exxon Valdez oil spill, etc. were all events and cases that peaked Park’s interest. Park’s work is researching the evidence found in these cases, so as to reach her own interpretation of what had happened. Not only does she explore a variety of media to find such evidence, she even goes as far as to visit those very locations where the mysterious events took place. Park went to the actual location of the Pickton farm where the serial murders took place, making a video of her visit there. Not only that, she recorded her visit to the Riverview Mental Hospital on her own camcorder as well as to Vancouver’s downtown east side where she interviewed the homeless. Such discoveries of evidence surrounding existing cases and their scenery get complicated and mixed up within the context of Yoon-Young Park’s own story in a dreamlike manner. Her stories are her work.

The following three cases were used as motifs for the pieces that are being shown in the current exhibition:

The Pickton Farm serial murder case, Canada: A shocking murder takes place in a pig farm owned by a man named William Pickton in Vancouver, Canada, a beautiful place which is often considered heaven on earth. A total of 69 women either were killed or went missing, with many of the missing women’s DNAs found in the farm’s pig feed, etc.. A series of surreal and unbelievable events had taken place at the Pickton farm.

Exxon Valdez Oil Spill: In 1989, an Exxon Valdez supertanker was crossing the ocean nearby Alaska when an error by the captain led the ship to run aground causing an oil spill of some 11 million gallons of gasoline. The spill caused the worst environmental disaster in the history of the United States and hundreds of thousands of ocean creatures were killed as a result. Today, almost 20 years later, the ocean has yet to fully recover from the disaster.

Martin Luther King Jr. murder case: On April 4th, 6pm in 1968, while standing on the balcony of his motel, Martin Luther King Jr. was shot. He was shot by 30-06 Remington rifle. James Earl Ray was arrested for this case and sentenced to ninety-nine years in prison.

Yoon-Young Park’s works draw from such incidents and she presents the various pieces of evidence she finds in her work, especially in a special space she calls Ixtlan, where Park rearranges the details of the events to tell a brand new story. The story that Park tells is a completely different kind than that which we read or hear through the media.

For this exhibition, Park has completed two full mystery novels. One is the story she wrote while preparing for “Pickton Lake” entitled The Blue Pillar that Appears for a Moment, then Disappears and the other is The Dark and Unlit Logheed Highway. Both novels are fantasy pieces which include her own experiences in the setting, i.e. place, characters, as well as various imagined elements. Her stories are dreamlike and mysterious in that she combines elements of events from the above incidents with other mysterious objects and characters. On one level, her novels are her installation pieces, only in a different form, the only difference being that the materials are words and that the words are the various pieces of the installation.

2. The Space

“IXTLAN is the space you can reach right before death, after you have given up all your desires and the things that you love.”

-Among the artist notes

Ixtlan, the title of this exhibition, is a place that is described in Carlos Casteneda’s book “Journey to Ixtlan”. The Ixtlan that Casteneda describes in his book is an imaginary space that is somehow connected to the real world, but can only be reached after having given up all of one’s worldly desires and loves etc.. Casteneda describes three types of plants that help one to reach Ixtlan, namely peyote (a kind of cactus), jimson weed (white datura stramonium), and psilocybe (a hallucinogenic mushroom). These plants are natural plant substances which cause a kind of hallucination.

In this exhibition, Yoon-Young Park has in a way re-imagined the place of Ixtlan into a place where violence, murder, disasters etc. are non-existent, in other words, a place where such unfortunate events can be prevented from happening.

The various incidents and cases that have interested Yoon-Young Park, such as the Virginia Tech shooting, the murder of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., the Pickton serial murders etc., are here re-presented and restructured in ‘Downtwon Eastside’. The physical ‘triggers’ involved in these incidents were the gun that was used in the murder of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., the Exxon Valdez supertanker itself and the Walther P22 used in Cho, Seung Hee’s Virginia Tech shooting. Park sketches these three objects on the surface of a screen then uses these parts to create an equipment made to prevent tragic acts and/or incidents from taking place. The above-mentioned three hallucinogenic plants, i.e. peyote, jimsonweed and psilocybe, are then drawn over the equipment, growing all around it. The three plants in nature cover and therefore prevent these equipment from enacting the kinds of tragic events that they do, and by doing so, Ixtlan is imagined as a place where life and death have come to a stop, i.e. a new place with the potential for a new life and healing. In conclusion, Ixtlan Stop is a place where all the tragedies created by man’s desires and selfishness, are healed by the cleansing power of nature.

3. The Story within the Space

Reading and understanding the stories within Yoon-Young Park’s space of Ixtlan is an indispensable aspect of experiencing Park’s work.

Investigators, on the site of a crime, look around for pieces of evidence which, when put together, help them to come up with a believable story of what may have taken place. And as such, Yoon-Young Park’s exhibition invites us to participate in experiencing the space of Ixtlan where she has re-structured the ‘crime scene’ so to speak.

So what are the stories within Yoon-Young Park’s space? Park approaches the question of life and death and the vague separation between them by comparing the real against the surreal, past against the present, reality against the world of dreams etc.. The artist presents such a blurred and mysterious border between life and death in her depiction of ‘Downtown Eastside’, a mysterious looking installation piece made of a white screen, a large-scale mirror and bright orange paint. The mirror placed below the screen and the large pipe placed over the screen seems to make reference to the act of inhaling the smoke from the use of drugs. The pipe is a symbol of the straw used to inhale cocaine and the sheep skin and screen are also the drug itself. The mirror and the newspaper is each the mirror and razor (tools used in the process of measuring the amount of cocaine in preparation for inhalation). Within such a setting, Park casts the victims of the Pickton case as women living in New York’s downtown eastside and connects the two events by depicting the women as inhaling the drugs. Here, Park juxtaposes death and the act of inhaling drugs while simultaneously exhibiting the correlation between the two, as well as revealing the dream-like state brought on by the drugs.

Since the beginning of her career, Yoon-Young Park has always explored death and the disappearance of people upon death, about all those that die and the naturalness of it, even when it was caused by some other force. However, her obsession is not in death itself. Rather, Park is interested in that which causes death and the event of unexplained deaths. The deaths involved in those incidents that Park explores in her work are not simple incidences which occur as a result of some physical force or even by the tools that are used. These incidents are mired in mystery. Park takes these mysterious incidences and tries to understand and undo the mystery, either through her imagination or with the help of common sense and logic. The stories that Park unravels seem very personal and lyrical but these stories in the end ask the deep question of life and the common angst of living on earth.

We always tend to remain somewhere in-between. Whether it is the beginning or the end, getting on or off, matriculating or graduating, meeting or saying good-bye, and/or living or dying, etc. we are always somewhere in-between something that begins and will eventually end. Yoon-Young Park’s works too are located somewhere between as she searches for a certain world, place. Ixtlan stop or the Journey to Akeldama is all located in an in-between space, somewhere between the real and surreal, reality and imagination, etc., and where Park hopes to go might be a place where she dreams of, a place where bad things can self-heal, or the kind of world that Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. dreamed of, a place where the strong protects the weak. However, in the end, the place she is searching for is where nature brings unity.

Yoon-Young Park’s exhibition is a very special place, an opportunity to meet Park’s works in the midst of her long journey as an artist. Reading her stories in her work in an imagined space that is created by Park is sure to be a special occasion in our own journeys as well. After our meeting, we will all be on our own ways, but let us stop for a moment at Ixtlan Stop and read her works.