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YOUNG-HAE CHANG HEAVY INDUSTRIES; CRUCIFIED TVS – NOT A PRAYER IN HEAVEN

YOUNG-HAE CHANG HEAVY INDUSTRIES
Established 1999, Seoul, South Korea
Works in Seoul

Who causes fear? Who watches on? The answer is ‘I’, ‘YOU’ and ‘WE’, according to YOUNG-HAE CHANG HEAVY INDUSTRIES.

These pronouns are on constant rotation onscreen in CRUCIFIED TVS – NOT A PRAYER IN HEAVEN 2018. Commissioned for APT9, the work recounts the brutalities of doors being busted down and people being pushed into the street in their underwear, as neighbours watch on — ‘SOME CRY OUT KILL THE TRAITOR’, as the video declares. The repetition of text across five screens recalls the scrolling news ticker repeating the same information over and over in television news programs, or the cyclical feeds of news reporting online. A jarring schism exists between the violence of the text and the bossa nova soundtrack, as if a disaster is being replayed on CNN on a television screen in an inner-city apartment, but the volume is muted as cocktail music plays.

YOUNG-HAE CHANG HEAVY INDUSTRIES, taking the form of an anonymous internet-based corporation that distributes their work freely online, consists of Chief Executive Officer Young-Hae Chang and Chief Information Officer Marc Vogue.1 Their works manifest as flash animations of rapidly changing text set to jazz. Words are spelt out in uppercase in black on white or white on black (with the occasion red or blue); Monaco font is used for clarity (the difference between ‘O’ and ‘0’ between ‘I’ and ‘1’ is easily ascertained). The pithy, humorous critiques of contemporary politics and social mores often feel at odds with the dulcet tones of the accompanying soundtracks.

Commissioned by Sydney’s Artspace, I GOT WHACKED IN THE FACE WITH A BASEBALL BAT (AND WHEN I CAME TO SAW LEONARDO’S LAST SUPPER ON A VELVET PAINTING HUNG OVER AN OLD SOFA) 2017 similarly portrays a violent attack, but the narration focuses on a single figure. In CRUCIFIED TVS, there is a sense that all sides of history are being presented. Protagonists are victims and victims are protagonists; they find themselves in similar circumstances, which is emphasised by the interchanging text: ‘I’, ‘YOU’, and ‘WE’. In I GOT WHACKED, three historical works — Leonardo da Vinci’s The last supper 1495–98, Paul Gauguin’s Vision of the sermon (Jacob wrestling with the angel) 1888 and Michelangelo’s Last Judgement 1535–41 — are used as examples of how artists have represented the complexity of moral judgement. CRUCIFIED TVS flips the protagonist’s position back and forth to show how moral judgements are affected by context.

Presented in the form of a crucifix, CRUCIFIED TVS draws attention to the physicality of thin LCD screens, a form perfectly suited to the simple combination of five 16:9 aspect ratio screens. This is not the first time that the artists have departed from the typical formats of single- or two-channel video. In 2004, SAMSUNG 1999 was shown on the screens embedded into nine Samsung smart refrigerators that were presented as a minimalist stack.2 The lineage of these works can be found in the television sculptures of Korean American artist Nam June Paik (1932–2006). Paik’s sculptures made use of the considerable depth of CRT monitors and highlighted the specificity of the medium. SAMSUNG 1999/2004 reflects on the proliferation of screens in our technology-focused lives and CRUCIFIED TVS highlights the flattening of contemporary screens.

Mimicking the way that crucifixes are often suspended from church ceilings, YOUNG-HAE CHANG HEAVY INDUSTRIES’ CRUCIFIED TVS – NOT A PRAYER IN HEAVEN is installed high in an atrium space at an angle that faces down towards the viewers below. It responds to the architecture of the modern art museum — a public, secular place designed for people to gather and reflect.

Ellie Buttrose

Endnotes
1 YOUNG-HAE CHANG HEAVY INDUSTRIES’ works are free to view on their website, <http://yhchang.com/>, viewed July 2018.
2 This exhibit was staged at the Rodin Gallery, a Samsung Foundation initiative, formerly located on the first floor of the Samsung Life Insurance building in Seoul.