College Scholastic Ability Test for 1997: Mathematics


Photo by Jang Junho

College Scholastic Ability Test for 1997: Mathematics, 2014. Pigmented urethane on wood, silkscreen, 30 pieces, each of 60 cm width and various height.

Exhibited in Matrix, curated by Sohn Jooyoung and presented at National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (MMCA), Seoul, 12 August 2014–11 January 2015. Included in the collection of MMCA.

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1. The College Scholastic Ability Test (CSAT) is a national standardized test accepted by Korean universities that was first implemented in 1993. Since its introduction, the basic structure has not changed except for several minor modifications. Currently, the mathematics section consists of thirty problems.

2. The CSAT for the 1997 academic year, held on 22 November 1996, has remained notorious, to this day, for its high level of difficulty. The mathematics section, for example, yielded only two perfect scores, and the national total average was a mere 21 out of a possible 88.

3. To many Koreans, the CSAT is not only the peak but also the end point of mathematics. Math education is valuable regardless of its actual everyday applications, but we see a certain solemn beauty in the fact that the value is condensed into a mere thirty problems to be solved in 100 minutes.

4. College Scholastic Ability Test for 1997: Mathematics is an homage to a test that embodied the utmost beauty of mathematics. We would have zero chance of solving a single problem on the 1997 test, but we approached it with a strictly irrelevant method of abstraction. Each of the thirty panels analyzes and transforms a problem, deriving forms from and providing our own “answers” to one of the most difficult tests in Korean history.

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From Matrix: Mathematics_Heart of Gold and the Abyss (Seoul: National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, 2014), exhibition catalogue.