Sulki and Min: Perigee 060421–170513
Perigee 060421–170513 is a deceptive exhibition. Although there are real works by real artists shown in a real physical space, it doesn’t intend to provide—not, at least, directly—any real sensual, emotional satisfaction or intellectual insights. Instead, what we want through the superficial visual and verbal stimulation is to arouse suspicion and confusion, thereby hiding the lack of meaning and interests. An exhibition like a sample document or a stock photograph bundled with a graphic software; a show without meaning, without anything to say about the world; something that appears to be merely simulating a possibility of an exhibition—this is what we want.
The title follows the format we came up with in 2006 for our first show: name of the venue followed by duration. Except, of course, that the “060421” of Perigee 060421–170513 does not indicate the actual opening date of this show.
The title that implies a eleven-year time span may suggest a small retrospective exhibition of the two graphic designers, Choi Sulki and Choi Sung Min. But the relationship between what we have actually done since 2006 and the works in the exhibition is neither clear nor consistent. And there are some irrelevant elements mixed among the exhibits: pointers to the popular science classic Cosmos (1980) by Carl Sagan.
In the gallery, there are things that may look like—from their familiar formats—printed promotional materials, such as posters, flyers and postcards, all neatly mounted and displayed in rows. It’s a series entitled Ephemera, which, in turn, belongs to a larger thread of our work related to the notion of “infra-flat.” Inspired by Marcel Duchamp’s “infra-thin,” it suggests a sense of reversed depth created by the same force that has been flattening the world (for example, the obsession with instant communication and data collection mediated by ubiquitous connectivity) once it has crossed the total-flat threshold. Here, the actual exhibits work as diagrams or sample documents to help understand the concept of infra-flat. The blurry images—amorphous as if seen from too close a distance—make a clear contrast with the crisp materiality of their supporting structures (such physical apparatuses as paper, frames or tables). The subtitles—Poster, Seoul, 2007 or Postcard, Berlin, 2010, for example—seem to convey some straightforward facts, but they don’t impart any useful information.
In the same gallery, there is one piece that resembles—in physical construction—Ephemera, but is actually legible. It’s called 「List of Works」, and we make similar thing for every exhibition (although it has been made only once before). An exhibition label elevated to a work in its own right, it enumerates information (the title, medium, size, and the year) pertaining all the works in the show, including itself.
On the tables, there are copies of a book called Cosmos, 3rd Korean Edition, 1981. As the name indicates, it’s a version—an infra-flat one—of a Korean translation of Cosmos, published by Munhwa Seojeok in 1981. Apart from the fact that the pages are unrecognizably blurred, all the other aspects of the book, from the format to the extent, printing, paper, binding and the content, are exactly the same as the original: 170 x 240 mm, 480 pp, four-color offset printing on rough-grain uncoated paper, paperback with red endpapers, “An astonishing profile of the great universe, unfolded vividly and arrestingly, with more than 250 colorful plates, by the best planetary investigator of our century, the Pulitzer-winning writer Carl Sagan.” Even an accidental flaw has been replicated: the missing page 63 (where a section about the life-determining DNA is supposed to begin), which was torn out from our copy at some point in its 36-year history.
Somewhere around the gallery, there should be a piece called 「p. 63」. It’s the page 63 taken from a book, enlarged and framed in part or in its entirety. We haven’t decided on the exact spot for this work: we probably won’t be able to throughout the exhibition.
From the reception desk, a visitor can borrow a copy of Explained. It is a book that compiles verbal—only verbal—explanations of 207 projects from our ten-year professional career. One might want to bring the copy to the gallery of images, reading the text in comparison with the pictures on the wall, although it may prove futile an attempt to make sense.
In the ground-floor lobby, 「“The Cosmos Is Like Two Pies”」 is being screened. The computer-generated video loop deconstructs and endlessly create random reconstructions of pie charts that show some trivial aspects of our past work (such as the medium, volume, and related disciplines). On this sequence of images, quotations from Cosmos are occasionally superimposed: sentences like “If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe” are displayed as “subtitles.”
It has been said that if an exhibition could not be properly explained, it’s not a good exhibition. It took us a while to realize that, when people are curious about a work, it is not its invisible principles or structures, but the intentions or motivations of the artist that they really want to know. Why do we make such a suspicious and self-closing exhibition? The simplest possible answer may be: because we can. And we’re not sure if we have a better explanation. It’s possible that we are trying to jump on the bandwagon of alternative facts, in this post-truth age of fake news, but it can’t be all.
(Minnie and Sulki, introduction to Sulki and Min: Perigee 060421–170513, 2017)