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  • Hyunki ParkNeo-Metaphysical Video and Conceptual Art
  • Robert C. Morgan (bio)

One of the most important advances in Korean video art to occur after the early contributions of Nam June Paik can be found in the works of Hyunki Park (1942–2000). In addition to his video installations that embedded Buddhist themes into images of nature and sexuality, Park found a certain affinity with Western artists who worked with conceptual hybrids of video media during the late sixties and seventies. One can observe in Park an oblique connection between his own idiosyncratic transcriptions of Eastern thought and the metaphysics of time as expressed in the philosophies of Nietzsche and Heidegger. His personal creative development evolved in a parallel way to the dialectical forms and strategic sitings often associated with minimalism, conceptual art, and arte povera.

Park, an inventive artist in his own right, can be credited with extending the experimental principles of video art, particularly in relation to sculptural and non-material form. I think immediately of Robert Smithson's early mirror work as he explored the landscape, particular in the Yucatan Peninsula (1968–69), where he placed 12 mirrors in nine different locations, always in relation to the natural landscape and in view of the direct sunlight, thus evoking mythical themes and sacred spaces of the Mayan natives. A comparison could be made between one of Park's early video works from his Water series (1979), in which a single mirror was placed in the Nak-dong River in Taegu. The perpendicular placement of the mirror not only reflected the light of the shimmering water but also reflected itself as a vibrating square shape on the water's surface. As Smithson's photographic narrative is presumably related to sacred Mayan sites in the Yucatan Peninsula, Park's video documentation of a section of the Nak-dong River is related only to itself. This suggests a conceptual difference between the intentions of Smithson and Park, and further elicits a curious separation in attitudes aligned with Western and Eastern forms of spirituality. While the Smithson piece uses photography to document the placement of the mirrors as they reflect the source of animistic light in the Mayan landscape, Park's video captures the river both as a reflection of natural light and as a metonym of the cathode-ray-tube light intrinsic of the video medium. Another work more indirectly related to Hyunki Park's mirror would be the Perspective Correction series by Dutch conceptualist Jan Dibbets. In 1968, Dibbets photographed a section of wall in his Amsterdam studio on which a taped trapezoid appears. However, the photograph itself [End Page 30]

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Figure 1.

Hyunki Park, Untitled (1977). Photo: Courtesy The National Museum of Contemporary Art, Seoul.

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reveals the trapezoid to be perfect square. In order to make the illusion convincing, Dibbets adjusted the receding lines of the shape on the wall to match the angle at which his camera's viewfinder would record it. In a second perspectival experiment, Dibbets made a similar adjustment by removing a trapezoidal patch of turf from a lawn outside his studio. By finding the appropriate height and distance between his camera and the shape, he was able to alter the trapezoid into a perfect optical square. In either case, the square we see in these two black and white photographs is a lie, a manipulation of the truth that we believe ourselves to be seeing.

In contrast to Dibbets, Park's videotape of the reflecting mirror placed in the riverside in Taegu is less an illusion than a fact related to the persistence of vision. Park's mirror stands in direct relationship to its own truth. The image being recorded by the video camera is instantaneously as real as the effect of light on the Nak-dong River. The only manipulation used by Park is the placement of the mirror in relation to the video camera. The square surface of the mirror reveals the shimmering of light that comes from the surface of the water. It reflects the presence of time. From a Buddhist point of view, it reflects the timelessness of time or...


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