A timeline of “Elephant in the living room”

Year 2009
Elephant in the room

Elephant in the room i.e. All things in crates
– collective assemblage and variable utterance

Everything began from our questions about today in life and death of image. The crate (used for transporting art) as a form of collective assemblage on the set of “FARM” presents a process of variable utterance. The image of an elephant is projected in the box and is actually lighting the place where the shadow of a small elephant sculpture falls.

Phantom of the image, and Samramansang. The word Samramansang refers to all things in nature. From the word Samramansang, which consists of four Chinese characters: forest, net, ten thousand, elephant, we think of the origin of the word – elephant. The Chinese character elephant means image. When people could not describe the elephant with a word, so imagined the image of a living creature by acquiring the bones of an elephant and eventually can converge collective imaginations and came up with one image (elephant). Long ago, in the first stage of human efforts to understand intrinsic nature, people look into all things appearing in reflection of light, or as shadows on water or images in a mirror.

The idiom “elephant in the room”, which indicates a situation where questions and discussions about controversial issues or problems are ignored or unaddressed, can be linked to the story about “blind men and an elephant.” The situation in which people within a room cannot figure out the nature of the elephant implies a collective denial of an issue. In this age of information, we can access a vast sea of data and networks, but at the same time, we are faced with limitations.

In this project, the changing images in the room and the image of an elephant itself are used metaphorically and they create a sort of awkward joke. This also represents a specular idiosyncrasy, which reflects all the images we consume in the era of web 2.0. If a problem or a thing that we are facing is too big or complex to perceive, we pretend that the elephant does not exist there. In this variable installation, all the devices contained in the crate are stacked like a tower so that we can look straight into such a problem. The mosaic images generated by index algorithm on the screen mounted in the box patch images that can only be created through the imagination. Images within a borderless union are generated in real time, but they immediately become extinct as they are replaced with new images. Ever changing images are attractive, but it leaves room for questions about the original copies of the images still persist and never die out in elephants’ graveyard.

– Artist note

Year 2012
FriendƧ in the living room

Originally inspired by the story related to “freind” in Animal Farm by George Orwell, the installation suggests a reinterpretation on the real meaning of friend and friendship in our society in general, and a further discussion on collaboration and coexistence in art production. In the novel, when the pigs learn human language – English, it reveals some mistakes in spelling, “where ‘friend’ is written ‘freind’ and one of the ‘S’s’ was the wrong way round.” This episode implies a question on changing definition and value of friendship under the complex network and the influence of media that are intriguing to us.

The mosaic generated movie connected to the fiber optic installation “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” and the kinetic light art “You Were My Sunshine, My Only Sunshine” on the set deliver a message from the sound and lyric itself. The titles of the famous old songs, “You are my sunshine” and “Can’t take my eyes off you”, are disposed in the space interlocking the real-time light and remixing various sound samples of those songs on YouTube. From the perspective of the beholder, the message can vary and refresh that there are always two sides in where the light and the dark are represented. With DIY materials, the modified ornaments and mass products in highly industrialized countries could become a work of art translated as a new installation on the boundaries between architecture and design.

A living room where friends are in faces some sort of dilemma. It represents a space where we would recall the events occurring between social media and individuals, corporations and clients, or networks and users. The living room as a space where fictional and real stories are overlapped engages in subversion of the space of comfort and privacy. The private sphere more and more expands to the public domain. The living room seems still closed, but it is strategically opened as an architectural place where we possibly penetrate into the networks. Without knowing the fact that anonymous spectators appeared as ‘friends’ become participants, the audience eventually plays the main character on the set of the installation. In other words, friends in the living room portray us as being constantly watched and evaluated by others through the network formed.

– Description for the exhibition

Year 2013
Elephant in the living room

I. Prologue

The living room is a reference card in our own library, and is a theme that has been developed from diverse perspectives over the past several years. A living room is defined as a room in a house that is used on a daily basis. It is a venue of images, a stage for actions, and a space of reversals. It is also a venue of movies and plays, a stage of life, and a space where the media as a mirror reflects: a place where we consume numerous images and forget them; a private room for relaxing; a state of lying or half-leaning on the couch; where instantaneous information, stories, images and sound pass through on the TV monitor and smartphone display.

Here is a space for discussion.

Actions, which are expected to occur in this pseudo-living room within the exhibition space, are discussions, but any stories to be said or heard will suffice. If there would be a space and time that visitors could develop their own storytelling and make it their own memory! And, so we could share our experience with others! A room for debate, which is decorated like a living room, will change as such. We expect this will create a kind of comedy. As we cannot place this (CEO’s) sofa freely anywhere – but sure, we wish we could – we intend to turn it into a place where interaction is possible, by throwing two sofas in the exhibition space, which symbolizes a cozy living room. It is a room where you can rest for a moment while viewing the exhibition – my rest place and your stage.

II. A living room as a space for debate

Debate is a method and an action of interactive and representational argument. The room for debate is a contrivance intended to induce the debate needed among us, but the key point of the question, which will become the theme of the debate held at this place – within a two-person collective frame –, is determined by the future possibility of collaboration, coexistence, and friendship. As if preparing a space for conversations on the debate room, we would rather reproduce a space of the living room so that we could discuss why we need discussions and think about friendship.

What can be derived from great historical debate? A counterpart person could already be my friend or enemy, or could be both at the same time, or neither. People, who are sitting in an ambiguous place, belong to a society where they should coexist under the name of “friendship” according to a more ambiguous, expanded meaning, communication, and solidarity in a symmetric relation of dynamics. The definition for friendship (Oxford Dictionaries, Oxford Dictionary Press, retrieved 25 May 2012), which anonymous volunteers around the world collaboratively write in Wikipedia, is as follows:

 “Friendship is a relationship of mutual affection between two or more people.”

Numerous episodes transmitted in the history of humanity, which has been developed toward non-zero-sum, emphasize the value of collaboration, coexistence, and friendship, but they are still worth discussing and asking. We should pay attention to directionality, which occurs after the discussions and deep thoughts acquired through the process of discussion, rather than try to prove what is superior or prevailing. If we can communicate through collective work – and if we can leave open the possibility that ethical life close to artistic value can improve the quality of our lives – the process of discussion itself will become the disciplines of valuable life, and may encompass the restrictions of legal, social, and cultural customs.

III. Make mistakes without fear of judgment from friends

Anyone who can live without laws practices altruism and the value of the cooperative spirit. If we divert a little, win-win strategies in the art production also appear in the form of collective work and joint productions. Here, there can be no right or wrong. But it only expands the possibility of betterness and hope. The moral support also controls the order of collaboration. The standard or purpose of a certain value must be valid, and some kind of chemistry is required between the two. If we both agree to the idea that “it is better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied” as collaborators, we can sustain a long-term friendship even if there are some dissatisfactory Socratic aspects. Furthermore, physical elements, such as time and experience, are added, the chemistry can be deepened, and the layers of time can become compressed and denser. Were we confident enough not to be afraid of making mistakes ever?

IV. (Social) media in the living room

The aspects of interactive and competitive discussions, which we frequently see through media such as TV and the internet – that is, the content itself which cannot be arranged due to limitations on time and space, is like the uncontrollable situations that happen in the living room. Accordingly, the elephant in the living room (fragments which are a mere part of a whole) is the first step picture, acknowledging the fact that we often deliberately avoid and ignore problems.

If anyone sits on the sofa, he or she can be audience and observe the patterns disclosed during a public debate (somewhat political and educational) through media. Even though spectators do not participate in, but simply observe, the debates, they can remotely figure out the key points, which often are disregarded, from the perspective of consumers. However, by positioning themselves as participants in the debates, spectators can become main debaters on the set, rather than by-sitters in the living room.

Viewers can either become people who actively participate in a discussion or remain as spectators. At the same time, spectators observe themselves and others. When we become others or we observe ourselves, we begin to observe ourselves from the viewpoint of others by veiling the fact that “I know that you know what I know.” The situation where we observe ourselves from the viewpoint of others as we face ourselves brings about vain outcomes as we become aware of the fact that others observe us from the start. Such awareness creates a situation akin to standing in a cul-de-sac, or on an endlessly turning treadwheel – like a Mobius strip, which has one continuous boundary and non-orientable surface, repeating itself limitlessly in no specific direction.

When we need to discuss something, we tend to take the position of a bystander and try to avoid debates, even if we have an opportunity to present our opinions. As a result, conversations or discussions become superficial, and the point under discussion becomes fuzzy, and communication becomes more difficult.

In general, there are personal thoughts or experiences that cannot be easily shared. When the details of a personal life are expanded to social experiences, we need a means of communication, and the process develops into a field of discussion. In the process of listening to others, or at the very least, watching images delivered on the TV monitor in the living room, we can partly explore the outside world from our private space. Using tablet computer in one corner of the living room where Internet connection is possible, or with smartphone (in addition to TV), we probably can access all the information we search, but it is only a part.

Reviewing the living room, we became aware that reproducing such a dual space was absurd. Despite all that, the installation venue, which expresses such duality, is the method that can best deliver the duality of our questions, and with the concept of contradiction.

V. Set for the living room conversation from private dialogue to political debate

– Montage of 5 movies, selected sequences excerpt from YouTube to recompose a storytelling

The living room may symbolize a space that lacks communication. In a series of living room projects, fictional elements partly contain self-reflection, particularly focusing on collective attitudes and critical perspectives. In the installation of reproduced furniture, which is imitation, along with household items, appliances, lighting, and TV monitors, the main props appear in the scene of famous debates are modified and recomposed. From our partial research into debate history that has become part of pop culture, the following sequences were selected as they contain scenes that will show enticing speeches and cinematic conversations. As we wish that someone would listen to the stories, which connect points that share the value of community, our storytelling comprises the entire image of an elephant.

Seq 1.

Sean Maguire asks a question to Will Hunting (1997)
Tag: private conversation, soul mate, dead ones, doctor-patient relation

Seq 2.

Charlie Rose interviews David Foster Wallace (1997)
Tag: intellectual discourse, post-modern literature

Seq 3.

Chomsky vs. Foucault (1971)
Tag: philosophical debate, justice vs. power

Seq 4.

James Baldwin vs. William F. Buckley (1965)
Tag: public speech, human right, history, education

Seq 5.

John F. Kennedy vs. Richard Nixon (1960)
Tag: presidential candidates debate, idea, policy, state, the 1st debate aired in US

This has been a default setting until now (even though the most important element has not appeared yet), and the following scene changes with the participation of audience. Probably, our debate will continue on into the following sequence.

– Randomly compiled memo for the exhibition