Yongshin Cho: X-Box Story
April 29 through May 12, 2022
By JONATHAN GOODMAN, May 2022
Yongshin Cho, a conceptual sculptor who works with video, is offering an installation of his short films contained by boxes made of wood and cardboard. The show takes place in a small gallery: Space 776 on Clinton St in the Lower East Side. Cho, who now lives in New York, has studied in France, and his work demonstrates his mastery of video, conceptual work, and even installation—genres much more Western than Korean in their origins. But the notion of such difference has been effaced today by the internationalism of much contemporary art. Cho thus works within an idiom practiced all over the world by progressive artists. Indeed, the notion of a nationally or geographically governed body of work falls by the wayside in favor of a language familiar to audiences visiting contemporary shows almost anywhere. The boxed videos, a few arranged on top of each other, in this compelling show, present rather small screens within frames that hold them, in some cases, fairly far away from the front of the sculpture. Thus the image can occur deep within the interior space. The rough exterior of the boxes contrast sharply with the high technology of the short film sequences, meant to communicate some of the random experience that occurs in all our lives. Often the imagery feels primal and even alienated; the naked bodies Cho uses do not necessarily eroticize the content he is displaying; rather, the nudity reflects the artist’s wish to return to origins, to the very beginnings of human life.
The naked bodies do in fact work as comments on a pure existence, although in a place such as New York, which tends to emphasize eroticism, Cho takes the chance that his videos will be seen as sexual, rather than physical commentaries. In one work, a slender, undressed woman with an expressionless face stares at the camera while multiple hands hover in front of her torso, moving close to but not touching her body. One senses that Cho’s point indicates the connections occurring among people often are inauthentic and given to distance; the hands never rest on the body of the woman, but only suggest the possibility. Perhaps this is what Cho is best at: the premonition that art may be the only way to bridge the gap between humanity and a fallen world. In another video, four or five naked men, standing, interact with the nude body of a woman, pulling her this way and that across the eye of the camera. There is the implication of violence here, and some eroticism cannot be denied, but the major implication of the imagery concerns human forces that prove hard to resist. Cho doesn’t specify those forces, but it is clear they are generated by people, in which the suggestion of violence goes hand in hand with the vulnerability of the unclothed bodies. Cho repeats this point regularly, so that his art becomes a vehicle for pessimism in regard to human relations.
To repeat the point: Cho’s pessimism becomes clear when we realize that all the videos’ sequences contain nudity. Likely, it is impossible to entirely free Cho’s naked bodies from some erotic suggestion. But that is not what happens. Instead, the bodies become a charged reading for the lack of defenses in an indifferent and hostile world. The interactions among people often suggest violence, but actually violence never takes place. The implications of Cho’s art imply the failed interactions among persons caught in the technological emptiness of our lives—in this case oddly reinforced by the use of video, a technological art genre.. Cho’s strong show indicates that art may be the only way of indicating the emptiness of current exchanges among people. Surely the Internet and social media have something to do with our current problems; this is an issue Cho may be hinting at by working with video. Technology may make connections faster between people, but depth is lost. Perhaps, too, not even the sensual can create a lasting sense of care. Cho is probably returning to primal states of being by using nude actors; he wants to see life at its most basic, its most transparent. Thus, the message is clear: bridging the gap occurring in the relations between people is best accomplished by developing analogies that clarify our existence but do not impose upon it. WM
Jonathan Goodman is a writer in New York who has written for Artcritical, Artery and the Brooklyn Rail among other publications.
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