We really liked a recent article on Koo Jeong A published on the “The Guardian” by Hannah Ellis-Petersen concerning her skate park project “Wheels Park” for Everton Park in Liverpool. The journalist tells that when she contacted Koo Jeong A for an interview, the artist agreed, but she did not want to be recorded suggesting the presence of a stenographer. Therefore the journalist, before meeting her in a bar of Kensington together with Mary, a typist equipped with a small portable typewriter, had imagined she was going to meet with a diva artist, full of pretensions. On the contrary, she ended up facing the opposite: an extremely polite, kindly-mannered woman, who immediately apologized for her weird request by saying: “I am not educated to talk about myself because Asians more or less just listen. It is a different attitude. It is a bit different now, but we are still very valued as ourselves on internal values, not to promote yourself”. The anecdote taken from the British daily paper seems to us representative of Koo Jeong A personality, kind and determined at the same time for what concerns the choices and, not necessarely, the motivations, of a work that today looks more like a means than a goal, revealing an attitude that takes back to what in the Eastern as well in the Western culture was called bios theoretikos, the contemplative life, which always implies a path to walk and a transformation.
Novices at Pythagorean school should not talk and listen, considering the most difficult things to learn, moreover the teacher spoke hidden behind a curtain in order to separate the knowledge from the person who communicated it. Music listening had the function to purify the adepts. Aware of the risk of exaggerating, we would say that by getting familiar with Koo Jeong A’s work one can get the impression of dealing with something vaguely hieratic and oracular, or however with some sort of lost word to which we are no longer used. Again in the same article mentioned in beginning, Koo Jeong A asserts “I consider the work as something like dressing the deceased in brightness. It is a kind of idea from my native country where when people die they dress the corpse, but we dress the deceased in brightness, not like a corpse” A phrase that in some way let us think at the founding concept of Piero Manzoni's “Merda d' Artista”, according to which the artwork was considered, to put it simple, a consumed gesture, such as the excremental and worthless part of an exhausted process. To Koo Jeong A the work does not seem like a consumed gesture, but rather something that should be recomposed always and again in order to undertake a different path, that we do not imagine being of exclusively passive and exegetical nature. The theme of the unpredictable subtended by Koo Jeong A work, focused by Federico Nicolao in his essay published in the catalog “Constellation Congress” on occasion of Koo Jeong A solo show at DIA Foundation in New York in 2010, is, we guess, the expectable and natural accident of any travel, programmed in its subtle and astral details.
“4.3.3” is the title it of Koo Jeong A's third solo show at pinksummer and also the title of a work that will be on display there “4.3.3, a 3D printed boat with a path”. The artist has told us in an e-mail, that the white “cargo” is the representation of one of her project that has not yet being carried out: “I would like to transform an oil tanker into to cultural destination, seemingly the weakening OPEC replaced by cultural event...”.
According to Lao Tzu the magic of living lies in directing the action towards the non-action. The action through non-action or moving non-action, meaning basically to swim along with the current, to take advantage of occurring events. According to Abbot Constant (Levi), magical alchemical operations are the exercise of a natural power of human will. Magic can also be seen as a creative reinvention of culture.
Koo Jeong A uncontaminated cargo looks like some sort of sympathetic and propitiatory magic, pivoting on the word culture related to the idea of knowledge.
In the same email on “4.3.3” Koo Jeong A continued the explanation of her work by citing some lines from Roy Wagner's “The Invention of Culture”, in which the anthropologist speaks about “reverse anthropology” in relation to the syncretic and millenaristic cult of cargo traffic. Cargo cult appeared in Melanesian tribal societies after their encounter with the western populations, namely after World War 2, when the aboriginal tribes were exposed to Japanese and American ships and airplanes transporting a large amount of goods in order to supply their military bases. At the end of the war, the military bases were closed down and the supplying stopped. It was then that, in order to attract those not hunted nor farmed commodities, native populations started to roughly reproduce landing fields, airplanes, radios, and to mimic soldiers behavior to propitiate the advent of new cargo, destined now to their own redemption. Roy Wagner asserts: ”The symbol of ‘cargo’ quite as much as that of ‘culture’, draws its force and its meaning from its ambiguities: it is simultaneously the enigmatic and tantalizing phenomenon of Western material goods and their profound implication for the native mind.“ As a matter of fact, to the native “cargo” (kago) means commodities, and in so far those can be considered culture, because anthropology, the “culture cult”, in order to turn tribal populations into ethnography, vivisect them by reducing populations to their products and their production techniques, to their cargo, and just throws away people by doing so. For Melanesians thought, our cargo is never just commodities, material wealth, but it is somehow related to the quality of life, the moral implications of human relationships and, in so far as, cargo can be considered antithetic to Western elitist and sterile etymology of culture, incapable of creating knowledge and nourishing us spiritually by elevating us up to a superior level, eventually redeeming our society from war and the chronic diseases, such as its depression.
Koo Jeong A wrote us, even to stop our baroque attempt to interpret numbers “4.3.3”, that for her, same as, we add, for Taoist cosmology, the sequence of numbers from 0 to 9 encloses the representation of the world, the manifestation of being and esseity.
In Chinese numerology even numbers are yin while odd numbers are yang. Yin and yang as even and odd numbers, female and masculine, negative and positive are opposite and complementary and they generate the flow of energy and hence life.
We are not trained to turn numbers into things, but we suppose that Koo Jeong A ”numerical” exhibition is an invitation to let us undergo the bipolar and cyclical intelligence of the world, by exceeding the limits of both totally uncritical and materialistic thinking, that limit any spiritual development.
Pythagoreans too attributed numbers to things and a geometric symbol to each number. Numbers and their logoi or relationships were fundamental for those wise men to let discord among people cease and establish harmony.
Lao Tzu wrote in Tao Te Ching: “A wheel is made of 30 tangible beams, but it turns because of its non-tangible empty hub. Vases are made from tangible clay, but what matters is their hollow non tangible inside. The essential thing of a house are the non-tangible holes making up doors and windows. The effectiveness, the result, they come from non-tangible elements”.
Finally, what we do know about the show “4.3.3”, is that a 15 items cargo has left London for Genoa.
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