Throbbing and Collision between Energy and Image

Wool Ga means a person of Woolsan, a southeastern port city of Korea. I am not sure whether it is a real name or not, but Wool Ga is one of the most beautiful and profound names I know. The reverberation was so delicate to me that it continued to revolve in my mind while I was arriving at Tongdosa Temple through Petroglyphs on Bangudae Rock from Woolsan railway station. Maybe, the name 'Wool Ga' that had continued to vibrate and throb in my mind awakened me of Bangudae Rock and Tongdosa Temple both of which have long remained in my mind. The rock features an intense visual text proving the existence of the humankind and the universe, while the temple reminds me of the Buddhist service at dawn waking up the monks. Both of them may have been parts of my existence for long.

Richard Dawkins coined the term 'meme' to explain about the units of the cultural evolution that proceeds like the biological one. Unlike the gene, the meme is not a vertical reproduction through the biological means or sex but a horizontal reproduction or imitation. It has been copied from brains to brains for thousands of years to create the human civilization.

Probably, Dawkins' theory would be the most appropriate and clear means of explaining about the visual association between Wool Ga Choi's works and Bangudae Rock petroglyphs. According to Darwin's and Dawkins' theories about evolution, they would share a unique cultural gene, but they should remain in their own space-times respectively as the results of co-evolution and mixture. Through the mutual imitation and imagination, the humankind's life and culture may be synchronized or inherited to the next generation.

Umberto Echo discovers a similar fact, while he studies the Medieval age. Every book in the world refers to other books incessantly, and every story in th world repeats the past ones incessantly. Then, what if we should combine the different texts and refer to the quotations of the past books? Then, could we write a new novel? After all, his representative book "The Name of the Rose" would be born. "We are dwarves, but the dwarves who have got on the shoulders of a giant. Although we are small, we can sometimes look farther than the giant." This famous metaphor of Echo's reveals the hominid's strained relation struggling to surmount the cultural evolution and the giant, which is depicted in the book. In particular, such a sense of confrontation is deemed the unavoidable destiny for the authors attempting to create a novelty.

Such a famous metaphor of Eco's in the book reveals the symbiosis and competition between genetic element and cultural one as well as the strained relation between giant and hominid. Just as Eco wrote his essay on the shoulder of the giant or the medieval age, so Woolga Choi draws his picture on the stem cell of our civilization represented by Bangudae and Tongdosa Temple. So, I feel that both of Umberto Eco and Woolga Choi are the symbolists who dance on the giant's shoulders by using the language and the image as weapons.

When writing "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction", Benjamin had the same agony. He feared that due to the reproduction, the aura of an art work would disappear, while hoping that the freedom of human beings and our society would be expanded in the place where the authority of the original has disappeared. Like his prophecy, the original and the aura have been replaced with simulacre and sublimity, respectively. After all, Baudrillard declares that the world where the original and the idea have disappeared would be a starting point for a new world, like the Tripitaka Koreana made for the purpose of reproduction. It is not a praise for Buddha but a text open for the people. While the holy vertical rise for a single man is the aura, the sublimity would penetrate individuals' body and mind. This amazing pleasure can only be experienced through pain and thrill.

At the moment when he perceived it impossible to return to Aura, Nietzche declared the death of the God, and at the same time, the sublimity contained in the Pandora's box might well spread out before our eyes.

As a process of the infinite reproduction, expansion and evolution, simulacre conforms to the theory of the second law of thermodynamic and evolution, and thus, it can explain about everything ranging from the origin of the universe to the evolution of the life. In short, it matches the discoveries of the contemporary physics or the Big History. Wool Ga Choi's work is precisely linked to this point. Innumerable beings and forms the originals of which cannot be inferred would be reproduced and expanded infinitely. Like the arrow of time darting to a certain direction, his work would not look back or sum up, not being reduced to any law. It fills the canvas full like the Milky Way filling the night sky fully. The author who is pushed away by the expanding and exploding images is suspended to the extremity of the time or the present like the dwarf riding on the giant's shoulder. Thus, he faces an empty void where nothing has arrived or the futuristic world of 'Absolutely Nothing'. There, even time and space are not created. It is a place where an extreme terror and orgasm are full enough for a life to endure.

Just here, or in this absolutely null space with neither time nor space, namely in the womb, a new life would be born. In this space that is full of the explosive orgasm, the human genes begin to work first like the moment of the Big Bang where the birth of the universe begin to be given. The womb would change into a huge and mysterious universal plant before we know. Wool Ga Choi's work and meditation start here. In particular, his recent work featuring the epoxy stickers overlaid on the canvas is full of the energy and images as if a supernova were exploding. The canvas is a space of simulacre and sublimity created by throbbing and collision of energy and images. The incessantly exploding and evolving space that is abstract and absolute would be transformed into the experiential and humane place full of chaos, freedom, vibrating and throbbing, and terror and pleasure. In addition, it is the place where various implications are remembered and recorded like the umbilical cord cut out at the time of birth: original and simulacre, language and image, imitation and imagination, the chasm unfilled between Sapiens and Universe or an eternal loss.

As such, in Woolga Choi's recent works, we can confirm the diverse philosophical discourses surrounding the last stage of the evolution or Homo Deus beyond not only the achievement of the modern physics and evolutionary biology but also the death.

Just as nobody can prove the existence of the God or the moment of the Big Bang, so we cannot prove the future of the humankind and simulacre. Just as the universe darts incessantly with neigher ethics nor goal, colliding and expanding, so the doom of the images would do. Woolga Choi's works remind us of such a situation. On the canvas where the engagement and co-evolution of gene and meme progress incessantly, he seems to praise even his future doomed to reduce to the death of the body as the generation of the eternal present.

Through Wool Ga Choi's recent works, we may well reconfirm such diverse discourses about the achievements of the contemporary physics and evolutionary biology as well as contemporary philosophers' arguments. As no one could prove the moment of Big Bang, so any body could not prove the original idea. The images departing from the oneness would incessantly dart, being expanded and evolved. Wool Ga Choi's works remind us of such an argument again. On his canvas where genes and memes are cross-textured and co-evolving incessantly, he even praises his future leading to the death after all, just beyond the affirmation of life. Hence, to him, the work of painting is the simulation of the universal fantasy as well as a self-development of sublimity staring even at the ruin of his existence. It is not a world of idea or aura but a world of maximalism full of episodes, signifiers, pain and pleasure. Hence, Wool Ga Choi's work stands on the side opposite precisely to the main stream of the Korea contemporary art. In the same context, his loneliness formed during his wondering abroad is sensed in his works. Now is the time when we should well evaluate the formative art including his works, while reflecting on our Korean contemporary art over-represented and biased. Just as his canvas is full of free and independent beings, so it is wished that our Korean art circles would be more diversified and abundant. This is another reason why we wait for his new works and exhibition thereof.

Yun Jae Gap