Roaming the City

Roaming the City

Ida Yang, February23 , 2016

Art Collector:

Ambling at leisure is a luxury in this rapidly changingworld. We often neglect to notice things in our environment even if we traversethe same spaces in the city day in, day out. While the flâneur can be tracedback to the nineteenth century, it was Walter Benjamin who really developed thenotion—perhaps the beginning of the urban experience. The flâneur representedthe modern archetypes of the artist, writer, and philosopher, collecting thepatterns and motifs of the streets by photographing, sketching, writing, andthinking about what they saw, curious about every single detail and facet ofthe city. The more they discovered, the more they indulged. They even becameinvolved in demonstrations, in riots on the street.

While the flâneur observed his or her environment,artist Luo Jr-shin collects the city’s detritus and makes amusing styrofoam-likeplaster sculptures with an array of materials that can include fibers, plasticsheets, shells, and minerals. They look like practical artifacts devoid offunction. When the styrofoam becomes a pedestal, the destiny of these works isdecided. There’s no space for function or purpose—the polystyrene is no longerstyrofoam. As urban magpie, the artist builds his own recycling field and giftshis discoveries a peculiar new existence.

Through “Texas Project,” Onejoon Che and Ikhyun Gimshow us that, thanks to technology, one doesn’t have to physically experiencethe streets: everyone can be a digital flâneur using Google Street View orKorean technologies like Daum and Naver. South Korea and the United Statesencounter one another in this exhibition. Miari Texas, a red light districtlocated in the suburbs of Seoul, does not appear on the map—the Koreangovernment attempted to erase this dishonorable history. And, in Dallas, Texas,sex workers occupied Harry Hines Boulevard before it became Koreatown. IkhyunGim used screenshots to travel these spaces without really being there, linkingthe two together.

Another strain of flâneur can be found in Charles vanOtterdijk’s Double Center. Espionage is all about observation, surveillance,and monitoring, reflected in objects, photos, and archives showcased in alabyrinthine room. Entering the space, the viewer is met with an uncomfortableatmosphere. The lights are dim; the room is gloomy. He or she could be theobserver or the observed. Double Center is a long-term research project: theartist escaped from society, accidentally found a bunker, and wrote situationreports as if he were a real spy.

We often feel that weintimately know the places where we reside and work, yet, through differentmodes of engagement, “Urban Synesthesia” reveals the idiosyncratic elements andcharacters of cities that can otherwise go unnoticed. The offspring of theBenjaminian flâneur works spontaneously by means of field research, looking tounveil the façade. The exhibition tries to allow the visitor to become moresensitive, becoming aware that simple objects and landscapes are not always asthey seem.