Looking Back ~ Looking Forward…. ZIP, with Saneun Hwang


The exhibit in its entirety. Image courtesy of the artist, Saneun Hwang

This past summer, we missed an interesting and thoughtful exhibit, Unicode, held in the SVA Flatiron Gallery on West 21st Street. The exhibit included installations, sculpture pieces, paintings and collage, with the basic theme of allowing data to be transported across different platforms, devices and applications as a ‘Unicode’ – an international standard that assigns numeric values to individual characters in any language or script. Better late than never, here are the highlights of the exhibit, in the hope that we will see more on this in the New Year.

On the white pedestal, in the middle of the exhibit, is ~ Jamsil.Zip, the artist, Saneun Hwang’s book, compressing the story of her life in Seoul, as well as being a critique on urban development. The title of the book is a combination of two words – Jamsil, the name of a city in Seoul, South Korea where the artist grew up – and Zip, referring to a type of archive file format, used to express data. There are additional meaningful references to the exhibit name, all representing an object-like archive portraying the artist’s hometown.

Folding pages in the book create new architectural structures and different narratives, reflecting the artists’ personal experiences, in memories, and in moving about the city.

The many sheets of paper within the book resemble the shape of a bird wrapping its body with its two wings. “As the wings unfold, a series of separately bound volumes become a delicately structured book. When turning the pages, intersecting rows of images create sequential landscapes. Each turn of the page reveals a new storyline as the images interact, and the array of images creates a panorama-like narrative.”  Unfolding, is an archive revealing a story of an urban city – Jamsil, a small town in Seoul, South Korea, and Zip – condensing in a small space.

The object (above) was displayed on a pedestal. Viewers could only experience it by touching and looking at it in its physical form.

While the city prepared for the 1988 Seoul Olympics, it underwent massive construction – “creating sinkholes, which swallowed up what was man-made, sinking into oblivion,” presenting intriguing questions like, “is the city going back to where it came from?” A timely question and wide-reaching question.

Image courtesy of the artist, Saneun Hwang

The above images were taken from the object, and show how every turn of the page can be different, as well as introducing narrative.  This exhibit guided the viewer through a journey of overlapping meanings and ideas, which traced the past, opening up discourse about the present, and allowing future additional collaboration.

Jamsil.Zip by artist, Saneun Hwang, hopes to question the relationship between artistic depiction and dynamic historical narrative. We missed the exhibit, but hope Jamsil.Zip moves forward, and becomes a published book to explore and enjoy – and perhaps used as a format, exploring other far-away lands in a most personal way.