The Granite Tower
Speaking for Society–Krzysztof Wodiczko: Instruments, Monuments, Projections
Lee Hyun Ji  |
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승인 2017.09.03  18:06:49
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Some people tend to visit exhibitions and museums during the weekends for entertainment. These exhibits act a s an oa sis for the busy generation, allowing people to attain freedom from their tiring daily lives. Exhibitions are also dynamic opportunities for parents to expose their children to rich and educational environments, helping them foster imagination, gain learning experiences, reflect, and become inspired. Although Krzysztof Wodicziczko: Instruments, Monuments, Projections is not necessarily the right fit for a lighthearted visit, it offers audiences the chance to connect and explore innovative thoughts and issues. 

Krzysztof Wodiczko, born in 1943, was raised in post-war Soviet-occupied Poland. He studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw and graduated in 1968 with a degree in industrial design. He currently lives in New York City, working as a professor at Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD). He has produced over 80 sensational works of art in his lifetime, some of which are to be showcased in the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (MMCA) this month. The title, Krzysztof Wodiczko: Instruments, Monuments, Projections, summarizes the entire exhibition; iconic masterpieces from his lifetime are arranged in a chronological order up to his latest work, “My Wish” (2016).

▲ Krzysztof Wodiczko and the Poliscar (1991). PROVIDED BY MMCA.

Entering the exhibition, you might notice the dim lights cast upon the hall. The overall grim and melancholy atmosphere foreshadows its heavy content. The Early Works section marks the exhibition’s start. One work to note here is “Personal Instrument,” consisting of a headphone that isolates all noise from the surroundings and a microphone that only transfers the sound created by the artist. The instrument contains an underlying symbolic message that emphasizes the need for the freedom of speech and individual space, which were once suppressed by Poland’s socialist administration.

In the second section, Instruments, the room is occupied by interrogative designs which relay the message that human rights must also be granted to marginalized groups such as refugees, the homeless, and immigrants. These instruments are known to attract and scandalize because they do not directly address societal problems but act as a medium to raise awareness by projecting the unheard voices of minorities. In the midst of the wide variety of structures lies the eyecatching “Homeless Vehicle,” composed of a basin, a bathroom, and an expandable bed all placed inside a portable cart. Not only does this fulfill the fundamental needs of urban nomads, but it also prompts us to recognize that the homeless are a part of society.

▲ Wodiczko’s interrogative designs in the Instruments section. PHOTOGRAPHED BY LEE HYUN JI.

The audience is introduced to the Projections section next. Ever since the 1980s, Wodiczko has worked on a series in which public buildings and monuments become a canvas for videos and recordings. These are projected on relevant sites to highlight the concerns and testimonies of underprivileged citizens and examine the community’s notions of human rights and democracy. The audience is given the chance to see the entire process for the “Tijuana Project” (2001) as a video at the exhibition, where women’s faces are projected onto the iconic dome of Tijuana’s El Centro Cultural Building1. The project recounts their traumatic experiences of sexual abuse, which are seldom publicized in their culture.

Un-war, the last section of Gallery 5, showcases projects that present the destruction and painful experiences of war. In his project “Abraham Lincoln: War Veteran Projection,” Wodiczko shares the traumatic experiences of war through video recordings of American war veterans and their family members projected onto a statue of Abraham Lincoln. Through his display of films and projections, Wodiczko describes his ideal utopia where war does not exist and reiterates his yearning for peace.

▲ My Wish (2017). PROVIDED BY MMCA.

“The Wish” is featured in Gallery 7, projecting previously recorded faces and voices onto a grand statue of Kim Koo2 that stands at the center of the pitch-dark room. Of the projections, the voices of LGBT minorities fighting for equal rights in Korea and mothers who lost their sons in the Sewol ferry disaster stand out; by delivering their deeply personal stories to the public, the artist hauls their struggles above the surface. Wodiczko attempts to overcome social conflict and misunderstanding within the community, while facilitating a proce ss of he aling through communication.

However, “My Wish” is exhibited indoors, dramatically restricting the size of the audience and limiting publicity. In the past, Wodiczko’s projections have taken place in public spaces like the Central Library of Saint Louis and the City Hall Tower in Krakow, so the societal issues the artist wishes to address were able to easily gain public awareness. In addition, the exhibition is mapped in a rather counterintuitive way that often ends up confusing visitors.

Despite the inconveniences mentioned above, the provoking thoughts and hanging questions this exhibition raises definitely make it worth a visit. From beginning to end, the exhibition is a portrayal of the timeless questions that resonate in every corner of the globe, and it reveals the artist’s process of self-introspection. The depth of the exhibition is not to be underestimated. It constantly forces the audience to observe, feel, and reflect upon the communities that surround them. Therefore, for those who feel obliged to gain insight and immerse themselves in age-old philosophical conundrums, this exhibition is a must-see.

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