UNTREATED BEINGS SERIES
The dictionary definition of nature is “the fundamental, inherent features of something.” The “nature” of something seems to generally be perceived and defined by its authenticity, truth, and representativeness. However, in reality, nature is not unchanging and fixed – it can be rather diversely defined in accordance with perspective and context such as its purpose, physical component, reason for being, and motives of conduct.
Humans make things based on their needs. When deciding the color of an object, we may choose a color that has an important meaning based on social norms or culture – but most times the color is determined by the purpose their makers have pursued, that is, aesthetics and fitting in with its surroundings. In this context an electronic part’s function and performance are its characteristic and nature, which are more significant than its color. When seen from the point of view that nature is “the original character of something”, since the color of an electronic component is not subject to any purpose and constraint, it can paradoxically be the nature of the material properties.
The Untreated Beings series is pigeonholed into the categories of “Nature” and “Metamorphosis.” In the category of “Nature”, my work began with the question while facing extremely tiny electronic components: “Are all tiny electronic components’ appearances and colors the original?” In the category of “Metamorphosis” I photographed objects and their intrinsic colors under varying degrees of brightness using three primary lights in the machinery in regards to irregularity and haphazardness out of curiosity about “What do completely metamorphosed objects look like?”
This series is both the process and product of a playful exploration of questions and counter questions concerning my not yet arranged nature, such as “What is the nature of a human being?”; “What is my nature?”; “Am I living with my own purpose, my original purpose?”; and “What do I, as someone who is different from fundamental nature, look like?”
Where Mechanical Eyes Meet Human Eyes
: Hanjong Yoon’s Nature Series and Metamorphosis Series
By Youngjune Lee <Machine Critic>
Hanjong Yoon’s Nature series appears very practical and material, but it poses an unexpectedly difficult question concerning the kind of position humans have to adopt toward machines in the age of technology. The term technology as it is used here is not the technology we generally refer to. It refers to a highly advanced technology in which the mechanical is indistinguishable from the humanistic since it penetrates deep into human cellular tissue. While 20th century machines pursued precision and high performance, 21st century machines seek intellectualization and integration. One of the issues associated with machinery is not “how good its performance is” but “how well it communicates with humans and opens up a new machine world, burrowing into the human senses.” Human beings and technology do not exist separately. Yoon uses an electronic component visual inspection system(hereinafter referred to as an inspection system) to propose a model in regard to the position humans must take on technology. Yoon’s approach is completely different from their endeavors. To begin, Yoon is well-versed in machines as he is in a position to make and sell a variety of inspection systems. He compels a machine to tell its truth by harnessing its power: what a machine can do and show. Electronic component taken as ultra sophisticated close-up pictures appear severed from everything else in the world as they float against a backdrop of black space reminiscent of infinite outer space. The method Yoon relies on merely involves showcasing an electronic component that appear against an infinitely black background, completely putting any mechanical narrative into brackets. All the while, he enlists the help of photography. The more realistically an object is shown, the more surrealistic it becomes.
What does this have to do with the humanization of machines? The inspection system Yoon has developed is a machine that works based on its own logic as opposed to that of the person who is involved in its operation. Just as no humans can be found in today's industrial sites, the inspection system Yoon has developed is similar. His role involved only enlarging one of the pictures the machine took and stressing colors. That is to say, he helped objects represent themselves. Nevertheless, such objects seem to sparkle or wave as if they have a lot to say. I have no way of knowing whether the strange atmosphere that arises from them was initially innate in them, are the results of certain lenses and lighting, or are the nature of the image itself. More than likely, it comes from a combination of all three. These photographs emanate a sense of mystery that is like looking deep into objects, even their molecules. These images are not intended to grasp the electronic component so much as they are to help him practice seeing. They are an experiment concerning how deep a human being can look into something. A machine only looks for defective components while human eyes and sensibility can see a wide spectrum that is irreducible, looking at anything from sadness to even the universe. Yoon’s photographs allow each electronic component to open up to the world of such a spectrum.
However, The relationship between Nature series and Metamorphosis series is peculiarly strange. At first glance, the Metamorphosis series looks like a collection of electronic components in the Nature series. As the number of components grows, some qualitative changes take place. As in dialectics, quantitative changes beyond certain limits are converted into qualitative changes. Just as metamorphosis refers to a deformation, transformation, or alteration, each component in the Metamorphosis series becomes something completely different. The component is too tiny to recognize and its individuality dies out as it enters into an enormous whole. What kind of metamorphosis occurs in this series? The colors of each component are different, causing it to appear to shimmer and bringing about an optical illusion that makes it seem as if a haze is hovering in the air. His electronic components look like completely different images such as a constellation of stars scattered outer space or a myriad of grains of sand on the beach. The components turn to cells, molecules, or atoms and embellish their own appearances in a wide range of the spectrum. When this spectrum contacts the retina of a viewer, it brings about countless optical illusions, and is transformed into a different thing.
And, machine beauty is transferred to a completely different dimension. People commonly regard a machine as something static and casual. That is, everything has cause and effect as if light comes on if pressing a switch. The Metamorphosis series, however, is neither static nor casual. The humanization of machines does not mean making any machine by force serve humans but that humans embrace and understand machines and make them coexist with humans in peace. If the machine made by accurate calculations could coexist with the human being, the source of every prejudice and error, there should be something in the middle. Yoon’s series is in between machines and human beings.
From the mechanical point of view, the Metamorphosis series realizes an observational perspective from which he stops electronic components and takes their pictures at high magnifications. This technique is commonly used when testing semiconductor wafers. Semiconductor chips are produced on silicon wafers in a way akin to etching, a printmaking technique. A wafer comes to have a myriad of semiconductor chips about the size of a sesame seed, and a still camera is used to inspect all of them. The camera detects defects, scanning the surface of a wafer at high magnifications between seven and twelve. Yoon executes his work by borrowing this camera’s eye. Thus, the time axis is suspended and does not work. The Metamorphosis series unfolds the time axis of images on a flat surface. Images form the mosaics of as little as 10,000 and as many as 700,000 pieces. In this series components are transformed into pixels. Each component is given colors it doesn’t have intrinsically because each component is corroded artificially by the artist and a variety of lightings is used to detect defects. The components in this series are not the components any longer but the unit of colors, or resemble countless dots made by pointillist painters. To the viewer, the Metamorphosis series resembles a flashy dance of unidentified pixels, but Yoon has detailed knowledge about what each component is and what the mechanism of an inspection system to take their pictures is. In the end, the artist’s knowledge and the viewer’s ignorance collide head-on. Even though the artist gives a detailed account of how the images were captured to the viewer, the viewer cannot understand it so there is an incomprehensible abyss between the two. There is no attitude the viewer can take except one of appreciation. From the viewpoint of appreciation, the product of a mechanism may look beautiful.
The Metamorphosis series takes after pointillist painting in a way and is akin to Whanki Kim’s painting Where, in What from, Shall We Meet Again (1970). While executing this painting in New York, Kim made each dot one by one with all his heart which was filled with longing. Perhaps as a result of this, each dot seems to have its own story. The pixels in the Metamorphosis series also have their own stories which are completely mechanical in nature. Electronic resistance interrupts the current of electricity, a condenser condenses electricity, and LEDs emanate light. Each component has different functions depending on where the component is stuck on the electronic circuit board. What are the hundreds of thousands of stories? It is up to the viewer. You can interpret a constellation of hundreds of thousands of pixels as one story or you can focus on only a few pixels of your choice. Trapped in the complicated system of an inspection system, the pixels in his series undergo ultimate changes through the viewer’s eye and imagination that nobody can predict. This is the meaning behind the Metamorphosis series that is open to the public.
Photography is a tool to document physical beings. Since the invention of photography, photographers have represented the events and objects of their times within optical limits. A photographic record seems accurate but is not a complete truth. Nevertheless, a photograph is obviously an outgrowth of a photographer’s observations and perceptions.
Everything in nature has its own function and appearance. That being is perceived within humanity’s limitations of visual representation. A very small being cannot be an object of thought because it cannot provide enough visual information to be of interest. High-magnification photographs produced using a mechanical device makes invisible beings visible by offering sufficient visual information. They also bring beings that are so small they are considered merely conceptual into the realm of real beings.
Invisible Beings is divided into two categories: Individual Series and Society Series. Individual Series features defective electronic components measuring 1-4mm that were shot using an industrial camera with a high degree of fixation at high magnification. Enlarged to an extreme, these still lifes enable us to perceive invisible things as visible so that we may reason with them. This series was inspired from the idea that electronic components might be akin to men in that no matter how perfect one is, his or her inner world is usually fraught with mistakes, failures, scars, and pain. Society Series features 10,000 electronic components that were photographed once each and then arranged in a 100×100 format to create a single picture. The 10,000 components stand for a society in which each individual interacts with one another. I worked on this while thinking of them as individuals fraught with scars and experiences of failures.
Electronic components have long been nothing but objects for making a living but while executing the series Invisible Beings they became objects of introspection through observation and contemplation. They are newly discovered beings not found in images corresponding to any industrial purpose and are representations of our unfamiliar experience with light that can be explained only theoretically. This series is expected to serve as an opportunity for viewers to ponder something together, even though it may go against what they have originally thought.
Visualizing the Desire of Machines
Lee Youngjune (Machine Critic)
“Forswear it, sight!”
― Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare
Some critics without fail use the phrase “beyond a mere representation of things” in their critical essays on photo shows. I would like to point out to them that “any representation of things” is not a simple problem. Things seen with the human eye appear completely different from those represented by machines. In this day and age images represented using a variety of mechanical image processing techniques appear more accurate than those represented with human eyes. The techniques for mechanically representing objects accurately have evolved intricately over a very long history. The advancement of mechanical images by CTs, MRIs, OCRs, character recognition systems used to recognize license plate numbers and mailing addresses, and others is beyond our imagination. We are currently able to see and judge even extra fine objects and objects at an extremely long distance, exceeding the level of observing and gauging things before our eyes. It is no longer that uncommon to document and interpret things that are beyond our naked eyes. Astronomers use an algorithm to analyze pictures of celestial bodies many billions of kilometers away from them.
Things are not objects given to our eyes: they form a system in which social, cognitive, and epistemic necessities are intricately tangled. The direction of human evolution is condensed in a simple object. A stone can be seen as a database containing the history of the Earth to a geologist’s eyes. The entire history of geology is required to read from it. A long history of writing articles and letters is held in a ballpoint pen which also contains a history of the industry that has mass produced and supplied them inexpensively. When framed in such a way, everything in the world has its own story and history. Any sort of “pared-down representation” cannot be achieved. An ant was nothing more than an insect before biology progressed and yet it now helps us to gain insight into our sociality and discover anti-cancer compounds through biochemical analyses. An algorithm to simulate molecular structures is also a part of this. The words “a fleck of dust holds the universe” are today gaining validity to analyze various facets. All the same, I earnestly wish the cliché phrase “beyond a mere representation of things” would disappear.
The camera, an instrument that allows one to capture and reproduce images, is also the product of a long, intricate effort. Its lens was designed by a computer to eliminate chromatic aberration while the glass for the lens was cut by a machine. The exposure value was also adjusted by a computer based on the results of analyses and statistics of a tremendous number of photographs. Its body consisting of a metal similar to magnesium is used to protect its complicated and delicate electronic circuitry from electromagnetic interference. Cameras are being widely used not only for everyday life and art but also for medicine, mechanical engineering, land surveying, criminal investigation, and the military. While each of these fields has its own way of dealing with images, they all have something in common. All of them discredit what the human eye sees. The human eye often sees things inaccurately and subjectively, it receives prejudice and interferences from fallacies, and it grows tired easily. The human eye sees accurately every now and then whenever intuition or emotion is involved. A baby intuitively recognizes its mother even though it is incapable of describing what its mother looks like. If a baby is shown a few pictures of kittens, it will soon be able to recognize another cat that looks quite different. It is known that artificial intelligence has no such feature. There’s very little we can achieve with our intuition and emotion in industry.
The most crucial fault that the human eye has is identifying the object one sees with the object he or she has in mind. If an object resembles something in one’s mind, he or she concludes that it is what they believe it to be. The shadowy likeness of a human face found on the surface of Mars in the photo taken by the Viking spacecraft in 1976 created excitement but it was just a fallacy created by subjective prejudice. Piles of rocks resembled a human face due to our desire to see things from a human’s point of view. A mechanical eye does no such thing. It only makes judgements after making calculations based on algorithms. There is nothing new about a machine’s denial of what the human eye sees. With the help of additional instruments, the human eye may have worked mechanically, not biologically, in human history. Qianliyan from ancient Chinese tales is a precursor to our mechanical perceptual capability in which the scope of detection coverage can be greatly extended through the use of a radar. Ever since humans first began to wonder about what lies beyond the horizon, the human eye has been a detection device that is of little use. Cutting-edge fighter jets like the F-22 Raptor have a data link function that links data from a proceeding fighter to a following fighter. The detection range of the AESA radar built for an F-22 extends to about 370km but this can be expanded several times if a proceeding fighter links data to a following fighter. This can be thought of as an improvement on ancient tactics in which one side sends out scouts to check out what the enemy is up to. The reason why the human eye is discredited is due to the limits all biological eyes have.
Engineer-cum-businessman and artist Yoon Hanjong takes photographs of elaborate electronic components using a visual inspection systems for electronic components (hereinafter referred to as an inspection system) to see just how finely the human eye can see. These seemingly pared-down photographs speak volumes about current technology, vision, and perception. First of all, the process of producing these pictures is quite distinct from that of the common photographs we know. Of course, photographs taken by machines have a different purpose. When asked why they take photographs, common photographers sometimes give very vague answers. They usually reply that they take pictures “to record history,” “to explore humanity’s inner world,” or “to create an archive for something.” However, answers such as these are quite ambiguous and even the artists themselves do not know exactly what they mean. It is unnecessary to point out the fallacies in each of these answers one by one, but let us at least address the first answer. When we say that we record history, we tend to consider history as something substantial so that we can take photographs of it. It is possible to record history when camera and the photographer are swept up together in the raging torrent of history. History that can be captured using a camera is not a subject of photography but a multi-axial motion involving the camera, a human, and time. Both the camera and the person are part of that history. Nonetheless, people claim to record history as if is halted over there away from them. Those who speak in such a way confuse the historic time conveyed in Lim Eung-sik’s photographs with time that appears on a smartphone’s display. Historic time in old photographs implies an entanglement of many factors such as a photographer, symbols, systems, discourses, attention, and interest. It is thus impossible to record history or, rather, it requires more sophisticated equipment than we imagine. In other words, we need a discursive, sensuous apparatus that can distance ourselves from history or stop time. The photographic apparatus you carry now is part of history and it is impossible to record history as if it is an aloof subject distanced from you? This is similar to preposterous discourses such as those about “exploring the inner self” and “creating an archive.”
On the other hand, the photographs Yoon takes with an inspection system have a clear purpose: to detect defects on the surface of an electronic component. In the past, the human eye was used to find flaws but nowadays it is no longer used to make inspections at industrial sites. Whenever a train would arrive at Seoul Station, inspectors use to strike wheels and bogies of a train to find out any possible cracks. This practice is no longer carried out today because a non-destructive test using ultrasonic waves and lasers is much more exact and effective. Inspections dependent on the human eye are no longer conducted since a machine’s ability to detect flaws far exceeds that of the human eye. The human eye is not a scanner that receives visual data. As it is part of the body, it physiologically works to not only receive data but also manipulate data which is ordered and affected by the brain. It stops whenever it feels sleepy and at times manipulates data as it pleases. It is a fact that wallpaper patterns can resemble billiard balls to someone who plays billiards a lot. Such statements as these accurately represent the characteristics of the human eye. Hindered by senses, emotions, and bias, the human eye is just too inaccurate to be used in industrial environments. So, the machine’s eye has been used.
The procedures adopted to detect defects on the surfaces of electronic components are complicated beyond our imagination. This includes important aspects of today’s intricately evolved industries. Why is it necessary to detect defects? The unit prices of electronic components treated by Yoon’s inspection system are not very expensive: they are only a few cents. The problem is that high-priced mechanical equipment can become useless due to defects in these tiny components. All defects must be detected since the rate of defects in electronic components can affect the credibility of the company that produced it. A plurality of electronic parts are used in electronic goods from computers and smartphones to even irons. Some are relatively large and can measure several millimeters while others are as tiny as a grain of sesame. These include the electronic parts used to make smartphones. A certain defect rate is inevitable for all electronic components. Inspections to find defects are carried out at high speed and high precision. An inspection system does not detect an actual defect but just inspects a chip’s outward appearance: it looks for any irregularities in its shape, size, color, and texture. The difference between the human eye and a mechanical eye is that the mechanical eye sees only what it is interested in. The inspection system is unconcerned with whether what it inspects is a condenser or a resistance and whether it is defective or not. It just searches for things that are different from the norm. It only examines chips that escape from their designed size or allow for errors. Thus, the inspection system’s eye is elementally different from the human eye which judges subjectively as it is distracted by diverse concerns and becomes tangled up in the brain’s knowledge and interests. Nowadays more video playbacks are being used during sports games since a machine’s eye is not only more accurate but referees can also be bribed or hold prejudices while machines are free from such defects. In other words, a mechanical eye is fair and impartial.
The term “defect” here does not suggest something “bad or wrong” as we usually think it to mean. A defective man is one with a bad temper while defective food is something that contains dirty and harmful ingredients. The type of defect an inspection system tries to detect, however, is thoroughly quantitative. That is, a component that is outside the bounds of a certain specification is unconditionally considered defective. A defect is, after all, equivalent to the concept of noise. In a broad sense, noise consists of any signal we do not want to hear. Accordingly, an inspection system regards anything that deviates from the features of an electronic component’s form, material, and color to be defective. Of course, an operation has to identify a range within which an inspection system must examine noise. This is why the rate of defects increases the more closely something is investigated. The inspection system tries to identify defects such as cracks, holes, chipped paint, exposed electrodes, broken edges, contaminated surfaces, and inaccurate lengths, widths, and thicknesses. However, the inspection system does not detect defects by recognizing chip patterns and collating them with information about the features of such defects that are input in advance. The inspection system simply finds noise in images represented by pixels. The machine determines what is defective by interpreting such noise through an algorithm. For instance, a foreign substance can be detected by discovering a lower degree of brightness in specific pixels. This means it does more than just find specific pixels. Cracks can be found by applying differentiation. If a difference value between n and n+1 is larger than that of nn, that component is deemed to have defective cracks.
Inspection procedures are largely divided into three phases: feeding, inspection, and sorting. A feeder must transmit chips to be inspected to an inspection camera both quickly and accurately (at a maximum of 8,000 pieces per minute). The chips should be set at an angle so that they present a face for the camera to inspect. Guiders have been placed along the route through which chips are transmitted in order to ensure that they have been positioned properly. Chips passing through a feeder are placed on a glass turntable which moves chips to an optical system consisting of lighting and a camera. The camera used for inspecting electronic parts is elementally different from a common camera. The latter feature diverse settings that can be adjusted according to a user’s preferences and emotions as it is being used, which is fundamentally different from the former depending thoroughly on the specification of inspection. A general purpose camera becomes one with its user’s eyes and moreover his or her body, allowing it to generate images as it moves together with one’s body. The inspection system is solidly fixed to the ground and then leveled with it. The chips on the turntable pass through the first and second guiders. The two guiders are set to adjust a chip’s position if it is positioned incorrectly after passing through the first. After that, a correctly positioned chip passes through a trigger sensor. After the location of the chip is recorded, the sensor transmits a signal to order a camera placed at a relative distance to automatically take a photograph. Numerical values such as the chip’s moving speed and the distance between the sensor and the camera are calculated. Next, the chip is transmitted to the inspection section, the core of the inspection system. When it receives a signal that a chip has arrived, the camera takes pictures by reading the encoder’s value. Yoon took pictures of electronic components measuring 1.0×0.5mm using a lens with a magnification of 1.5x by flashing a 6W (Red/Green/Blue) LED light at different angles. The intensity and angle of the lighting are important since any unevenness on the surface of a component is noticeable when the light is askew. A lens with a magnification of 0.8x may be considered insignificant but when it is used to photograph components measuring less than 1mm, it is comparable to the magnification of a microscope level. The photographed images are interpreted by an image processing algorithm and then assessed whether they are defective or normal. Defective chips then fall into a can for defective products using compressed air. There are three types of cans: one for normal chips, defective chips, and chips that need to be reassessed.
Yoon has produced his works using this system which he developed and sold. Titled Invisible Beings, these works are divided into two types. One displays an arrangement of 10,000 chips shot at 1.0x magnification that has produced images resembling a microcosm of society. The fact that electronic components manufactured through an accurate, rigid process of production might still turn out defective reminds us of how a society laden with foreign factors is extremely complicated. Although there are strict filtering systems to select students, company employees, and teachers, we cannot exclude refractory men. This resembles the world of tiny electronic components.
The other type depicts an extreme enlargement of each electronic part. Enlarged approximately 400 times, they seem to be different. The electronic components photographed with a camera and lens at high magnifications resemble tree bark and beetles. As they are enlargements of an extremely minute world, it is difficult for us to identify their true nature with our eyes alone. The surface of an electronic component appears sleek when seen with the naked eye but when it is enlarged at high magnifications, however, it appears irregular and uneven with a plurality of metal particles. At this view, it looks more like the surface of a rock found in nature. It betrays our belief that an industrial part is standardized and processed at supreme precision. Both mistakes and failures are part of the nature of humanity that we cannot eschew no matter advanced technology becomes.
The electronic component photographed at high mag-nifications was initially not visually provocative. This is the reason why some defective parts can be captured by a specific parameter without making the impression that “something is wrong or appalling.” As mentioned above, defects in electronic parts are different from what we usually consider a defect to be. Yoon thus interferes in his “work” in a benevolent fashion. That is to say, as industrially engendered images have nothing spectacular for us to look forward to, he brought something to his works so as to arouse interest. He uses either nitric acid to corrode an inward electrode or a mixture of hydrochloric acid and aqua regia, the only liquid able to melt gold. Invisible Beings is a title that denotes human efforts to explore an invisible world ever since the invention of the microscope in 1590 and the telescope in 1608.
This industrial work transforms into a work of art, trans-ferred to another dimension. This insinuates that it crosses over into the territory and institution of art. This can be thought of as an example of the “fusion of scientific technology and art” that is often talked about nowadays. However, it is asserted that this is not proper as it implies a forced marriage between science and art. There have been countless attempts to fuse scientific technology and art but no desirable results have been gained as scientific technology has so far been unable to understand art and vice versa. This also hints at art’s application of science and technology. Art has been utilizing the two since ancient times when paints were being developed using all kinds of natural materials, not to mention in the present when a variety of cutting-edge technologies are being employed. If this is the case, do Yoon’s works fall under this category? The answer is no. The fusion of scientific technology and art is not fit to define his art since his scientific technology initially included art and vice versa. The two were not fused together but initially remained blended.
Just how were they blended? If we examine them closely, we may discover that most machines are as beautiful as or even more beautiful than artworks. This is why the creativity, emotion, and even sophistication necessary for creating works of art play a role in manufacturing machines. The mechanisms of feeders and guiders that move electronic parts at very quick speeds and resituate them into correct positions are not only exquisite but also beautiful. The metal parts consisting of those mechanisms are very small but their surface texture and gloss feel as profound as Henry Moore’s sculptures. The reason for that is metal used for those parts is most suitable for meeting the demands of SUS (Steel Use Stainless) standards determined by JIS (Japanese Industrial Standards). The LED lighting with three colors, red, green and blue may detect any defect as it is set at the angle and intensity of illumination that can most properly reveal the surface state of electronic components. That is an up-to-date form of the eye that can see everything and humans have tried to achieve from ancient times. The cans to contain chips are ventilated not to get damp and pressure is well adjusted not to push too hard. Sponge is put on the insides of those cans to prevent chips from damaging when they fall into them. The images resulted from such careful consideration and sensuous arrangement bring about surrealistic beauty. The images of electronic components enlarged a hundred times seem laden with life force to be parts of important instruments that forge our everyday lives. Any machine loses its light and movement when power is not supplied. If power is supplied, the machine starts emitting light and moving as if it is given life. All these are possible when the cells of tiny electronic components are alive. An inspection system is the machine that inspects and confirms whether such cells could live or not. It is the machine that inspects tiny electronic elements’ airworthiness, the measure of an aircraft’s suitability for safe flight.
Countless problems have surfaced during the process of manufacturing and managing such machines. As an engineer, Yoon has had to solve them using his creativity to cope with such problems as they are not mentioned in manuals. When Yoon has to meet new customer demands, he has to tackle them in a creative manner. Thus, an inspection system can be thought of as a product of creativity that surpasses works of art. As art is already incarnated in this complicated machine in the name of science and technology, there is no need to incorporate art outside the machine.
Such cases are easily found in preexisting photographic works. Photographers exploring the weird beauty of details in objects emerged in both Europe and America between the 1920s and the 1930s. In Europe, German photographer Karl Blossfeldt produced works titled Urformen der Kunst (Art Forms in Nature) which were close-up photographs of details in a variety of plants. Predicated upon Neue Sachlichkeit (New Objectivity), he pursued only the objectivity of nature without representing anything. In the United States, Paul Strand was absolutely riveted by the texture and structural beauty of machinery. Similar to German photographers, he put stress
only on the hallmarks of objects, repressing his subjectivity. To these photographers, science and technology were nothing less than art itself. Each were products of creativity and had something in common: they displayed new spectacles that humans had never before experienced. In this context, scientific technology and art mingle in Yoon’s images. Just like the saying “nothing is complete unless you put it in final shape,” electronic components that passed strict tests have no meaning unless they are placed in electronic goods. Therefore, the electronic parts in Yoon’s photographs are nothing but individual cells that are still outside the world of meaning. They are one letter in terms of language. If they could enter into the world of meaning, they would have to forge a sentence, but a sentence in Yoon’s work is circuitry or an algorithm.
Yoon’s works rest on an algorithm different from that of an inspection system: an algorithm of desire. Originally, an electronic component is a product by which a mechanical desire can be achieved. Machines desire to turn the human world into their own world by being made to a standard and working properly. As this desire moves both quantitatively and qualitatively beyond that of the humans who manufactured them, humans have come to be afraid of machines. Originally the desire for machine was a desire that humans had for machine, but now machines desire to become the subject and have the world overflow with machines. It is currently difficult to discern the desire of humans from the desire of machines as humans are able to actualize their desire with the help of machines and vice versa. One man’s desire to fly led him to make the airplane, another’s desire for light led him to invent the light bulb, and another’s desire for more competent intelligence led him to develop the computer. As such, every machine can be regarded as a product of human desire. However, such things cannot be achieved with only the subjective desire to fulfill one’s will. The desire of machines can be realized when humans are able to regulate their desires in consideration of the objective characters of machines and objectify themselves. What makes all of this possible is not the intelligence of a few geniuses but a massive and complicated industrial system.
We usually think that identical products can be produced in an industrial system. No matter how precisely we process things, however, machines and parts have absolutely no room for error. Even if something is off by only one thousandth of a millimeter, it cannot be disregarded. there is the matter of whether or not an error is within a permissible level. This raises a significant ontological issue. Since modern times, Western thought has concentrated on the notion of the identical in order to define divided groups of people as unified beings. The philosophy of the identical intended to seek the integrity of existence in search of someone like oneself in one’s external world. Just like each individual human, the world is also racially, geographically, ideologically, politically, and religiously divided. As a result, Westerners have searched for the identical in a divided world and defined those who are not in this world as “the others.” In other words, Westerners have accepted others only if they can relate to themselves. If they could not, they drove out these others anchored in the philosophy that “not all of us are strangers.” Modern Western history is fraught with such exclusion and ostracism. It is not a matter of thought but a matter of practice that makes this world a base for the identical.
Such aspects of thought and practice seem to have been attained in modern industry since humans are able to mass produce identical objects just as they are supposed to do. Industrial products might seem identical at a glimpse, but upon close examination there are defects and errors in processing. The philosophy of the identical may thus be cracked even very minutely. Yoon’s works are an indication of this profound fact. After all, it is revealed the machine desire has been inherently cracked.
© YOON HANJONG