From the first moon landing in 1969 to the 9/11 terror attacks, we’ve seen certain images so often on TV that it feels as if we know everything about them. Little do we realize that the mass media repeat images and information and often create so-called facts in the first place. Korean media artist Kijong Zin’s installations question the truth of documentaries and reveal their often “fakementary” nature.
“On Air” monitor wall:
In Kijong Zin’s “On Air” installation, viewers first find themselves inside the “transmission department” of a typical television network. An entire wall is dedicated to TV monitors that broadcast a CNN telecast of the 9/11 terror attacks, an American raid in Iraq shown by AlJazeera News, a science documentary about the first moon landing, a National Geographic documentary on Amazon River fish and many more.
A still from the Discovery installation (2007):
Visitors then move along to the “production department” where they get a behind-the-scenes view of the creation of news with the simplest of means: 9/11 is recreated with a model plane and a huge fake cloud; the first moon landing is just a model of an astronaut plus the artist’s footprints in the dirt for authenticity; and the documentary about fish is filmed in a tiny aquarium.
What looks quite real on TV is thus revealed as fabricated and fake; a world of tiny models, puppets and stage settings. Visitors realize that the truth can be manipulated while delivering information through mass media.
All fake – behind the scenes of the CNN installation:
The AlJazeera installation:
Won-bang Kim, in his essay on Kijong Zin, asks if by understanding this, we have discovered ‘the real’ at last. “Can this be defined as a work that discloses the deceptive manipulation of the media and the awakening of the real? Surely, it can. On AIR can be considered as an ‘enlightenment work’ to a certain degree, which reveals the fictionality of media that conceals the truth, and this is the intriguing part of the work.”
The first moon landing, a fake?
The 28-year-old artist who lives and works in Seoul, Korea, graduated with an Arts and Design degree from Kyungwon University. His first solo exhibition “On Air” in 2008 at Arario Gallery in Seoul brought him much international acclaim. His most recent exhibition “Headline” together with Kuo Ichen took place this year at Gallery Grand Siecle in Taipei, Taiwan. Since 2004, Zin has exhibited his work at museum, art galleries and art fairs in Korea, China, Japan, Germany, Turkey, Austria and the UK. He says about the inspiration for his work:
“[…] People learn about the outer world through watching television. This is why I intended to use television of all media instead of projection or video. Shocking – it would be when the audience sees images on TV outside the gallery and then the reality inside the gallery in real-time. ‘Fake’ and ‘media fabrication’, actuality and virtual reality, obscure boundaries between the truth and false, expansion or diminution of an incident, and even a creation of an affair in the media – this is what I want to work on in the project.”
Behind the scenes of the National Geographic installation:
Kijong Zin’s media installations remind us of the boundaries and uncertainty of virtual reality and “On Air” especially reveals the fictionality of mass media in a humorous way. Visitors to Kijong Zin’s installations often leave them a little puzzled as upon entering the real world, they are not so sure any more how real it really is.
Here’s a short video of Kijong Zin’s On Air installation as part of the “Thermocline of Art: New Asian Waves” exhibition in 2006:
3) Kim, Won-bang. “Kijong Zin’s On Air and the Fate Toward Simulacre.” Essay provided by Arario Gallery Seoul.
4) Zin, Kinjong. “About the ‘On Air’ Project.” Exhibition description provided by Arario Gallery Seoul.
We’ll even throw in a free album.