A Conversation with Kyungwoo Chun, Kunsu Shim, Gerhard Stäbler (EN, DE, KOR)

Hella Melkert

Peter Friese

A Conversation with Kyungwoo Chun, Kunsu Shim, Gerhard Stäbler

But what then remains?
Everything remains,
but in a new light,
with new tones
and new expressions.
Gilles Deleuze

KS: We destroy, in order to see, in order to hear!

GS: ...this is an Ur-artistic task that one should pursue very rigorously. However, “to destroy, in order to see, in order to hear” is an exceedingly complex process, that one should by no means attempt to oversimplify, but one that is occasionally not immediately noticed or even noticeable, that functions, should function, subversively on a subconscious level.

KS: Destruction is necessary, because processes in many social areas – and naturally also in the arts – are already so repetitive, that is to say, functionally fixed, that one doesn’t observe them any longer.

Does one even see flowers in a vase any longer? Or put another way, does one see, they have degenerated into an industrial mass product, whose scent has been removed, or perhaps may even have been synthetically added again.

KC: Meanwhile one is incapable of seeing the essence! It seems to me, that these days one hysterically protects oneself against disappearance, continuously lusting for change and yet at the same time searching for lasting permanence. For example, it is not surprising, therefore, that indestructible, plastic monster-flowers are manufactured. The quest to make them more and more realistic-looking goes on endlessly. One inevitably loses, thereby, the essential relationship to the world, and this is often only mainly made visible through destruction and disappearance.

GS: Many years ago in Japan we learned about the Ikebana Master Yukio Nakagawa, who in Tokyo filled one single room entirely full with rose petals, shredded the roses and thereby strengthened the power of the blossoms a thousandfold. Although, what left an even deeper impression on us was an everyday performance of Nakagawa’s, we coincidentally saw on television during one of last Japan tours.

KS: Yukio Nakagawa was visited by a woman, a student, who brought him a gigantic bouquet of ordinary roses. He took it, stuffed it into a vase, and began to break all the stems.

GS: How this looked was unbelievable. Suddenly the commonplace supermarket bouquet acquired a “face”. An unmistakable countenance, but not one of sentimentality, that flowers in everyday use often take on. Nakagawa purposely deviated from the often-embarrassing practice of “gift” giving. One time during the applause for a premiere performance, I received a mass-produced, cookie-cutter flowerpot, and notice it was “mass-produced”, as the label said: XXL. Infuriated, I therefore set it, before our trip home, in the parking garage, also usually a place of ugliness, to perhaps still leverage an appropriate appearance for the assembly line flowers. In any event, the shock of this gift wouldn’t leave me alone and later even provoked a choir piece, which I titled XXL – Great!

KC: Flowers and lavish flower decorations with ribbons have a further meaning at events in Korea: they often times are not meant as congratulations, but rather demonstrate that someone important was there who has a meaningful relationship to the event. Sometimes this takes on almost absurd dimensions and has already engendered an entire line of business.

KS: This lavish glitter obstructs the view of the actual exhibit.

KC: It’s not about art, but rather social flair…

GS: …transient as sound and smoke, as it were.

KC: Some artists also use these “adornments” with a false understanding, to become “famous”…

GS: …even though it’s actually more associated with a funeral, no?

KC: Exactly, a funeral! At an exhibition opening in Denmark I received one of these flower arrangements with a huge ribbon bow from the Korean Embassy – as is the custom in Korea. The Danes found this quite amusing because in Denmark, one only receives these at a funeral.

GS: There was probably even a saying on the ribbon about “Eternal Life” or some such…

KC: …it’s good that one receives such good wishes during one’s lifetime, even though as fake flowers they’ll last beyond one’s demise.

When I visit my family’s gravesite in Korea, it’s not exactly easy to buy live flowers, because they offer mainly plastic flowers. Isn’t it a paradox to honor the dead with flowers that do not wither? Actually, doesn’t the transitory contain the possibility of rebirth?

KS: By the way, in connection with death, I experienced something else in dealing with flowers, namely the bizarre relationship between mourning and the flower industry that demonstrated itself in the sea of flowers at the grave of the former president Hariri, murdered in 2005, in the Libyan capitol city of Beirut.

GS: Insanity, because an entire clan of flower cultivators lives there – all friends of Hariri’s – who daily replace these flowers.

KS: Here they are actually live flowers and in an opulence that should symbolize the abundance of power. Diametrically opposed to art, this political installation exploits the sensibilities of a large segment of the population and capitalizes on their feelings, using flowers to exercise of an authoritarian form of government.

GS: Actually, this is a place that should be destroyed, that should have a “loud” action, the violent clearing of the wreaths, or better yet, an effective extreme quiet – a blight perhaps, that upon introduction withers and dries the flowers.

KS: To be extreme, just for its own sake, is not the goal, but rather a necessary method to expose: to no longer allow the exploitation of life and, in this sense, to formulate how I could imagine a society, in which the outermost would be possible. This could be a type of anarchy in which one would, of all things, have to immediately again search for paths and reassemble the scattered individuality, in order to guarantee a social cohabitation scenario worthy of humans, in which all capabilities are respected.

KS: One needs an extreme…

GS: …unrelenting…

KS: …approach, in order to develop the diversity of the individual, or even to facilitate sight, hearing, and perception, although not the reverse…

GS: …because otherwise being extreme simply degrades…

KS: …what one can easily recognize in today’s society: “being extreme”, “being revolutionary”, is a game for many, in which everything is ignored that would make this approach important – above all the historical awareness and the reflection of societal affairs. “Being extreme” gets confused with an ego trip.

KC: And through the many, new, and alas, so individual communication opportunities and in fact, actual interferences, one loses more and more the sensibility for the world. This massive communications activity comes across as very “loud” to me and the superficial extreme doesn’t produce a deeper interaction. It appears that the modern society makes possible a greater plurality of the individual, but in reality forces us to accept an exceedingly limited offering of alternatives, or to follow a commercialized system.

GS: A similar observation could be made, when one correspondingly lifts the trendy counterpart “extreme quiet” to cult status: one retreats into the esoteric and observes the world similarly through a pair of – differently – colored glasses. Yet, the way an artist reacts to life, answers life, determines the means, and therefore, in particular connections, these means can be blasting or delicate, brilliant or monochromatic.

KS: In art, reproduction of the direct reality is not the concern. It concerns inner spaces, life moments, about a relationship to a beloved, to a beam of light in the evening, to the sound of an insect, to a space between people.

GS: It concerns the creation of life’s moments in a different sphere, that are distinctive and unforgettable…

KC: …moments which we encase in music and images and then newly unfurl in the imaginations of other people…

KS: And that again makes it necessary that one creates perfect clarity, how one, for instance, sets different sounds into connection with one another, which means, to consider constellations of sound that not only “bind together” what’s already here, but rather pull apart, disassemble, unfurl. Once again back to flowers: in my performance IKEBANA I smash flower pots, twenty, thirty pieces, which actually are meant to be decoration. I attempt with that to destroy the many meanings, values, and symbols with which flowers are normally associated. One could also say to wash off, to clean. Cleaning means the reconstruction of the original situation: an act of objectification, neutralization, freedom of symbolization, like Paul Cezanne envisioned as a goal of his painting – the reconstitution of on a complex sensuality.

GS: Yet to besmirch again this purity was, and is, the ongoing intercourse with music in our community. Music isn’t only corrupted at the expense of its content for consumption and the masses, but also with other-than-musical ballast – with stories behind and around the music, created with the (false) goal to entertain, and that are moved into the foreground. The goal is no longer to notice what is, but rather to distract from what is, in order to dampen the experience of what is, and to inhibit reflection thereon. How else could Beethoven’s Fifth serve the Nazis’ propaganda purposes, at the opening of the Berlin Wall be used for freedom, and finally function as European Union anthem? How else could one attempt, like occurred in German private television, a pornographic act with Mozarts Requiem as background music. We have lost the ability to perceive and resort to descriptions: “that sounds like”, “that looks like”, “that feels like”, “that tastes like”… We’ve not only lost the senses, but also the ability to express them.

KS: Only the subjective superficiality counts any more.

KC: I experience that even with some art historians or journalists who use their own taste as a measuring stick.

GS: And then when they publicize this, they multiply the pre-formed, standardized as-if opinions and manipulate art audiences with them. They have stereotypes at the ready: if, for instance, someone like Kunsu coming from Asia presented something quiet and slow then they will readily say it’s Asian. And if I compose something like it, it will be labeled “boring”.

KC: Yes, I understand this well. Because quite often, without my assistance, I’m classified as a Buddhist or someone who meditates day in, day out.

KS: The problem isn’t that our work is labeled “Asian”, but rather the problem is that the label supposedly “clarifies” everything.

GS: Phrases are thrown around too readily…

KC: …instead of experiencing one’s self, instead of questioning one’s self, instead of allowing the material to speak and to try to explore connections on one’s own…

GS: …and to form one’s own concepts. But this calls for – we certainly all agree on this – an original, creative thinking style, also in relation to art researchers, in order to stimulate a fruitful discussion with us artists, and to raise urgent questions, which again, have to be processed artistically and solved.

KS: In hearing some of your music, Gerhard, it’s apparent, that you use sound structures, which in their complexity are not easy to comprehend, let’s say are somewhat “chaotic”. Not only the sound material and the musical developments seem to transmit chaos, but also the other sensual planes, for example, the use of almost theatrical elements or the dissemination of aromas. What is chaos for you? A search to escape the orderly, hierarchical world?

GS: Chaos doesn’t exist. That which we cannot (yet) recognize is normally called chaos. A situation that is not immediately classifiable captivates me. On the surface, my music may sometimes appear chaotic, yet behind it, you can sense an order. And a similar process should be experienced, by the way, that occurs when one sees a person for the first time – let’s say – on the street, meets him by accident, and gets the chance to become closer acquainted.

KS: Only gradually will his character then reveal itself…

GS: …and the revealing occurs in a dialogue, in the discourse between two persons.

KS: In your opinion does it work similarly in music? When you compose, do you actually employ such a discourse that should then lead to a revealing process?

GS: There is a basic difference between getting to know a person and composing, because a person is here in his form, I don’t need to create him any longer. With music, it’s different; it must first be conceived and composed. However, once it exists, then the process runs in a similar fashion – like with a strange person, or a piece of up to now unknown music.

KS: That means, one slowly gains familiarity.

GS: This is generally so with getting acquainted, discovery, deciphering. As time goes along one refines one’s experience of another person, and the knowledge of, the up till now unknown, processes in music. And just as with “persons”, with music of substance, one can (could) also always explore new layers.

KS: My works are – as you would perhaps notice – are primarily rather provocative and make it not always easy to penetrate to the core of the music. I like to start, with let’s say, an exceptional situation that applies to the “everyday exceptional situation”, which determines us and that which for me is the real subject of music, defines the “goal”, namely allows reflection of how and with what means – which will necessarily be multi-layered – one could approach a world, which one dreamed of, a perhaps utopian world, in which we could freely develop our intellect and mind. In my composition, drüber... for eight screamers, synthesizer, violoncello and audio tape, for instance, one finds – not unlike Francis Bacon’s paintings – elements of life, but which are so formed, that the psychological situations, the extreme situations (among others, not being able to go on, to unload oneself, to turn inside out) are condensed. In order to create distance in the Brechtian sense, they are combined with one another, remain poetic in spite of their massive intensity, and reflect onto the daily routine with all its beautiful, but also crude aspects, from which they originate; they mix it up and encourage questions about its change.

KS: What does everyday life mean for you, for the two of you?

GS: I see everyday life as a continuum of occurrences, which all have their occasionally banal causes and causal prerequisites. To make it useful as an allegory for art we have to concentrate the daily occurrences, the moments of beauty as well as cruelty, to their essence, just as I sketched on the example, drüber…

KC: I would introduce my remark with an observation: my little son Seo sits with me in the garden and names the clouds slowly drifting in the wind, as they look for him in their constant change. The cloud just appearing behind the mountain he calls a dog, the other is called rabbit, the third an airplane…

These are beautiful, unexpected moments, which remind me that one wants to spontaneously see what is present in one’s subconscious.

Everyday life stands for apparently repetitive events, which, in my work – as opposed to film and theater – “speak” more metaphorically.

When for instance, I have to photograph the white and already-worn-out chair in my studio, which exhibits traces of everyday life, and on which many sat for photographs, I would rather like to remove myself from these impressions, being that photography is a concrete medium. The photograph normally shows the chair as it is, and not why it sits in a certain place and what my impression of it is. It’s a concrete extract of everyday life, but should be – and can be – a window that opens to other dimensions, just as a word in a poem.

KS: For me everyday life stands for the essential quality of life, which include very personal connections – Gerhard, for instance – as well as drinking a glass of water, or the sound of a car going by.

KC: I’m amazed you use a conscious perception as a potential inspiration for your work. This is evidence that inspiration is the reward of work. It isn’t some mannered, romantic, or godly gift! Maurice Merleau-Ponty once said, “that

which one names inspiration, should be taken literally”. (Maurice Merleau-Ponty, The Eye and theGhost, Philospohical Essays), one has to assimilate the world with a clear head.

KS: However, each person must use his own “place” as wellspring for inspiration. For me it is therefore necessary to preserve the private space, as more and more society attempts to intrude with its “external systems” by x-raying, scanning, and dominating everything. I notice that private space, which I find essential, is becoming ever more public, just as it was long ago prophesized in George Orwell’s novel, 1984. By “private space”, I mean a not yet illuminated inner space.

KC: And in this regard, what do everday life objects mean for you?

KS: A glass, for instance, always has two facets: a functional one as object that allows me to drink out of it, and one that pertains to its “invisible” side, which ponders its origin, its origins from sand, its fragility, its historical stature regarding cracks, unevenness, color variations…

Functionality normally determines our everyday life, through our ability to “see”, or put another way, to individually see ourselves in a glass and find one’s own life therein. Our ability to “see” creates a different relationship to one’s life. And thereby, this glass can exist either as actual or created…

KC: …well, not (actually) exists, because for me it’s of no importance that it (the glass) actually stands there, but rather that it’s “perceptible”.

KS: What we require – and now I repeat myself – is a dual relationship between myself and everyday life: to the sound of the refrigerator I can say “you”, to Gerhard’s hands, to the desk in my office, to the table lamp, to the notepaper, to the dust on the windowsill, ultimately to everything and to myself I say “you”… “…to be to you just object and thing,dark and smart (Rainer Maria Rilke, I am Much Too Alone in this World, from The Book of Hours, 1899). Isn’t this a lovely description for opening and making oneself “ready” for this dual relationship? Namely the “you” relationship to everyday life creates this readiness, as well as listening to music as “you”. And listening as “you” makes it in turn possible to experience everyday life as “you”. These are two separate things, but for me they are inseparable.

KC: The real “image” we attempt to create through our work, is realized primarily in the imagination of the beholder, or listener, as the case may be; or to use your words, the one who engages in a you-relationship with art. In my photography, therefore, I attempt to “enrich” what I wish to portray, for instance, through an extremely long exposure of a person’s face, because this actively shapes it with conversations, in order to attain a greater intensity in the image, which invites the beholder to develop their own imagination…

GS: …thus, your images come across as more credible…

KS: …and therefore become more immediate, because they create reality again, a new reality.

KC: It is impossible for me to portray a face simply as a thing and to disregard the human references. However, a personal dimension of the photographer is also always added to that, even if one portrays a stone, arranged through light, color, and concrete components.

Camera, in Latin, “room”, is finally a space for which an artist assembles specifics and then decides, according to his taste, what to incorporate.

GS: It concerns, then, a certain artistic process: portrayal as implemented by the portrayer. In any event, the result does not sentimentalize as, for instance, sunset-kitsch does, which allegedly warms the human heart! Your pictures “enrapture” in order – as with your portraits, for example – to see and feel behind the caught-on-film human countenance, despite that they’re “blurry”, or rather because they’re “blurry”. They capture time “vertically”; seen musically, this could be called “polyphonic”. For me time is multilayered, sometimes slow, sometimes fast, sometimes it springs forwards, backwards, forward again… Under no circumstances does it wear a label – “Christian”, “Buddhist”, “esoteric”! The perception of time is not actually so different between East and West.

KC: Human perception is influenced by life circumstances. Because of this, varying perceptions in the East and West do exist, which admittedly, though, are growing more and more similar; fundamentally I also do not believe large differences in the perception of time exist, but sometimes there are variations, which I cannot so easily define.

KS: Perhaps, though, I’ll try one time to explain them: when Friedrich Nietzsche expressed that time does not flow horizontally in one direction, European intellectuals and the faithful were shocked, because for them – as was already for the church father Augustine – the home stretch was viewed as Paradise, and not as eternal reincarnation, as in Buddhism. Here “ksana” is a central concept for “time”, which does not point in one direction, but rather in various directions, and then ends in “nothingness’, in nirvana, where timelessness rules, the “nu”. For the French author Gaston Bachelard, two times existed: “the everyday time”, the horizontal and constant flow, and the “time of poems”, that – without duration – lead “vertically” directly into infinity.

GS: The “time of poems” is seen in our society as extremely problematic, because it implies a “time for oneself”, that is, to demand a time to live individually and with it, to turn against a collective time of higher-ranking institutions.

KC: I basically agree, although the total social structure – regardless whether it’s in Asia or Europe – is grounded in power, be it that of the state and the economic columns that support it, or be it that of the church or similar bastions.

GS: Confucius, like Christ or Mohammed, and their perfectly imposed ideologies are good examples for this – aligning the public will in union with the state.

KC: Regardless whether we want this or not: it is there and we must live with it!

GS: Yes, yes, but why should we just accept it, when it corrupts and limits our lives?

KC: But, everywhere we bear the brunt of political fallout and institutional domination.

GS: However, one should, one should try, to gradually free oneself of it.

KC: This is difficult, but correct…

KS: …and the question is, how one can engage in this. As artists we are confronted with these constraints, nonetheless, I don’t want to have anything to do with them! Even though art today is very often misused for the preservation of power structures. And – conscious or unconscious – unfortunately, many composers play along, in that they use compositional material that endorse these relationships, just as the predominant use of old music does today. Therefore, it’s crucial to devise a different musical language that will oppose and destroy such structures.

GS: And, again dealing with time comes into play; as not only does “taking time for oneself” operate subversively in certain social configurations, but above all, also how one uses this time taken for oneself can be seen as

subversive. What is crucial is whether one uses this time to sharpen the senses, the mind, or one to squander it, in that, for example, one could lose oneself in the empty halls of the entertainment industry! Kyungwoo, as a photographer, what role does “time” play for you, time quality, quantity of time?

KC: Firstly, I differentiate two types of time quantities, the one is measured time, clock time, which doesn’t actually interest me, and the other is individual, experienced time, that already exhibits another quality. Quality of time concerns the time that we “live”. When I first became involved with photography, speed was the main issue, the maximum speed of capturing this or that moment.

KS: …like a paparazzi?

KC: Well, (almost) the entire history of photography developed this way; it revolves in many cases around how one can “capture” the most thrilling, sensational moments…

GS: …one can market…

KC: …and this gradually emerged as the leading aesthetic, or theory, to be more precise. Although at some point I began to reject this. We experience speed very differently now, than fifty, or a hundred years ago, and today we have completely different communications systems, in which time has taken on a totally different meaning. When I collaborate with people, “unique time” becomes especially significant, and this always urgently absorbed me. A photo appears to be a simple plane, yet behind it can hide entirely different types of experienced time, varying dimensions of time. And for me, this style of photography – a style independent of the time from which the image emerged – is vital.

KS: This appears similar to me as with the photography of ever-changing places that the photographer Michael Wesely obtains with photography procedures that are drawn out over years. Although, you concern yourself predominantly with human portraiture, above all with their faces.

KC: For me it’s primarily about a relationship to the “subject”, with the intimacy also with an object, a landscape, although in particular with people, who become partners in the portraiture…

GS: …very pleasant…

KC: ...because I cannot exploit, and do not want to treat as objects, those I wish to portray. For example, it’s fascinating to photograph a person over a period of days, as each time the situation, the relationship, is different, the time new. What I can control is the environment, the precision of the scene staging, although, what finally occurs in the recording process lies not only with me. Perhaps this is also similar for you composers, as you likewise need interpreters to implement your score, which also do not always appear as realizable as planned on paper.

KS: But isn’t there also a relationship in a snapshot, when I, for instance, photograph a stranger on the street?

GS: The time factor really plays a meaningful roll in Kyungwoo’s conception, and this allows the development of a dialogue…

KS: …the development, naturally, of a completely different intimacy, that’s correct.

KC: When you take a snapshot of someone on the street, no exchange occurs, not even a connection arises. For me photography means not to act alone, but rather to work together with the person of whom the picture should emerge.

KS: A snapshot in intimate surroundings, an ad hoc picture of my partner, for example, maybe is closer to this idea. But, I already see that for you it is a requirement to establish a particular connection with and – when one thinks of your performances – amongst people.

KC: That means I cannot foresee what will ultimately happen, even though I technically prepare myself as perfectly as possible. In any event, during the act of photography I attempt to free myself and get away from the aesthetic standard and its supposed requirements, to which one is daily exposed.

KS: In this context, what brings you to your focus on the “out of focus”?

KC: As someone who wears glasses, for me everything is out of focus! Reality is out of focus, and from that our brains construct a personal image, in order to make the world in our imagination understandable for us. Therefore the counter-question: what exactly does “out of focus” mean?

GS: For me these questions sound – somehow or other – like the questions about chaos: one encounters allegedly chaotic structures, that each person individually perceives and varyingly approaches, sometimes managing to determine the real structures, and thereby “directly” getting the low down, and sometimes perceiving them indistinctly. The degrees of success are highly varied.

KC: Out of focus defines in focus, without out-of-focus there exists no in focus…

GS: … and without a person’s character details there is no complete impression, and the reverse.

KC: When one drives, one believes one sees a wide panorama, yet the view is narrow! And in dangerous situations one becomes much more attentive – one sees, one hears more precisely…

GS: But, more importantly, I find that with “out of focus” portraits, one doesn’t recognize everything clearly, yet more deeply experiences them. Reasoning spreads itself on the senses.

KC: And self-reflection of the portrayed, as the case may be, becomes clearer, maybe more evident with my performances which I usually conceive of in connection with exhibits, those in which the participants – following certain rules – concentrate on specific actions and then act as they see fit.

GS: You consider also configurations, so that someone to be portrayed, can actually be portrayed as a type, namely, as he “is”…

KS: …so that your pictures through the out-of-focus-ness come across as very powerful, even dramatic, that they radiate the power of the shadow and reach a manner of visuality, to point out beyond the normal visual world, perhaps as in a dream.

KC: For this reason, in my opinion, I get closer to music. For music, as opposed to visual, I experience art as more open and abstract.

Photography has long been commonly regarded as an art of “verification” and defines a narrow, limited view. Also in time: as people in photos are slowly forgotten. What does one know of a group photo from a school fieldtrip? How many friends can one still remember? Photography has a lot to do with our memory, with our past.

GS: And oftentimes, through this the photo becomes a medium of nostalgia! As in pop music and – rapidly increasing – also in the area of classical music. The flight from reality and its mental pervasion appears, of all things, to succeed more effectively with music than with old photos, old Hollywood movies, old furniture… once art has degraded into merchandise…

KS: …everything becomes functional and loses its original character.

GS: Atmosphere, atmosphere – it’s all reduced to simply atmosphere! This is what is supposed to be drummed into us. How refreshing, yet painful it always is, when the veil is removed from the misuse of art.

KS: In the film, The Pianist, by Michael Hanecke, based on the novel by Elfriede Jelinek, for example. There is a scene in which the piano professor, the center of interest, goes into a porn shop and turns on hardcore porn in a booth. What music do you think played in the backround?

KC: Classical music?

KS: Schubert’s Piano Trio, E flat major, second movement! In that sense, this was a shock for me, how fittingly Hanecke brought these two widely separate worlds together, in order to describe the protagonist. Through Schubert she came across to me as “innocent” because the music signified her inner psychological condition. At the same time the question arose for me: Is Schubert’s music really as “innocent” as I always thought it was? I never before experienced such an eccentric connection between image and music, because normally music serves not only as background to images, but also as practically a stimulant.

GS: Exactly like pornography! Mozart’s Requiem was another example. Music in advertisement purports to be likewise. It’s not about content, but rather only about the bargain!

KS: Certainly – especially after a certain, historically elapsed time – the intention a piece of music takes as a basis, can be reinterpreted, misinterpreted, misused, as happened to many old composers through the Nazis. One cannot be too careful as a composer, when one labors with an “old language”.

GS: I don’t mean by this that mere quotation is bad, but rather the approach of how one deals with emotional effects. Because something capable of being emotionally exploitive hides in music – it isn’t immune – and can get caught in commerce’s undertow and get completely sucked out. And then again, this misuse itself reaches deep into the artistic world: where in film is music (as just now discussed) on an equal footing, with its particulars present? Where in dance? I don’t necessarily think immediately of Tchaikovsky’s ballet, but rather – apart from fairly rare exceptions – above all else, in modern dance!

One needs to be clear “where” and “when” and “how” one inserts music. And this has a great impact on how one writes, which materials one uses, and where one has it performed.

KC: This is quite explicitly expressed when one goes through your scores. Again and again you both, above all, Kunsu, give extreme instructions to the musicians, like for instance, “as quietly as possible”, or “play almost inaudibly”. However, when musicians implement this, human beings are playing.

KS: “Extremely quietly” or “at the limit of audibility” initially sounds like a utopian demand. However, exactly at that point is where a work process is called for, through which I would like to walk with a musician along the path to the sound boundaries.

GS: When one only writes, “ppp”, indicating “very, very quietly”, one would then never include the extreme in the realm of possibility, because many musicians take apparently concrete instructions as “objective” and know very well what they mean, even though – also viewed physically – it’s humbug.

KS: One time I gave a musician the instruction to blow “extremely quietly”, whereupon one didn’t hear anything more from him, even though he was playing! I asked him to let us hear something. Instructions are there for the purpose of achieving certain intensities. And I believe when one plays, the sounds must be audible, otherwise I would notate “silence”, or a pause, as the case may be.

This is perhaps an aspect is similar to the difference between “black” and “dark”. “Black” is the combination of all colors and the absence of light. I cannot add anything more to “black”, and in the darkness I cannot see anything. Black is black, also when one notices that there could also be variances. “Dark” is the gradation of a color, or the presence of minimal light. For me, “black” means to be alone, soundlessness, silence, and on the other hand, “dark” means to be with someone and to be with something else, also audible and visible. If I notate the score with “extremely soft”, this exists in the area of “darkness”.

KC: My impression upon listening to your music is that “quiet” in this sense, isn’t that it is exactly “quite”, but rather that there are various intensities and nuances.

KS: Certainly, it is completely different to execute very quiet tones with large instruments, brass horns, for example, or smaller ones, let’s say woodwinds, like the clarinet or flute. In any event, it’s extremely difficult to find a balance with quiet passages, because some instruments cannot play very quiet tones in particular situations, or even at all.

With some pieces I very precisely differentiate the gradations, although in others I let the nuances come about on their own.

KC: It is similar for works of photography, because sometimes “visual effects” are quite dominant in works of photography, even though the seeing itself is not intensified to the same extent, so it can be that through vagueness,

seeming unclarity, one achieves a greater openness in perception.

KS: One can apply this to the interpretation of any music, no matter whether quiet or loud is called for, where, admittedly, the musical ability also presents an important factor.

GS: Oftentimes misunderstandings occur also in discussions over volume, because their interpretation quickly leads to an aesthetic judgment, in which “quietness” is assigned to the area of largest possible freedom. I also find one can be more effectively inspired in a quiet environment than in a bustling one. Nevertheless, I also continually find it necessary to once again be in a city dominated by advertisement, traffic and hustle and bustle. The tangled mass of impressions, the abundance as it were, I can completely filter out and sometimes within all that loudness, I can even work incredibly well and be with myself. One time I even developed an entire composition in my head, while in a fully packed, insanely loud disco. By contrast, stillness can be unsparingly distracting – for example, during the night – when a raindrop, the rustle of an animal, the singular croaking of a frog, occasionally abruptly yanks one out of one’s thoughts. It can be more distracting than a more continuous sound, for example, the conversational hum in a café studded with the rattle of dishes.

KC: It’s true; in extreme situations one can experience their opposite.

GS: In any event, one can never perceive everything, one has to filter, otherwise one would go crazy. Perception is always a selective act and requires one’s own mental activity…

KC: If I simply passively absorb what goes on around me, I quickly become tired, but when I begin to engage with my surroundings, to allow them to activate me, then exciting situations occur. For example, in the subway in Tokyo or in Seoul, when I’m standing eyeball to eyeball next to complete strangers, who have no other ambitions other than to arrive in another place, what amazing sights haunt the space! Totally funny, witty, strange, sometimes frightening! It’s a place of work for me, a place that exerts an enormous effect on me!

KS: That we perceive differently in the same places, at the same times, that we see, hear, smell differently, this is the point – not that we register everything in the same fashion, and if possible, at the same time. And through the experience that one perceives and exchanges ideas – in discussions about music or pictures – it is even possible, as I recently said to Gerhard, to experience delight and joy in discovery and a broader understanding of life’s process.

GS: Yes, delight and joy!?

KC: Why else do you, do we undertake our sometimes distressing work, if not out of delight and joy! I just read about the Korean author Kyunglee Park, that she worked on one single novel for her entire life and she rather labored

with it, not to say “agonized”.

GS: Work is often confused with distress. However, what matters to us humans elementarily concerns work, though admittedly with self-directed work, rather than being directed by others. Inspiration, ideas, are one side of the coin, the starting point; the other is work, quite often connected to the difficult search for solutions; this is the essential, creative fermentation, necessary to give birth to a work of art. An artistic process creates unbelievable birth pains. However, when one finds something one longed for, this then has to do with delight and the search for wholeness and beauty…

KS: Fundamentally, the point is to devise a vision in your own specific manner that emanates from you.

GS: Sometimes there are certainly also situations and questions that cannot be solved, possibly not even in one’s lifetime, just as it could have been with the Korean author, Kyunglee Park, with whom I’m unfortunately not yet familiar. However, this, too, can be an essential feature of art: to pose questions, to line them up for resolution, but to require time, maybe lots of time, in order to clarify them. So many are occupied with the daily in and out, they no longer even notice what is necessary, necessary to change. If anything, self-absorption is put on a pedestal, when really it should be torn down, to make space for pondering essential ideas, to prepare for art.

KC: Once again, a concrete question, Gerhard: often I saw dice and a piece of paper with numbers on it lying on your desk. Do these have something to do with the concretization of your ideas?

GS: Numbers really are the backbone for expressing inspirations, ideas, and utopias, to give them artistic form, and make them perceivable by the senses.

KC: So, for you numbers are building blocks with which to form a structural building?

GS: With numbers I define formal connections as well as musical details. The Fibonacci Series is one of the most common number sequences, one that determines the golden section. In fact, I used these for a while, though for a long time now I use – after using procedures with Morse code – number structures that I obtain instead from selected locations, from everyday life connections or from texts.

KC: So, you determine these number sequences yourself?

GS: The Fibonacci Series naturally already exists, and the Cage-ian Chance Operation, through which one obtains numbers with dice, is likewise well known. I tried everything and tested its usefulness. In the end, I found out that number sequences, which I arrange together with the subject to be worked on, compose, are best extracted from the subject itself. An example: a poem fragment of the ancient Sappho, was among other things, my basis for my Sappho Trilogy for Soprano, Choir, and Orchestra, for which you created a video. That’s why I generated numbers for it, from this fragment: I cast its words in numbers from 1 to 9, formed their retrograde, their inversion (which each time yields the sum of ten), and then the retrograde of the inversion. And with that I worked compositionally and reached such a great, formal, and hence, dense content. By now, I can pretty well assess the consequences of number series and quasi confidently “juggle” them.

KC: Are the numbers then important only for you, or should they also be comprehensible for the listener?

GS: On a higher level they should also be clear to the listeners, but not in an absolute sense, as a sequence of concrete numbers. What one should follow are formal proportions, short, long, loose and dense structures, etc. and their respective specifics. The number configuration in detail is just a tool, and at best, useful for scientific musical analysis exploring all connotations of a work.

KC: Numbers usually first refer to something quantitative, although one and one doesn’t always result in two…

GS: “1+1=3” is a “gift” of advertising. No joke intended: a qualitative assessment determines the structural emphasis in a composition; that’s just the character of composing.

KS: In my work I attempt to avoid that one hears a particular number structure, even if I use it often in my composition. Years ago, for some time I tried to find out how the eyes of dice, reduced into three groups into thrown rows (1, 2 = Group A, 3, 4 = Group B, 5, 6 = Group C). Do they converge? Do they become more uniform? Or do they drift part? For three months, I threw dice every day, for about a half an hour. Then I quit because the sums did not match each other at all, but rather were so far part that one would probably have to throw dice for years, in order to make them converge again – if possible at all. What I do use dice-thrown number systems for is the inner structure of a compositional moment, namely its repetition. Sometimes I use it for the determination of the number of tones or for the density of instrumentation, etc. I also use numbers for performances...

GS: …which then, yet again – as in your performance „inside piece“ – become “individualized” when they are “interpreted” by a personal experience of time…

KS: With inside piece, the viewers/listeners of this performance concert each receive a piece of paper. After 90 seconds – individually silently counted – they are to wad up and thrown it into the center of the performance venue. Although it’s supposed to take only 90 seconds, as we found out, it can take up to three minutes, because after about one minute, the individual experience of time becomes rather varied. From this experience, I mostly use two time units in composing long tones, or long sounds: 30 seconds – in which one can still keep track, or “take in” the time; or over 90 seconds: after which one simply must let go, abandon oneself, and forget. With an exact specification of duration, I have consciously restricted the quantity of time. Per se it doesn’t barely means anything to me, although without it – we spoke of it – the quality of time cannot really be experienced.

KC: I remember that in your office room in Essen, you once counted falling leaves and worked with that. To me that sounds like “sought” randomness, in order to compose against a blind structure.

KS: I also use a strict form when I count leaves, and must consciously define definite parameters…

KC: …but you cannot foresee the tally of leaves, is this not chance?

GS: Occasionally, I name such an occurrence, molded in numbers, the “photography of a moment”, which can determine a composition. And with this photograph it matters not so much how many single leaves fall, but rather in which sequence, in which quantity, and which color they fall. It is chance, and then again, not really.

KC: Could one also arrive at this with dice?

GS: One could, but with leaves you have also many additional factors that play into it, that could additionally inspire you to use a “dry” dice cast. Yet again, another possibility to obtain numbers should be mentioned: In the opera Madame la Peste and a few chamber music pieces, I use a number sequence that is assembled from the publication years of the poems of the first modern Greek poet, Constantine Cavafy. This is also fairly random, but during his lifetime, Cavafy very carefully determined what he wanted published and what not, he was extremely selective. Thus, the sequence of years has a rather “deterministic” stamp. If I use them as they are, then unchangeable structures result that – when it concerns numbers between 1897 and 1933, the years in which Cavafy published poems – consistently, directly, and successively, show again and again, low and high values and consequently, always result in opposites. If I confront the sequence of years with a sequence obtained by casting dice, that is, a totally random sequence, then I can – depending on the compositional plan – combine strictness with looseness and openness, into a sensible relationship. Numbers are thus an artistic tool to formulate structures according to their planned contents and to accomplish specific inter-relationships.

KS: I’m not concerned about chance per se. The use of chance helps me to solve questions of composition – for example, if I’m interested to leave the order of individual sounds open. But, with some pieces I just decide to be deterministic. Excitement is really the interaction of what is open or chance, and that which is determined, don’t you think? In other words, I attempt to create two planes of sound experiences. The one is outfitted with fairly clear structures, the other creates a space – we spoke of this – in which the “dark” can occur.

GS: …perhaps as in the art of the ancient Korea?!

KS: ...as with all “fine” arts altogether!

German (PDF)
Korean (PDF)

>2. Hella Melkert

As a composer, can one compose for more senses than for just the ear? In what way does something one sees, influence hearing? Do lighting conditions, perhaps even room temperature influence our experience of hearing? Can one also sense and feel sounds? Every pianist stands over the keys in direct contact with the vibrating strings, with the soundbox of his grand piano, and with the instrument, communicates through ears and fingers. More fundamental, yet at the same time more trivial: On a hot day water sounds can already create noticeable refreshment… One needn’t be a synesthete to experience certain subtle correspondences between the senses. And one needn’t assume hearing, in order to detect it. In his composition ThirTeen, Gerhard Stäbler included all the senses equally, in that various sensory stimuli (from sounds, pictures, smells, tastes, movements, text, to the touchable), in multilayered actions were placed in relationship to one another, and the audience participated in this polyphony of the senses. It is also not uncommon for a complex experience to be exacted in the performance pieces of Kunsu Shim: in the piece, in adieu, sounds arise, for instance, from the gradual breaking up of an ice block, while the incidental water from its melting spreads out across the floor, or in, i am where I wish to be, from tea-filled cups, which are initially served to the public and are then transformed in sound instruments.

Not only in these instances do both composers reflect artistic traditions like Dada and Fluxus, but also often, and specifically when, it’s primarily more concerned with irritations and provocations. The music-theater performance action, Time for Tomorrow, by Stäbler in 1999, jointly conceived with action artist, Laura Kikauka, and which, in years afterward he further developed with Shim into futuressencexxx, was, in fact, inspired by the Italian Futurism. From short, furturist theater pieces the actors, together with the musicians, created a multi-media piece during which, even cooking transpired on the stage, and the audience had to participate more than usual – or, in view of the meal, more than they would have liked.

Hearing and Seeing

The visual has always played a role in music, ever since (active) musicians and (not playing) listeners have existed in western music concerts. The entrance of the performer was and is, sometimes more, sometimes less, a part of the music experience. With regard to the brilliant, romantic virtuosity of Franz Liszt, Robert Schumann put it once thusly: “But, one must hear it and also see it – Liszt must never play offstage; a large part of the poetry would thereby be lost.” Eyes also hear along with. This applies across the board not only for an entire concert, but also in detail.

The last, very short portion of Stäbler’s White Space for voice and string quartet – one of the compositions for which Kyungwoo Chun produced a video – is comprised of only one, single, audible measure, in which the string quartet and voice execute a joint, varyingly fully-differentiated gesture. This gesture is prepared visibly by the musicians, through an active preparation of the position for singing or playing, and reinforced by silently remaining in these positions. The audible sound is framed in a mental space of anticipation, that is, of memory; this is explicitly part of the composition.

On the other hand, concerning his compositions, Kunsu Shim is not interested in visual details; they do not constitute dramaturgical factors in his music. For Kunsu Shim, the visual in music is something akin to light in the visual arts: essential, inevitable, if one wants to perform music at all – or see a picture at all. For Shim, music remains primarily sound art. Because his music, to speak dramatically, can be characterized also as a music without gestures, even without motor function. Shim separates, in fact, his music from his performances; although in both areas seeing is not an ingredient, but rather an essential similarity. It is essential, in that, the objects used in a performance speak for themselves.


How long can a piece of music last? How long must it last? Must new music always occur within the frame of a “functional” performance duration, that is, the usual ten or twenty minutes? What does it mean when a piece is extremely short? What happens when a piece takes much longer?

Initially, one can barely connect the term, of the moment, with music, as music seems to us to primarily (as in film and video) flow forward, like an art form one cannot keep a firm hold on. The musical moment, however, plays a large role in the creations of Stäbler and Shim. The pieces, chamber piece no. I-III, by Kunsu Shim, for example, in each case encompass only one moment, lasting as long as an inhalation, in which a musical subject must be instantly registered with eyes and ears – like a photographic snapshot.

When music exceeds its “functional” duration, it has other effects. In Kunsu Shim’s, “week”, a music for 7 consecutive days, sparse piano sounds occur daily for about an hour. A comparable handing of time is expressed in, Six Days, by Kyungwoo Chun, a photo portrait of a woman, evolving over a period of six days, on which she came to him in the studio. He always photographed her in the same position, while she told him of her daily experiences. There is just as little concern regarding the pure physical factor of time in week, as there is in Six Days, but instead, life lived during this time inevitably mixes into these works. Art and life are interwoven, in Six Days and in week they intertwine with one another more than usual.

Kunsu Shim stresses that the blurredness of Kyungwoo Chun’s portraits is not, for instance, generated from the focusing, but rather through the long exposure, through the time factor so essential to music; this is what produces the drama of the pictures. Amazingly, Chun received the stimulus for this practice of using time as artistic means for his portraits, from the music of Shim, among others, who above all in the 1990s – himself inspired by, among others, Morton Feldman – tested out a radical handling of time in his works, which (as mentioned) not only lasted many hours, but also spanned days.

In the composition, The Journey, by Gerhard Stäbler, a sound impulse ensues every three seconds, that is repeated over long stretches, almost unchangingly. With this uncommon structuring of compositional time, Stäbler revived actual insights out of psychology, where according to those, humans experience the “present”, the actual moment, as a time span of about three seconds. Between, or rather, over these three-second-units, are slipped short, varying sounds, that due to their minimal changes, compel the listener to listen very carefully. At the same time, they avoid the impression of an absolute cessation; the piece The Journey functions, despite its moment-structure, as never-ending sound flow, as an equal stringing together of individual moments. In this piece, the musical time does not set itself apart as form of the surrounding lifetime, but rather merges with it.

Seeing and Hearing

In a film or a video, is it necessary for sound and picture to duplicate one another? Is it necessary for images of the sea to be accompanied by ocean sounds? What happens when this isn’t the case? The video, red book, by Kyungwoo Chun, deals with excerpts of everyday life: one sees a white drinking cup and flies, that move on it, as well as a man in a puddle. Therefore, Stäbler chose sounds from everyday life for the eponymously named performance, which he composed to video; the sounds are generated with water in a tub, but also with the voice (gargling, whistling) and with a gong, that is hit and submerged in water. red book deals with two planes independent of one another: sound and image. Not only does the performance begin in front of the video, Stäbler also interrupts the video once with a blackout at the moment in which, the man who stood in the puddle, walked out of the picture. The performer, who at this exact moment very slowly pours water into the bucket, proceeds with this action as long as possible during the interruption of the video. It is exactly this lightly absurd short-circuit between the media layers that makes their specific character known. The performance does not form background music, or an interpretation of the video images, but rather a parallel, independent plane.

The rigorously persevered independence of image and sound impedes a problem-free consumption of such art works. In that Kyungwoo Chun and Gerhard Stäbler do not reduce the conflation of image and sound to a fusion, they resist that predominantly one-dimensional thinking in the media (but also in some art videos), which, for instance, automatically highlights ocean images with ocean sounds. Or that which, on the first aromatic-CD to come on the market as an experiment at the end of 1998, redundantly combined Christmas music with… cinnamon aroma. The rigorous polyphony of image and sound in the works jointly implemented by Kyungwoo chun and Gerhard Stäbler, or also Kunsu Shim, challenge the viewer, rather than lull him. Such works do not supply their own meanings, but rather, through the viewer, are open in their interpretations, and due to their dialogic structure alone, object to the mass media pollution.

Twenty Year Long Friendship

To be friends for twenty years, without being torn apart by life or death: this does not occur as a matter of course. Apart from favorable, exterior factors, a willingness is additionally required to open oneself again and again to one or the other, to listen and, over the years, to maintain a dialog, or rather, a “trialog”.

To retrieve art from its removed-from-daily-routine-and-life space, to entwine art and life together, in order to open new, more imaginative views onto the habitual, and so to encourage greater inner (and perhaps even outer?)

freedom: these joint endeavors of Kunsu Shim, Gerhard Stäbler, and Kyungwoo Chun, would be unthinkable without the many consonances in their perceptions of art and, more importantly perhaps, of life.

German (PDF)
Korean (PDF)

3. Peter Friese

Thoughts on the work of Kyungwoo Chun in context with his collaboration with Kunsu Shim and Gerhard Stäbler.

According to Roland Barthes, a photo is palpable evidence that what it illustrates, actually existed at one time. I would like to take up and pursue this train of thought, by suggesting that alongside this art of evidence gathering, a photo simultaneously also attests to the absence of the illustrated. Implicit evidence for this is, that what I see before me is past, and no longer exists as shown, outside the photo. I become particularly aware of this, when I view photos of my own past, about my own pictorial, childish alter ego, in the familiar family circle. I recognize myself again, although at the same time I realize I no longer physically correspond to the little person in the picture. The fact that with time most of the people present in the picture no longer exist, underlines the suspicion that photographs are not alone proof of visibility, but rather, above all, an proof of absence and the past. The longer life goes on, the greater the distance grows between me, and that which the photo, in its way, illustrates. And exactly this fact makes it present and possible to experience it again and again.

Many photos from the dawn of photography, for example, those which show a street scene, in which persons, sometimes also entire horse-drawn carriages are en route as blurry outlines, or only as fleeting, implied shadows of themselves, are evidence as well, for temporality and transience. Although, in actuality, the appreciation of some pictures resembles a melancholy act. I reflect, and feel together with what I see directly in front of me, as well as with what is absent, something that becomes apparent only as an implication or reverberation, or has just completely left the picture. Finally, through my additions and completions, I begin to understand myself as the one who sees and reflects, and recognize without trying, the photo as part of an entire structure, whose larger portion can elude the eye, but yet, which can be felt, followed, and experienced by me. The fact that this beginning of an aesthetic reasoning is already possible with family photos or the previously discussed street scenes, confirms the suspicion that photos are much more than mere evidence of the visible.

Kyungwoo Chun allows for these possibilities of photography, in as much as in his artistic work he never deals with just a single moment or external appearance, but he rather applies a framework of action, a temporal sequence, and an appropriate exchange. Instead of the proverbial distance to the object, person, or the process of the picture, instead of a clearly defined difference between the subject and object of the photograph, he is concerned with proximity, relationship, and communication. And these occur even, when in a portrait sitting, nothing is said for an entire hour. From this perspective, Chun’s work asks, in a particular manner, the question concerning the participation of the photographer in the creation in his pictures, as well as the one concerning the right of the person being photographed to influence the result, that is, the picture.

Actually, this approach contradicts the common perception in Europe, that the photo, above all, concerns an “objective” image of what was seen by the camera in the second before the camera is tripped, and I argue that this can also be seen in Kyungwoo Chun’s pictures – perhaps in the form of consciously accepted blurredness, over-exposures, and soft contours and structures within persons and objects, reminiscent more of painting. They demonstrate partly extreme, long exposures in which not only an external image was able to consolidate itself photochemically in the film emulsion, but also includes an entire sequence of events together with all the movements and changes that occurred. From this perspective, the pictures disclose what went on within a certain time between the photographer and the person being photographed, and in this manner is recorded in the picture. The time spent together, also when no word is spoken, can, in this manner, become apparent in the picture and be experienced. The photos, always very precisely planned within basic parameters, show therefore not only painting-like qualities, but formally examined, also incompleteness. But, Chun is not primarily interested in the painting-like qualities, blurredness, and incompleteness. The blurredness and flowing transitions are visible results of taking time and a conscious engaging with the other person, a process that plays out under participation. The pictures express a dialogue between the photographer and the person being photographed, a tendential cancellation of the duality of subject and object, a blurring of the otherwise categorically given limits.

These conditions, which in the end make the picture, cannot be planned in every detail at the outset. The process, which created it, however, is entirely planned and exactly prepared. One would be inclined to say that Chun surrenders much in his pictures to chance, if not for the justified doubts about the common understanding of chance and its sometimes implied proximity to apathy and indifference. Let’s not deceive ourselves: chance in the artistic sense does not exist. If need be, what does exist are: consciously allowed coincidences, permitted or favored imponderability, actually desired, but not really planned-in-every-detail formative processes, whose results, in the end, become concrete, but primarily show an openness and a willingness to engage in an experiment of something new, different, and up till now, imponderable.

But, even Chun’s willingness and openness do not stand by themselves, in the sense of an aesthetic goal. Rather, they are catalysts and means of a particular form of making visible, a demonstration of interstices, in which something can occur between people (in space and time), and which the participants could have achieved for themselves and others. Chun’s work, however, is not socially therapeutic-pragmatic, is not about equating art with life, but is rather still understood as a form of possibility, as instrument to show, as a stimulant for a slowed-down gaze, and finally as a space of deliberateness, in which, and through which, we are able to see beyond ourselves.

Chun’s work methods are connected to that of other artists through: an unconstrained understanding of art work, the allowance of the possibility for something unplanned – something not yet foreseen (or even foreseeable) – in final form and effect to enter into the work, and above all, consciously longer time sequences and the chance principle. Already, in his extended photo sessions he approaches the edge of performance. He is not interested in the interdisciplinary aspects for themselves, but rather in order to understand concrete affinities between his style of photography, and those of work methods of other artists of various genres. It would be important to mention here the work of American composer, John Cage, whose experimental approach avoided every anticipated compositional structure, and who instead chose to create situations, in which alienated sounds, everyday noises, scenic actions, actors and their behavior patterns, but also time and silence, could become integral parts. As a matter of fact, his handling of chance and the conscious inclusion of East Asian philosophy varied and significantly changed the traditional conception of western work-category of music. Additionally, he dissolved the clearly understandable connection between composition and presentation and gave the interpreter and all participants new freedoms, as well as new responsibility.

However, Cage is taken seriously not solely as a catalyzer and renovator for music and composers, but his interest and his influence also reach far into the area of dance, theater and the visual arts. As one of the first contemporary composers, he attempted to include ideas of the contemporary visual arts in his work. It would be futile to further describe how many important contemporary artists stimulated equally various categories through this unifying figure, took courage to walk new paths, expanded their inherited terrain in various directions, and crossed boundaries in order to cooperate together. The term “Fluxus” was termed one of twentieth century art’s deeply formative artistic concepts, in which artists of various genres began to cooperate and brought familiar principles and limitations to a proverbial flow (= Fluxus).

For Kyungwoo Chung, the acquaintanceship and friendship with the composers Gerhard Stäbler and Kunsu Shim logically became an important milestone, because their concepts of what concerned music and composing, possess not only certain affinities to John Cage, but also an open concept of work within the visual arts. And so meetings between the three occurred, and occur again and again, and lately an intensive collaboration took place. Meanwhile, one cannot say this clearly enough: this cooperation is not based on a romantic view of synesthesia, within which a “bias to Gesamtkunstwerk (integrated work of art)” is pursued. They are not interested in rebuilding original connections, once presumed intact, in the sense of a rather elusive “wholeness” of picture, tone and process. It also does not concern the three to compose pictures or illustrate sounds, let alone to search according to appropriate and current rules for a harmonious tuning of visual and sound phenomenon and areas. Then again it has something to do with freedom, with self-development, but also with responsibility of the involved parties and actors, in order to also understand art as a type of experimental system. “Experiment” not understood in the sense, however, that certain established components will be inserted, in order to prove an earlier developed theory or a hypothesis, but rather completely the opposite, in order to generate experiences which beforehand are not yet conceivable.

When Gerhard Stäbler und Kunsu Shim search for and find sound materials outside of traditional music, out of proverbial everyday life, when their music is additionally conceived as an open process, which takes place for all the concerned parties audibly and tangibly in time and space, we are more concerned with a dissolution, or even a destruction of accustomed wholeness and demands of perfection, than with its continuation by allegedly avant garde means.

Perhaps one could employ here the term the de-construction, although not in order to emphasize a dismantling, disintegration and destruction within the composition-performance-visualization processes, but rather just to underline the possibilities of a new worldview construction and world experience from the already existing one. Art as it is here meant, thought, practiced and lived, has already on its own, something somewhat procedural and constructive about it, because it consciously responds to a change of our self (and the circumstances in which we live), which, for the moment, still lies outside of our own understanding and possibilities. In reality, here, one should also find, search and discuss that which is common to all three. But, this is, indeed, a very wide field.

German (PDF)
Korean (PDF)


Translation: Kathie Schmid (English)