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Plastic Flowers by An Jong Hyun
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About this series
Korean photographer and artist An Jong Hyun has been studying history of photography. His work is deeply related to the origins and evolution of photography.
The images of plastic flowers are part of the series Civilization and Nature and are work in progress. Artificial flowers can serve as a way to preserve memories and honor the memory of loved ones who have passed away. Because of the fact that they are durable and long-lasting, they can be used to create permanent memorials and graveside decorations that will withstand the test of time.
The images of plastic flowers by An Jong Hyun serve as a reminder of the impermanence of life and the importance of cherishing the time we have with our loved ones. By creating memorials with his images we are reminded to celebrate the lives of those who have passed away and to find comfort in the knowledge that they will not be forgotten.
First, can you tell us about your career as a photographer and artist?
I first picked up a camera at the age of 23, using a black-and-white film camera in 2004. I was fascinated by Henri Cartier-Bresson's photographs and took street photographs in Korea, mostly with no trimming. In 2005, while serving in the military, I accidentally got to take pictures with my camera capturing the movements and time of Korean youths serving their country in defense. After being discharged from the military, I decided to pursue a career as a photographer. I worked with 4x5 and 8x10 large format cameras, focusing on history, myths, and time.
In particular, the Passage series I released in 2014 is a work that captures and records a special time discovered in the area around Jongmyo, a space where the kings of the past used to hold ancestral rites. In 2017 I released the Landscape series, which is an extension work of the Passage series, capturing the cyclical and ecological time inherent in nature.
As the representative of Space55, I am also active as a curator, having planned the 2021 Jetlag exhibition and a metaverse exhibition using NFT.
Can you give a brief explanation of the concept of the Civilization and Nature series, which includes images with plastic flowers?
The Plastic Flower project was shot in 2012 but was first released in 2022 through the Space55 Metaverse exhibition. The series draws back to a certain time in Korean history. The location and background of the Plastic Flower project is the Mangwol-dong Cemetery in Gwangju, a symbol of Korean democratization. On May 18, 1980, innocent citizens who were calling for democracy in Korea were killed by the military. To remember their deaths for a long time, people placed flowers and photos in glass tubes to commemorate the traces of their lives. The part I documented was not the democratization cemetery, but the glass tubes with flowers placed in front of ordinary people's graves in the Gwangju and Jeonnam regions. Those flowers were slowly changing inside the glass tubes and seemed like a medium symbolizing faith and hope in human life and time–I recorded that particular time.
What inspired you to use plastic flowers as a metaphor for asking human questions about faith and hope?
Plastic flowers in glass tubes gradually leave traces of time. At the same time as symbolizing human's finite life, they visually show that the time of symbols also changes. Paradoxically, by understanding finite time, I could think about the concept of eternity and live with faith and hope in life. And that trace of time left a form of beauty to me.
Can you tell us about a personal experience that led you to explore the themes of faith and hope in your work?
In 2014 I released the Passage project, which is related to my father's sudden brain haemorrhage. At that time, I lived near Jongno, and after my father collapsed, I visited the hospital during the day and walked around Jongno at night. As my daily routine crumbled, I became aware of a new time before my eyes. That time was faith and hope for me.
How do you hope your art or photography on this topic will impact your audience? And what do you see as the role of art in exploring complex and abstract concepts such as faith and hope?
Ultimately, art is our perspective on life and the environment surrounding us. I hope that various questions and viewpoints will be generated through my perspective and my visually expressed work.
Can you talk about what brought you into the world of NFTs?
In 2021, I thought the emergence of NFTs was similar to the popularization process of photography in the 19th century. Humans have an instinct to record and be remembered in the face of death. That's why I think the metaverse, a space dealing with the meaning of records and transcendent temporality, emerged during the COVID outbreak in 2021, just as posthumous photographs recording the deaths of loved ones appeared in the 19th century.
I think the time NFTs deal with is about the past, present, and future culture, art, and technology. To understand that, I believe it is essential to understand the time frame photography deals with. I find significant points in understanding contemporary art culture and time through the works of global NFT artists. That aspect was very attractive to me, leading to the issuance and planning of my own NFTs.
What are you working on now?
I am currently working as a director of Space55 and as artist. I am preparing an exhibition called Material and Digital, which showcases both the NFT scene and the physical art scene in Korea. Another project I’m working at the moment is the NFT ENERGY exhibition, which showcases artists who have potential and are pioneering new beginnings in the global NFT scene.
An Jong Hyun is a Seoul-based artist who re-examines the relationship between analog, digital, nature and civilization by focusing on the characteristics of aesthetic expression of photography. An Jong Hyun is also the exhibition manager of Space 55 gallery in Seoul.
He has released various works on that topic such as Red Room (2011), Future Land (2013), Passage (2015), Fire of Beginning (2019), and Far, Near, Middle (2020). He was awarded and selected as the 11th Ilwoo Photography Award and Photo Criticism Award, Mirae Artist Award, and KT&G Sangsang Madang Artist of the Year. His works are owned by the Park Kun-hee Cultural Foundation, KT&G Sangsang Madang, and the Goeun Museum of Photography.
Photos copyright An Jong Hyun
DRAWLIGHTS | 1/1 – one post/one photographer, weekly. Off-chain and on-chain. By Peter Nitsch, lens-based artist, a member of NFT Now 🌐, Jenny Metaverse and lifetime Member of the Royal Photographic Society of Thailand.