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<nettime> interview with Young-hae Chang Heavy Industries
Petra Heck on Wed, 22 Oct 2008 18:07:37 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> interview with Young-hae Chang Heavy Industries

Amsterdam's Balie is currently hosting a year long series of monthly
seminars The Global Crystal Ball in which distinguished speakers
reflect on the current phase of globalisation as emerging economies
begin to make European and American dominance a thing of the past.
Visual Foreign Correspondents is a related project in which each month
an artist from different regions reflect on themes that resonate with
the discussion.

The work can be found at http://www.visualcorrespondents.com/
Below is the interview with the artist.

Petra Heck

In the light of the issue of the Millennium Development Goals, Visual
Foreign Correspondents asked the Korean duo Young-hae Chang Heavy
Industries for their contribution. They decided to show a remake of
the work 'Morning of the Mongloids'. Based in Seoul, South Korea,
Young-hae Chang Heavy Industries, composed of the Korean Young-hae
Chang and the American Marc Voge, combine text with jazz music with
Flash productions in which they use solely the Monaco font. In
these works they are breaking the Internet tendency to emphasize
interactivity and foregrounding photo's, illustrations and excessive
use of colors.

They bombard language as the essence of the Internet. They write in
three different languages, English, Korean, and French. As they say in
the interview below: ?We speak and write a few languages between us,
some better than others. We think that language, especially English,
is up for grabs these days. It's a powerful political and cultural
tool for people around the world.? And as written in an interview with
Thom Swiss in 2004: ?Each one comes with a full baggage of history and
culture. Language is the essence of the Internet, the real gateway to
using the Internet. To write, read, chat in English on the Internet is
to implicitly justify a certain history. Certain governments don't ban
or burn books anymore, they prevent access to the Internet, meaning
they justify a different history than the one we do by using English.?

But besides this use of language which can have political and cultural
implications they also said in that same interview with Thom Swiss:
?It's pretty obvious that the "tone" or "voice" of Internet literature
is more distant and difficult to "locate" than traditional writing.
Mere book packaging tells a lot about the book and the author; browser
packaging is generic. Internet writers can either see this as a
problem or welcome it as a relief from the critical fashion of reading
biography into every aspect of literature. As for the look of our
work, we do what we can. We've never been interested in graphic
design (a lot of Web artists, even writers, start out or double as
graphic artists). There are hundreds of fonts, millions of colors,
and we don't know what to do about that. So, no, we can't and won't
help readers to "locate" us. Distance, homelessness, anonymity, and
insignificance are all part of the Internet literary voice, and we
welcome them.?

But of course by using just the Monaco font (but who knows until when)
and jazz they have become really recognizable, but just for that,
not for their, so to speak 'Korean' view or visuals or whatever, it
remains in that sense distant and anonym.

This is also what makes this duo interesting in respect of the
Visual Foreign Correspondents series wherein artists from around the
world are being asked to give their 'local' visual view on their
surroundings. Because since Internet poetry/art is more distant and
anonymous then let's say video art, this was a nice opportunity for
a different foreign view. By asking them for this context, they
suggested the work 'Morning of the Mongoloid'. Which is about a
man getting up one morning as a changed person. (In this Interview
they say they wanted an opening similar to the one in Kafka's ?The
Metamorphosis?.) It is the hilarious, tragic and ironical story of
a white man who wakes up with a hangover after a night of partying
in somebody else his skin. Slowly he finds out, without any logical
reason for this, that he looks Korean, speaks Korean and lives in
Seoul. With this work the artists do not display their own vision on
the local environment, but are eventually holding a mirror on us.
Through the (Korean) view of Young-hae Chang Heavy Industries the
westerners are being confronted with their biased views on Asian
people. According to the duo the transformation of the man has
something to do with our fears of the Other.

Thinking of the millennium goals I asked them if the piece holds any
science fictional aspects to them, that this skin culture change might
happen in 100 years, or how they see the future in respect of the fear
of the Other? And they responded with: ?There are a lot of Asians in
the world ? that's what struck us one day. You could have an identity
crisis if you had a problem with this.?

*Petra Heck: To start with, can you inform us about when and how
Young-hae Chang Heavy Industries started?*

*Young-hae Chang Heavy Industries: *In 1998. We met in a gym, had
coffee, and discovered some mutual interests, one of which was our
desire to see if by adding up two mediocre talents we could come up
with something greater than their sum.

*In an Interview I read that you coined the term yourself 'Industries'
because everyone in Korea envies the huge multinational corporations
that have a heavy industries flag and that you wanted to have your
own too. How do people consider your practice in Korea and outside
that context, name wise, but also the content of your work, like for
instance the sexual politics hinted piece called 'Cunnilingus in North
Korea'. *

As far as we know, no one in Korea has ever commented on CUNNILINGUS
IN NORTH KOREA. Moreover, no one in Korea has ever written anything
noteworthy on our work.

*Have you got any idea why no one has ever written anything noteworthy
in Korea?*

Could it be because ? gulp ? no one in Korea finds our work

*Can you explain a little about the background of your work, where the
form and content arose from in the context of Internet art, or art in
general, or anything else you want to relate it to?*

Those who are interested in our work know by now that we've never been
big on interactivity. Others may also know that our goal was to make
art that could be downloaded fast on a 56K modem and have it fill up
the browser and play for a certain duration, something that could make
the Web entertaining, like TV and the movies. We feel that the advent
and domination of YouTube on the Web validates this initial goal.

*But why having these strict restrictions (still currently)?*

That question may be sort of like asking someone (a Dutch person?) who
has learned to ride a bicycle and now enjoys it and has made it a part
of her lifestyle why, when she gets a job that allows her to own a
car, she doesn't give up the bicycle.

*Do you both consider the text to be simply text, don't you think you
turn them into images as well? As some people call them animation,
because it seems that by a certain new media art definition of things,
this is what you do apparently when you use Flash they say... and
someone suggested that you do motion graphics? You said you don't
really use graphics, just the Monaco font, but can't you use just the
Monaco font as a graphical thing? *

We don't spend much time considering what we do. We invite others such
as you to deal with our work. We wouldn't want to have the first,
last, or even any word on it. We already spend quite a bit of time
writing texts.

*And why are you using particularly the Monaco font? And will you ever
change to working in another font?*

We liked the name. Yes, we will change. Someone will force us to.

*Are you referring to someone in particular here?*

Yes, except we don't know who that someone is. But as everyone knows
these days, technology changes. Everything changes, ergo, the Monaco
font will change. Someone will make this decision.

*What is your relation both Young-hae and Marc to language, and
then I mean specifically for you both personally related to your
mother-tongue and what language means to you in regard to the history
of the country, culturally or in any other sense?*

That's a good one. We speak and write a few languages between us, some
better than others. We think that language, especially English, is up
for grabs these days. It's a powerful political and cultural tool for
people around the world.

*Can you explain a little bit more about the political and powerful

The digital world, globalization, globalized culture, those who
believe in Westernization and those who fight it to death ? they
all rely on one constant: no, not the computer, but English and the
cultural bagage inherent in English, whether you like it or not.

*And how is that different from the relation to images? And how do you
see this in relation to the developments of the current technological

Well, artists use language as an object in their work. This is what we
do, too. We have no idea how our work fits into today's technological
society. As a digital commodity?

*Is there a relation to, or inspiration coming from, earlier
?text-writers?, like dada / futurists / poesie concrete??*

Yes! We love Marcel Duchamp.

*What about the inspiration for the stories, do they come from your
local, direct experiences, or from media, from anything else, or all

We get our inspiration from everything, like most artists and writers,
probably ? not a great answer to your question, but true.

*Could you say something about why you chose particularly for this
work as your contribution to VFC? Is the mirroring aspect, that you
regard Korea through the eyes of biased views of westerners more
interesting to you in this context, than showing us 'foreign' view on
your local Korea? Of course foreign makes it foreign just depending on
the perspective of where you live....*

We wanted to start a short story with an opening similar to the one in
Kafka's "The Metamorphosis."

*Does the piece contain any science fictional aspects for you, that
you think this could happen in 100 years this skin/culture change, or
how do you see the future in respect of the essential aspect within
MORNING OF THE MONGOLOIDS: the fear of the Other? *

There are a lot of Asians in the world ? that's what struck us one
day. You could have an identity crisis if you had a problem with this.

*Do you consider living and working in Seoul as important for your
work, or could you have been based anywhere, making Internet work and
so on? Will you ever move?*

We could live anywhere. We're tired of Seoul. Yes, we will move. We'd
enjoy living in Amsterdam, riding a bicycle. We like the Dutch.

*You mentioned somewhere in a reaction to a question that your work
is ideally seen through the website, but that public space offers
the opportunity to meet the public, which is less lonely. Could you
elaborate on this, especially since this work will also be shown next
to websites in public space? *

Other than us, there aren't any Net artists in Korea. We think this is
because Koreans, including Korean artists, are very sociable people.
There's nothing sociable about making Net art. You make a piece,
upload it, start over. So it's a lonely lifestyle. One day we decided
to sacrifice the Net art ideal a bit, come down into the real world,
and meet some people. In that regard, thank you, Petra, for your
insightful questions, and thank you for inviting us to present our
work in your program.

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