The online exhibition The Man Who Saw the Fourth Dimension, which is organized to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the ROK and the Russian Federation, is now officially held with a total of nine contemporary artists from both countries on the theme of ‘time’ and ‘space.’ Michio Kaku, a worldly-renowned scholar and futurist in theoretical physics, has published a book called Hyperspace (1994), which introduces physics that deals with higher dimensions than three dimensions. As quoted from one of the sub-titles in the book, the exhibition explores ways in which the contemporary artists who have lived in different times, cultural environment, and geographical spaces understand, interpret, and imagine their world.
The keyword of the exhibition “the Fourth Dimension” refers to the space-time continuum fused with three dimensions of space and one dimension of time, indicating the world we live in. It also means another dimension of space that people living in three-dimensional space could understand and imagine conceptually. In the context of the exhibition, “the Fourth Dimension” can be described as another “world” interpreted and imagined by the artists, as well as “eyes” of such different cultures as Korea and Russia, seeing each other. The exhibition is realized through the online virtual space, in the face of the unprecedented pandemic. A space of exhibition where people come across in their own way transcending time and space can also be another ‘fourth dimension.’
Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity is one of the scientific discoveries that have had the greatest impact on cultural history. The theory that explains the laws of gravity fundamentally governing the universe had brought a new paradigm of understanding the world by unifying space and time into a single entity and showing that mass and energy can be converted into each other. Furthermore, mathematical proofs and possibilities for another dimension beyond which we exist were explored. People’s interest in high-dimensional space beyond three dimensions had continued from the late 19th century—and that exerted a wide range of influence to popular culture and huge involvement of mass. For instance, this not only inspired writers, such as Fyodor Dostoevsky, Oscar Wilde, and Gertrude Stein but also Russian musician Alexander Scriabin. In modern art, it acted as a catalyst to conceive new trends and movements, such as early Cubist works by Pablo Picasso, and made a huge impact on artists including Marcel Duchamp.
And now, more than a hundred years later, we have prepared time to look at the contemporary era from the perspective of Korean and Russian contemporary artists. The constraints of time and space are gradually fading away by means of the internet. No matter where we are or what time zones we are in, nowadays, most of us are connected. The experience in physical existence is now transferring to digital media; virtual experience penetrates our real-life once again, constituting our whole experience. While working on the project and by sending numerous emails back and forth with the artists, I could get a glimpse of the new era that we are in.
Heeseung Jung and Elena Anosova tell us about time through a photography. ROSE IS A ROSE IS A ROSE (2016), inspired by the story of a little girl in Gertrude Stein’s children’s book, was made into both photography artist's book as well as an exhibition under the same title. The work is divided into three sub-titles and lets us think about relationships, growth and identity in the life cycle. In addition, a series of different images linked in a cycle metaphorically express repetitive daily routine and time. Elena Anosova, meanwhile, shares moments when everything is frozen through one of her works titled Sagaan Sag (2013-2016), in which she recorded the wintertime of Olkhon that is the only inhabited island of Lake Baikal. She has been trying to record the memory of life that comes from a very long time ago, and the symbiotic structure of nature and human beings on the island that is disconnected from the outside world in cold winter.
In Abolished Constellations (2015-2018), Alexandra Paperno brings back the memory of the remaining constellations that had not been recognized since the International Astronomical Union officially adopted 88 constellations only in 1922. The number 88 had no particular scientific or cultural significance, but more so randomly adopted back then. However, the unchosen ones lit up the night sky of the past, left a historical record, and still exists somewhere in that distant universe. Something that exists yet undemonstrated, and ignored in unification and standardization, can also be found in 30 Minutes (2018) by Jaehyun Shin. This work symbolically reveals the historical, political, and ideological issues surrounding time with a specific situation on the Korean Peninsula.
Earth Report (2010) by Kijong Zin raises a series of questions whether the present time is passing through just a point in the cycle of nature, or humanity is destroying nature in an irreversible state. Although it was a work from 10 years ago, it is still valid even now, and especially during the era of a global pandemic. Another work by him, Difficulty of Imitating Nature (2017-ongoing), explores the process of recognizing objects by using a metaphor of flying-fishing. The whole process of making fake bait and using it to catch the real fish brings out the ultimate question of the relationship between fact and fiction, and further how to recognize the world.
Heecheon Kim presents Watching ‘Mumbling in Hell, Tumbling down the Well’ alone (2020), an online re-production of Mumble that was originally introduced by the Hermès Foundation in Seoul, Atelier Hermès, back in 2016. Borrowing the idea of a national dog show, the work displays reality that becomes ambiguous in between reciprocity of online and offline, and fact and fiction by moving around real and virtual space on multiple layers. Additionally, it makes the audience look back to ‘where we are now’ by watching the video screening on the web that is embodied in the same landscape previously displayed to the public.
Kirill Makarov, who conducts experiments combining digital media and painting, presents his new project The Sun Has a Musky Taste in a Salty Sand (2020) created in collaboration with the poet and psychoanalyst Ksenia Kononenko. Using exhibition and digital media, the project combines elements of media technology, art and poetry. Whereas, the creative collective named Where Dogs Run, which was formed in 2000, explores how mythological elements are involved in everyday life by means of multimedia techniques, and how humans can interact with another realm of reality. A video work 1, 4…19 (2014) allows us to model the structure of reality by examining interactions between time and space, and consciousness. The future is created from the interaction of the realized and unrealized past.
If we say the previously-introduced Where Dogs Run visualized ‘time’ in space, Joon Kim makes ‘space’ audible. He collects sounds from different areas, but mostly from where he actually had stayed and where his childhood memories are melted. His career is now moving towards ‘Acoustic ecology,’ which captures local characteristics and further studies the impact of invisible, inaudible electromagnetic waves of industrial structures on human beings.
It was very intriguing to learn how people living in Russia (from UTC+2 to UTC+12), which has the world’s most contiguous time zones, and those living in Korea (UTC+9), which has a single time zone, respectively perceive the concept of time and what their views are on space reflecting time, and also what the scenery of life in time and space is like to them. I hope this project will narrow down any gap or distance existing in people’s minds between the countries, which physically takes only an hour by plane from the eastern tip of Russia to Seoul.
Further, we are looking at the world before and after the year 2020. I hope this project will help the audience think about how our experience of time and space is changing, in the process of the once-familiar offline platform transferring to online. Undergoing a paradigm shift of today, the way we perceive the world just started to change. The new world is unfolding now.