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May 30, 2017

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An artistic dose of fear and pleasure

When it comes to contemporary art works, the modern day artist has the luxury of exploring with a generous variety of materials and mediums, where effects are not restricted to just a visual presentation of art.

The "Viewer, disparu" (消失的視點) dual exhibition of Korean artists Kim Yeon and Je Baak unfolds in the MOT/ARTS gallery, on display from now until April 14. This exhibition conjures up two distinctively alluring atmospheres you can submerge yourself in.

This dual exhibition is unlike the indifferent paintings hanging up in the cold galleries we generally associate art exhibitions with. Artistic dialogue flows between the artist and viewer through the artworks, questioning perception. The artists challenge not only how art can be viewed, but rather, how art can be experienced.

Asking Questions through Art

Stepping into the gallery of emerging contemporary artist Je Baak's exhibition, a sense of eeriness swallows you whole and deposits you in a weird world of strange creatures. Images of monstrous amusement park rides, whirring in loud lights and flashes, are strung into an infinite loop. The soundtrack drones on in uncanny pulses of nostalgic echoes and noise. Baak's "The Structure of" series of these lingering images conjures up a contrasting concoction of pleasure and fear, numbing the audience in a hollow emptiness.

"This is very similar to society, people in society are trying to find something stimulating because they feel that life is boring and that there's no more excitement, but it's actually an empty feeling," Baak said about his works.

Baak engages in intense dialogue through his creations, asking questions about what we take for granted and why we believe in certain things. In the glare and blare of the fast-paced city, we are programmed by social ideology and conceded values to pursue goals in life such as wealth, power and so on. Advertisements tells us what to buy, media tells us what to wear and the law tells us how to behave.

"I'm asking what is the real meaning of fear, excitement, happiness or everything. Who is the master of your life? What you feel, what you see, what you think, what you find interesting, beautiful, valuable. Who decides that? That was my question," he continued.

Baak explained his choice of topic, drawing an interesting analogy to the predatory depths of deep-sea creatures. "Amusement parks are the metaphor of modern life, of modern society. They're very busy, very fast, full of bursting shiny lights, there's no night … When I try to make shapes, I imagine the deep-sea animals because there's connections between these two. Usually fish have camouflage to hide them but in the deep sea they cannot see, so they make lights to attract the food, their victims," he said.

The purpose of an amusement park's intense sights and sounds is to generate excitement, hypnotizing senses into a pleasurable ecstasy. They invite people toward the light, which the unknowing will gladly follow. Baak's analogy of the deep-sea angler-fish alluring its oblivious victims poses the question Baak prods on with his artwork — what controls us?

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