by Hanna Yoo

These days we accept technology with the greatest comfort than ever, whereas there is also a growing fear for technology supplanting the place for human being. Calling to complicate such a binary understanding of our relation to technology, the idea of technology seems deeply embedded in (post)modern definition of humanity.

This question resonates with the way the digital media artist Jihoon Yoo addresses his presence in the society. The artist invites the audience to his virtual performance where the two meta-realities, the idea of stage performance and that of the virtual, come together. He creates the image of virtual performance happening in the virtual theater using 3D software. Yoo’s skilled manipulation of 3D graphics allows him to perform a full range of virtual roles involved in the performance from choreographer, operator, performer to lighting, costume, and stage designer. To Yoo, these virtual roles, paradoxically, serve to assure his place in real world.

In Yoo’s darkened virtual theater, the metallic bodies are on performance that seems to exist between dance and circus. Unlike the stunning spectacle the circus performance creates, however, the whole production designed by Yoo encourages the viewer to focus on a sense of isolation underlying the performance. The performers appear to drift away in the air rather than displaying a set of disciplined movements.
The performers’ metallic bodies, recalling the image of the cyborg, represent visual cliché associated with the technological utopianism. Perhaps resulted from external or internal injuries, several parts of their bodies, including breast, wrist, and feet, are distorted and disfigured. Such a vulnerability of the seemingly sturdy shell of their bodies expresses the emotional reality that Yoo thinks he lives in.

The reflective nature of the metallic surface functions as a good metaphor for the artist using 3D graphic language. The reflection is, while it is representative of whatever is in front of it, essentially an ephemeral image that is never in contact with the surface. Likewise, Yoo’s primary question arises from his own experience that his masterful handling of 3D graphic software, which constitutes a crucial part of this young artist as a member of technology generation, ironically prevents him from getting something more profound out of the very technology. The performers therefore may be called the artist’s avatar in that the materiality of their bodies simultaneously connect them to and disconnects them from the world.

The dual quality of the reflective metal underscored in Yoo’s work suggests to rethink a simplistic understanding that the technological advancement directly causes the loss of humanity in modern society. It is in fact us who have volunteered to have our lives benefit from technology, despite our awareness of its destructive possibility entailed; it is also us who has developed the technology to express its dual nature. In this sense, the feeling of alienation might be the most transparent manifestation of the essence of modern life, rather than solely result from the presence of technology. Perhaps the impersonal way we interact with the technology reflects the impersonal way we interact with others.