Gregory Bae, Relics, 2015, Acrylic on television and wall, ratchet straps

Installation view of Orients, a solo exhibition by Gregory Bae at Chicago Urban Art Society in Chicago, IL

Situated at calculated distances like memorials or shrines intended for contemplative deliberation, the installations had a solitary presence of downed aircrafts or signal beacons, many of them emitting white noise throughout the vast space of the gallery. An industrial fan with a fluttering black flag attached to it hummed in unison with the sound of a tire rolling on a treadmill nearby. They dominated the auditory space with a persistent drone while suggesting symbolic representations of interval, site, and motion. A globe, a flag, a video of dawn… The installed work was isolated just enough to create a complete world of subtle, complex emotional relationships and gaps. Present within the barren industrial walls of the building was an atmosphere of both banal commerce and awe.

Gregory Bae, Relics, 2015, Acrylic on television and wall, ratchet straps

Gregory Bae, Relics, 2015, Acrylic on television and wall, ratchet straps

We approached one of the installations that emitted a subtle sound. Camouflaged in spattered black paint with a heavy line that twisted back and forth across the center of the piece, Relics jutted out like crude three-dimensional graffiti. This was the initial view, from a distance. As we approached and moved laterally, the optical illusion that resembled street art began to expand and transform into an antiquated cathode ray tube television. The jutting dark mass faced the wall as it expanded in a state of combustion or creation while emitting a broadcast of static noise. Despite its perilous placement, from its position on the wall it appeared passive: a generator incidentally emitting sound, or a transmitter intentionally doing so. The installation spilled out into the space with simultaneously visual and auditory effulgent noise. Upon closer inspection, we noticed an Asian floral pattern painted across the back of the old tube.

Relics looked suctioned to the wall, pinned and restrained with straps. Was the TV turned onto itself, forced to take back its own transmission? It seemed forbidden and dangerous with a warning scribbled in black paint; it was violently crossed out and then tightened with straps. However, the power was still on. The apparent suppression lured us to approach and take a peek at the hidden screen; it emitted a static glow and a hiss just inside of the range of audibility.

Gregory Bae, Relics, 2015, Acrylic on television and wall, ratchet straps

Gregory Bae, Relics, 2015, Acrylic on television and wall, ratchet straps

Otherwise consistent with the chaos emanating from the center of the installation, the haphazardly spraypainted line more or less crudely mimicked the structured floral motif on the back of the TV – but in a much rougher, more gestural way. It mapped out a zone of emanation, seemingly indicating places where the transmission was more powerful and leaving an imprint. The “lost” elements of Relics continuously left an impression on us, a purely spatial awareness. The installation created a sense of place both within the exhibition and in solitude, and was not just to be seen but created a new seeing where out-of-joint could be a new orientation, and the process of seeing can be a place in itself.


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