548 West, New YorkMay 9 - 12, 2024


Joonhong Min, The Debris from The Future Past 01092019, 2020

The term, ‘city’ often evokes the imagery of towering sky-scrapers, crowded sidewalks, and a kaleidoscope of neon colours flashing from digital screens. With the arrival of modernisation, we have come to associate the metropolitan environment with the notion of endless possibilities. Yet, for Korean artist Joonhong Min, the urban landscape brings about chronic anxiety. For him, a city is a place of claustrophobia, industrialisation, and unbearable isolation. Throughout his artworks, Min, therefore, invites the viewer to embark with him on his journey as he explores his own definition of city life.

In his installation series, ‘The Debris from The Future Past 01092019’ (2020), Min uses abandoned objects found in the city streets as a primary material for making art. For most people, discarded objects symbolise futility and a loss of value. However, Min believes that items are more than their predestined function. He gives these unwanted materials and abandoned objects a second chance at life, and sees them as a metaphor for our sense of abandonment when we find ourselves in the intimidating environment of the city. Not only does the artist reconstruct these items into structures that imitate the urban landscape, he furthermore uses acrylic and pen to draw on their surfaces in bold patterns — mimicking the outrageous emotions of these objects at being left behind.

Joonhong Min, At times, it’s crueller than you thought, 2018, video of 9 minutes

Min explores his attitude and anxiety toward city-living in his video artwork, ‘At times, it’s crueller than you thought' (2018). Featuring himself as the subject, the nine-minute video displays him erupting into “incurable rage” and “meaningless struggle” within a refined space. After the opening sequence, the viewer is presented with the subject standing in front of a dimly-lit bathroom mirror. His frustrated demeanour and loneliness are amplified by his several reflections in the mirror, reminding us of his solitude. Throughout the remainder of the clip, the subject engages in several seemingly futile activities, such as attempting to push a counter against the wall but achieving nothing. Ultimately, the video makes a statement on the tragedy of mankind trapped in our daily routines.

Joonhong Min, Quanrantine Diaries, 2020

The theme of isolation becomes even more disturbing in the artwork series, ‘Quarantine Diaries’ (2020). During his residencies in London and Berlin, the artist turns to the creation of art to flee the anxiety of city life overshadowed by the COVID-19 pandemic. The unsettling stress brought about by this event is clear in Min’s acrylic and pen drawings such as ‘Ghost Relics’. The frantic lines on the paper convey the artist’s profound unrest, and the combination of red and blue acrylics on a greyscale drawing furthermore evokes a sense of distress and urgency. Likewise, in his Berlin Quarantine Diaries artwork series, Min gives the subjects building-like structures as upper bodies, as if suggesting that the city-dwellers have had to carry the insufferable burden of urban life throughout these difficult times.

Joonhong Min, Quanrantine Diaries, 2020

Written by Rose Wei