Intro

Ho Tzu Nyen

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The 49th Hexagram (Ho Tzu Nyen, The 49th Hexagram, 2020, working stills Courtesy of the artist and Edouard Malingue Gallery; supported by Edouard Malingue Gallery, Hammer Museum of Los Angeles, and the National Arts Council of Singapore)

革命 —the Chinese term for revolution, consists of two characters. 命 translates as life, destiny and mandate; while 革 evokes change, and carries with it a tinge of bloodshed. Etymologically, 革 refers to animal skin, peeling, and molting. In its early oracle bone script form (甲骨文), the character 革 evoked the image of a piece of flayed skin with the animal’s head, limbs, tails, and horns still attached. The earliest known appearance of the character 革 is in the forty-ninth Hexagram of the I-Ching (易經), also known as The Book of Changes, an ancient Chinese divinatory text and a cornerstone of classical Chinese cosmology, which significantly influenced, and was in turn influenced by, the classical cultures of Korea, Japan, and Vietnam. 

In this work, the artist considers the significance of the Democratic Movement in Gwangju against the backdrop of the numerous uprisings that recurred throughout the last century of Korean history. Using film stills from the many South Korean movies that depicted these uprisings, Ho assembled a set of storyboards— a sequence of illustrations for the purpose of previsualizing an animation film. 

These storyboards were in turn sent to “Screen Breathes Studio”—an animation company based in “The Nation of Morning Calm”—for production. Due to political sensitivities within their own context, the animation team was unable to depict any incidents that directly referenced Korean history. In order to continue the process, the artist allowed the studio to replace any elements within the storyboards that were deemed problematic. This is why the identities of the figures in the resulting animation work were effaced: people appear masked, or wrapped in other skins, as they revolt. And this is also why the names of the studio and the country had to be altered.  

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Minouk Lim