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http://www.turnonart.com/art-asia-performing-arts/drawing-sounds-through-fragile-glass“DRAWING SOUNDS THROUGH FRAGILE GLASS”
By Hyejoo Lee Long ago, Buddhist temples displayed wind chimes to enable them to ‘see’ the wind. Finding methods to make the invisible visible is the starting point for Bohyun Yoon’s 'Glassorganism', a 'sound drawing' project where he visualizes microorganisms, the interaction of various luminous sea creatures, and even the impact explosions of the stars in the cosmos. It all started with an old Japanese toy...
Glassorganism is a ‘sound drawing’ project produced by the South Korean artist Bohyun Yoon.
It is a reinterpretation of a Japanese historical glass toy called popen, which is a noisemaker made of glass. Sound and vibration resonance within glass is a reoccurring theme throughout his works, yet in popen he is particularly focused on the flexibility of the glass surface in creating an interchangeable concave and convex lens. This transformative lens can also create organic light projections on the wall, while light is focused on the vibrating glass membrane. Thus, through the use of popen as an instrument of both light and sound, Bohyun created a video that displays the proliferation of microorganisms, the interaction of various luminous sea creatures, and even the impact explosions of the stars in the cosmos.
Popen is an extraordinary old toy, not only for Bohyun but also for any public audience. Its name is an onomatopoetic Japanese word for a toy historically made of blown glass with a hollow stem and a bowl at one end, resembling a small wine glass without a base. Formed using a thin membrane, it expanded when a glassworker blew into the stem (this was done gently, however, as too much force would break the glass). When the popen was removed from the mouth, air escaped via the stem, and the internal pressure dropped, causing the envelope of glass to contract quickly and make a popping sound.
The popen was not a toy of native Japanese derivation. Instead, it appears to have been first introduced through the port of Nagasaki, either by the Chinese or the Dutch, who were both exporters of blown-glass objects to Japan. It is not common these days, thus many people are not familiar with it. Because it couldn’t be mass produced, it was and is still considered precious. Today, it is still difficult to find places to buy such an object.
Bohyun found a popen in Kitagawa Utamaro’s woodblock print ‘Woman with a Glass Noisemaker ‘. The print sparked his curiosity to hear the actual sound this instrument could make and to see how that sound was created. Therefore, he made replicas in a glass studio and researched glass vibration patterns and resonance and the principle of instrumentation. Then, he took a series of experimental video portraits through which he employs moments of chance, disturbances created by other players, and orchestrated collections of uncontrolled sounds.
‘I am interested in contrasting violent gestures with harmonious music and utilizing the act of control that comes with both' –
Bohyun, who is seduced by glass as his chosen art material, recreates the popen from his own poetic viewpoint. For him, glass provides ‘such revelation, magnification, illusion, distortion, fragility, resonation, and seduction’. These invisible, but real properties of glass facilitate the exploration of hidden aspects of societal conventions and stereotypes in a way that no other medium could permit.
Bohyun cuts, extends, distorts, and reconstructs glass to create a chaotic representation of a human being. His work is underpinned by the conception of the abstract: ‘Visualizing an invisible thing is the basis of my art.’ As if the purpose of landscape gardening in an ancient temple were to show the invisible wind, Bohyun expresses his art as the metaphorical visualization of an ‘unseen wind’. He visualizes transparent reflections, shadows, and even invisible sound vibrations of glass through his works of art.
In his next project, he continues to develop the conceptualization of the invisible, this time through music. He also continues to explore how sound can represent different characteristics, especially when contrasted with the fragility or the unpredictability of the medium.
‘I am interested in contrasting violent gestures with harmonious music and utilizing the act of control that comes with both. This work gives me the opportunity to create metaphors for the consistent risks one must take and the uncertain futures we all find ourselves embarking upon
Through both works, he seeks to emphasize human uniqueness, drawing upon the broader questions of politics, mass media, and technology. Yet, in popen, he beautifully objectifies these violent and overwhelming ideas through fragile glass.