Monday, September 13, 2010

Can You Stay Pure.

 I really shouldn't be doing a blog post (in the middle of the horrors of grad school. I should be writing papers). But it has been long enough since these works had been in display, so I shouldn't wait any longer either. These works are huge. Definitely taller than I. Maybe you've seen them around town somewhere. I don't know where they are installed. If you ever walked by one, please do tell me. Here is the complete map of the project.

Sean Martindale, an idealistic colleague of my program stopped me on my way to a farmer's market on my pimpin' bike. He briefly told me about Toronto Street Advertising Takeover (TOSAT). "Can you have them done in two days?" I always wanted to tag along to his brilliant projects, so I said yes. He told me the dimensions and I didn't think much of it. Once I got to my studio, I realized... OH. 67.5" by 47" is taller than my height. I already lost a day exchanging appropriate info via email. I had one night to draw them. So there I was, alone in the school studio, desks put together to make room with a lot of Korean soap operas playing at the background. Not sleeping for art isn't anything new. I haven't drawn in this big scale since Sheridan College so it was therapeutic. I even got to see a couple being topless on their condo balcony. Win-win situation.
My art supplies look like garbage. And yes, some were actually garbage.

Being a cheap (I was educated at school to do this in Korea, actually) person that I am, I have a pencil extender to get the most out of that small stub of a pencil.

So what were these drawings for? Bunch of frustrated street artists decided to take over the advertising and substitute with art. Frustrated by our cityscape dominated by advertisement. Fight against capitalism? That sort of thing. Sean Martindale is one of a few people in my program I truly respect. He's ethics, theory and practice are consistent and he makes stunning art that makes you stop. I was his fan before I even met him when I noticed his poster plants. I was waiting for a light to change on Queen and Spadina on a gray day and noticed his poster plant. I was so jaded from illegal advertising (I didn't even know they were illegal until I heard Sean's talk) that covers the city like so many other Toronto people. Seeing the illegal advertising cut up to harbour a fragile green life-form was beautiful and moving. And made me think of... yeah, the nature's triumph even after we are long gone.

Poster plants weren't his only work. All of his works are almost equal in emotional impact. Google his name and you'll find out about his other amazing projects. So to be honest, I just wanted to participate in whatever he does. I cannot honestly say that I was purely angry at advertisements to work on TOSAT project. I know there is something inherently wrong with Capitalism (I suppose it's felt by everyone except rich people. For one thing, why is it so expensive to put a roof over our heads?). But I cannot clearly point how to make a better world where everything works okay. I always hide behind the excuse that "people who are a lot smarter than me tried to figure out for a very long time". Flawed human beings as we are, I have no idea how we can fix everything. I'm in a fatigue. A lot of people before my generation tried to change things and failed. We saw Communism come and fail. We saw many pseudo political trends come and fail (hippies and punks?) which led us to be cynical towards any attempts. Also as a participant of Capitalism system, I am often hesitant to bite the hands that feed me (or hands that might feed me in the future. I never got any ad jobs yet).

Sean has a designer background, and his fearless criticism on his potential clients are so admirable. In Hideo Okuda's novel Southbound, his character says,
"In this world, there are things that change slowly by fighting back till the end. Things like slavery and democracy. Equality wasn't just rewarded for free by some nice powerful/rich people. People had to fight every step to achieve it. If nobody fights the society doesn't change. I'm one of those people (245)"
Art doesn't have much power to change society but I'm happy that there are people like Sean who stands up for us (rights to not to become some corporations' marketing ploy everyday) , no matter how small it seems.

My intentions for participating with TOSAT weren't pure. More than criticizing advertisements, I wanted to flatter my ego by making people see my art work. Hey, I got a tiny bit of press too on Torontoist (except that they don't know who did it).

Anyways, I rambled nonsensically long enough. I'm going to go learn how to be a morally better and just person (at least try) watching Michael Sandel's lectures. Maybe after these lectures, I'll be able to participate other art projects like TOSAT with clear platformvideo managementvideo solutionsvideo player


Irma Kniivila said...


Goddamn, I am so proud.


Hyein Lee said...

D: Irma! You are way too kind. Thanks! Have a safe trip. :D

blonderland said...

This is so cool! I love the posters you made and I'm so impressed by their scale. I've never heard of Sean before, so it's fun looking at all of his work. Great job!

Ken McCuen said...

awesome work, Hyein.
Those ones in the sign boards look really good.

Hyein Lee said...

Thanks Lisa and Ken! :D

Chanp said...

really really cool and awesome Hyein!

and good luck with the grad school thing!

Hyein Lee said...

Thanks Peter. So kind.. (they are not that great! sob) :D

Ale Diaz said...

Oh Hyein, thanks for sharing this. I really connected with it. I also have that feeling of capitalism, something inside me fights the concept and yet I seem to get sucked up by it... it's so weird and yes it takes a lot of courage to speak up.