echo of mimesis
mimesis is a form of imitation, either by an individual or by an entire social group, in direct response to the behavior of others or to the environment in which we exist. most of my works have been various explorations in mimetic logic and phenomena as elements that constitute culture and society. my interest in mimesis started with the following questions: 1) why do people mimic or imitate others, and what is the result of this imitation?: what are the causes and effects of mimesis? 2) what do they mimic or imitate?: what are the inspirations for mimesis? 3) how and where does the mimesis proceed?: what is the process of mimesis?
as a graphic designer who produces and deals with images and signs, i am interested in a phenomenological approach to mimesis in terms of both form and structure. i focus on the relationship between the origin and duplicate, or between the thing itself and the things copied through a number of visual methodologies: order, symmetry, hierarchy, comparison, progress, rhetoric, accident.
the social and cultural behavior of human beings is based on mimesis. french philosopher of social science, rené girard notes that “if human beings suddenly ceased imitation, all forms of culture would vanish. neurologists remind us frequently that the human brain is an enormous imitating machine. to develop a science of man it is necessary to compare human imitation with animal mimicry, and to specify the properly human modalities of mimetic behavior, if they indeed exist.” i am interested in human imitation and imitation in the realm of design.
assimilation by mimesis
from a social and cultural point of view, the mimetic behavior of humans arises from several causes. first, they learn by mimicry, as for example the process of children’s learning language and people’s learning other foreign languages. second, they criticize through mimicry, satirizing another. one example of political sarcasm is american comedians, jon stewart and stephen colbert, who sarcastically mimic a president or congressman. third, humans assimilate into an environment and a system of organization, losing their identities by mimicry. the boundaries between the self and environment are blurring, causing depersonalization. korean artist do-ho suh has brought ten uniforms that he had worn in 39 years into the gallery in ‘uni-form/s: self-portrait/s: my first 39 years’, a piece that reveals depersonalized identities within the systemized korean society. our contemporary social structure with its insistence on systemization and organization forces us to be assimilated so that each person’s identity is supposed to blend into the environment. as the volume of elements of similarity increases, the group consisting of these similarities takes on a uniformity of pattern, erasing the character of individual elements.
echo of mimesis
little by little in the process of duplication, things copied transmute or lose their original nature. the more frequently this process is repeated, the wider the gaps between the original and the copies grow. the quality of the copies may be either inferior or superior to the original, depending on the mimetic faculty. i am interested in the gaps and the relationships between the original and the copy in either case. to explore the process of inferiority, i have made experiments using various means that enable copying - printers, xerox machines, silk-screen, carbon(less) papers, etc. this experiment was not merely to verify the fact of physical transformation of material but to study the metaphorical or rhetorical representation about mimetic structure and phenomena in our society.
in my work ‘echo of mimesis’, i experimented on the relationship between the original and the replica and the transmuting process of copying. for this project, i used carbon papers and a lithographic press as a vehicle of making duplication. i put carbon papers between each of the papers, then i drew one shape on the first page using a pen. as a result of it, the shape on the first page has blurred, and each one of page’s texture has transmuted depending on the pressure of drawing. i also used a lithographic press instead of carbon papers as another tool for the same experiment. the replica can not be same as the original due to its getting acquiring various effects in the process of copying. as this process is repeated and the number of replicas increases, the nature of the replica becomes totally different - one without homogeneity with the original.
in a process of mimesis, the transmuted nature of the replica does not merely depends on physical mimetic faculties, but also on an environment and experience that affect people’s perception from a psychological and social perspective. this occurs because the replica produced in a certain environment is supposed to be recontextualized in a the process of adapting to a new system.
i am interested in the process of subjectively perceiving images, objects and symbols because people’s cognition and interpretation depend on the influence of environmental factors on one’s their perception of stimuli.
in ‘six gestures’, i have explored how people communicate with each other using only their hand gestures. six people were asked to guess stories being acted out through hand gestures. even though the hand gestures were the same, the imagined stories were quite different. six people have guessed new stories different from others, based on the hand gestures. the given visual information is was interpreted and understood in a completely subjective and arbitrary in how it is interpreted and understood. its interpretation depends on the context.
nowadays, the mimetic faculty via digital technology has reached new heights; with each new technological advance, mimetic speed grows shorter. media of digital type such as the internet enable images and text through mass copies to reach people almost instantaneously. traditionally, people have believed that things copied are were inferior to the original, but the technological development of the mimetic faculty reverses this relation. the advent of high resolution and sensitive cameras enables us to visualize a range that the naked eye can not catch. contemporary people are surrounded by realistic virtual images coming from media. now that the digital virtual world has emerged in earnest, and we are surrounded with virtual images, the duplication’s surpassing the original breaks down the boundary between them.
according to french philosopher jean baudrillard, the world is constructed on the representation of representation; in this world, people consume insubstantial signs. simulation threatens the difference between true and false as well as between real and imaginary so that it is impossible to identify what is real and what is not. in our society of simulation, people inevitably receive messages of simulacra through the media, which affects their perception of reality. corporations inundate us with hyper-real advertising. i am interested in the role and function of media that enables us to connect with the insubstantial space of signs.
the creation by mimesis
graphic designers strive to find new methodologies and expressions for exploring their own territory in new ways. however there is a limitation to their creating originals, because their works inevitably involve “choice”. their works have no choice but to take the structure of collage and montage as “editorial form” in that designers choose the typefaces, images and text, and create new compositions using them. although the territory of graphic design is expanding through a wide variety of experiments so that design is often hard to distinguish from works of art, in general, design has a nature different from works of art that people can see only in galleries. while the work of art is an original one-of-a-kind, design is typically mass-copied through media.
when some graphic designers take a look at other designers’ works, they mention about “style” such as dutch style, british style, french style, european style, american style, japanese style, asian style, etc. they even mention famous graphic designers. numerous graphic designers tend to mimic other styles or designers or to apply other designs. computer graphic programs enable them to do it easily. creating new works by mimesis, they produce a new style.
i am interested in this historical aspect of graphic designers’ mimetic gestures, because it underlines how each style of graphic design is linked with others. for my work “this is how i show my posters”, i have collected similar graphic designers’ gestures in which they are holding posters as way of showing their works. this project took a typological approach and found similarity within the ways that designers display their work.
artists and designers may explore an interest in the mimetic through this typology. through collecting and observation, they may accumulate numerous images, taking an objective approach to their subject. for example, one german artist couple, bernd becher and hilla becher attempted to archive photographs of industrial buildings; peter piller has collected reproduced photos of girls holding guns; and spanish artist antoni muntadas has collected images of stadiums.
typology photos are showing similarities and the mimetic principle ranging from man-made objects and architecture to humans’ facial expressions and behaviors. these photos through accumulation document the objects in our world and the ways that we communicate with one another. there are no longer the moment of beauties and humans’ emotional expression, but it document the world where we keep communicate with others and objects as a form of the accumulation. even though the typological approach has become a cliché for in fine art and design, it is definitely one of the an important way means of showing the style and similarities of humans’ interaction in our society.
without the discourse of mimesis, it is impossible to understand and analyze the context and patterns of not only art and philosophy but also culture and society, because every behavior of humans is generated, proceeded and transformed by mimetic logic.
as i am a graphic designer, i am interested in analyzing and finding similarities and mimetic patterns among countless objects and images, including symbols. my works explore the relation either between the original and the replica or between replicas. i have preferred to pursue a phenomenological approach to observe the forms and function of man-made objects, diminishing my subjective intervention, rather than to explore a narrative form embodying new stories.
in terms of mimesis of reality, i have focused on virtual reality (hyper reality) in various media, because the digital mimetic faculty has broken down the confines boundaries between imagination and reality, false and true. the digital virtual real world is changing humans’ perception of reality, just as the invention of photography changed the definition of art and the cultural patterns of humans.
i pay close attention to the roles and function of media such as the internet and tv through which hyper-realities are mass-produced for advertising corporations. the desire of mimesis in humans is unlimited, for through mimesis, we can possess whatever we need and experience the space where we would like to be.