Plasticus Humanimalia, 2021 - ongoing
sculpture, resin, plastic founded, light box
exhibition « Plastic Age », Gallery 10 and Zero Uno, Venice, Italy, 2022
Curator: Chiara Boscolo
Photo: Filippo Molena
Text : Miriam Rejas del Pino
Deformed skeletons, suffering and folded in on themselves is visually what Mona Young-eun KIM's sculptures first show in the exhibition Plastic Age. The exhibition, which can be visited from 15th Sep to 06th Nov 2022 in the 10 & zero one, proposes a dystopian tale in which human remains kept in museum cases tell the story of a civilisation that has suffered a fatal fate. On this occasion, the project space holds a hypothetical collective memory about the annihilation of the species. As a whole, the exhibition reflects on man's harmful behaviour towards the Earth and its inhabitants through a main narrative concerning the social balance and biopolitical control of bodies.
Through an almost playful visual rendering, the artist tackles one of the most delicate and thorny issues of our everyday life. Preserving the planet to avoid the end of Humanity. Or rather, of species. The subject might create intolerance to today's model viewer: "here it is, another exhibition on ecology and microplastics"; but instead it stands as an intervention of denunciation now more topical and necessary than ever.
The artistic experience proposed by Mona Young-eun Kim in Plastic Age is divided into two acts. At first, the viewer finds himself surrounded by inorganic organs, now non-functional, almost like broken, extinguished containers. These organs, which have come down to us and are preserved in perfect condition thanks to the plastic inside, have changed their characteristics to the point where they no longer fulfil their original, biological functions. In this first scenario of retro-futuristic appearance, the spectator occupies a position somewhere between archaeologist and anatomopathologist. These organs, arriving from the not too distant future, prostrate themselves before our inert eyes, eager to be scrutinised with the coldness of a scientific gaze. Our task is therefore to open the human body to look inside: open to know, but to open we must destroy.
The second act of the narrative consists of an immersive VR work that, in the manner of a path of mystical penance (or redemption for the soul), forces the viewer to watch a repeating action. "Eat plastic!, eat!, eat!" says the artist's voice on off. Due to its technical nature, VR emulates a dissolution of the illusory dimension of representation into the real one inhabited by the viewer. By VR collapsing these two spatialities, the viewer is subjected to a perceptual discontinuity between the space of his ocular and auditory vision and the haptic perception of his surroundings. The artist makes use here of a technology that allows us to step outside the immersive narrative at will. Perhaps we can react now, from this privileged position.
On the other hand, the observation of these artistic objects puts the viewer in a condition of extreme presence. "Presence" understood as "pre-essence" as the vision that precedes what lies ahead, as the vision of an omen that has yet to happen. This catastrophic event brought back by Mona's artistic gesture reflects on plastic as the pharmacopoeia of our society (poison on the one hand and remedy on the other), unstoppable economic flows and class inequalities. Following the data produced by the most recent studies, one can see how China was, until recently, the country that managed almost half of global solid waste. After the 'National Sword', the country's 2018 ban on importing foreign waste, Europe found itself without a recycling system capable of absorbing the volume and accumulation generated by its inhabitants. Thus new migratory routes of waste take place, other political agreements are born whereby countries such as Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia or Turkey are the new masters of our rubbish.
In the artist's proposal, Humanity, which can no longer manage an environmentally sustainable recycling system, is forced to feed exclusively on this artificial substance. In fact, we are daily 'threatened' by microplastics that we ingest and breathe despite not realising it. Every week a human ingests microplastics equivalent to the weight of a credit card. In the artist's imagination, this is the act that, consciously implemented, will lead the human species to its extinction. Not before a desperate attempt to adapt, however. Too much plastic ingested could weigh down the organs to the point of collapsing the human spine and deforming the anthropomorphic appearance. Returning to quadrupeds, regaining the position of our ancestors where hands and feet are dipped in mud. No longer looking into each other's eyes, but staring at the floor or the bottom of the person in front of us. To retreat, to submit to the point of exhaustion.
With lacerating iconography, Mona shows us the 'baseness' achieved by the human species in a hypothetical future where the bodily suffering of the last men on earth is the result of a concatenation of bad decisions made now, in our present. Mona's men, who had to overcome the limits of their condition to survive, reach a status where organic and inorganic coexist in a single being until they found a new body destined for failure.
Luckily, there is still something we can do.