The Reflecting Figure: Escape Please!
Hyun-Joon Yoon’s first monologue drawing in his series on display at the Saratoga Arts Center depicts three levels of black cardboard material. Starting from the front or foreground, the lamp shines negative light in the form of a cut out on each of the following two levels. The middle level is of a person, most likely a man but it is not certain. The last level shows a chair. Every element in the piece of art is outlined in Korean lettering. The lettering is from a led pencil. With this monologue drawing, Yoon shows the negativity of society’s pressures on human beings. Implied by the name of his piece, he explores a dramaturgical approach to explain how humans socially interact and assume roles in order to function. However, through the use of the stability of the lamp and chair, the physical universality of the person and the passing of time as demonstrated by Korean lettering, Yoon encourages us to escape societal normality.
Yoon depicts the lamp and the chair as stable elements within his artwork in order to isolate the figure. He uses straight and clear cut outs to display this stability. Moreover, the light illuminates the man as if he were on a stage. The lamp illumination cuts into the artwork, acting as a window that we, the audience, can voyeuristically peer through to perceive this figure’s existence. The light is thus a manifestation of social constraint. It shows how society expects us always to perform, meet certain standards of living and conform to what it demands. The chair serves the same purpose. It is almost as if the figure can’t get up from the chair; he is trapped between the material objects.
The figure is the universal depiction the human race; naturally dictated by social control. The face lacks defining characteristics. However, the forehead is large in the front. The light conceals the back of head and the left shoulder of the figure. The covering of the head shows how we are always somewhat conscious of the social pressures that are evident around us, but we choose to sometimes ignore them. The covering of the left shoulder represents the burden society places on the individual to comply with its demands. The figure is also his empty. This emptiness shows the consequences for being social creatures. Because we are forced to follow norms and act within boundaries, we are dehumanized and hollowed out emotionally. Lastly, Yoon uses the jagged cut out of the figure, specifically the monstrous left foot, to show that humans are too complex to fulfill the socially roles. That too much societal influence is harmful.
The Penciled-in Korean lettering displays the passing of time of a figure in constant reflection. The level of brightness of each line shows how many times that the figure, as well as the lamp and the chair, have been situated in a single spot. Because the Korean lettering is brightest around the figure’s head, one can assume that this figure sits in this light and thinks a lot. It depicts a fluidity of time, maybe a year of sitting down and introspecting about social influences. Furthermore, while the lamp is practically thought of as providing light in the dark, the brightest portions of the piece surround the figure. Essentially, Yoon demonstrates here that humans have the ability and should escape social restrictions.
Through the social pressures as manifested by the lamp and chair, the relatability of the centered figure and the brightness of Korean lettering, Yoon calls for rebellious attitudes that discourages reflection about socially restricting influences. Additionally, the word “Monologue” in the title of the artwork implies some sort of conflict. That if this artwork were a piece of theater, the figure would be speaking to resolve some problem in his or her life. Such a conflict Yoon would argue is not worth worrying about because it is socially attached to our beings and thus limiting.