Hyun-Joon Yoon’s Monologue-drawing features three levels of black cardboard material. Starting from the foreground, there is a lamp that shines negative light, in the form of a cut out, on the following two levels. The middle level is of a person, most likely a man but it is not certain. Finally, the last level reveals a chair. Every element in the piece of art is outlined in Korean lettering. Although the artwork can first be viewed as a figure sitting under a lamplight, the piece explores the oppressive nature of society. Through a dramaturgical analysis of the lamp and chair, the figure and the Korean lettering, Monologue-drawing identifies social pressures, condemns its influence on the individual, but ultimately, encourages a preservation of self.
The lamp and the chair reflect both a literal and figurative stability. Their stability is shown through their practical nature; they are material objects that serve simple tasks. They are also drawn with straight lines and their cut outs are neat. In relation to the figure, which has a rough appearance, these stable objects are metaphors for society. The lamplight, for example, acts as a spotlight, illuminating the figure as if he were on a stage. Such a stage, as hinted at by the artwork’s dramaturgical message, represents society. The light commands the figure to “act” or assume an assigned role. Performing roles can be constraining because it forces an individual to follow a set of “scripted” interactions. While the lamplight indicates societal expectation, the chair serves as a “jail cell.” The figure can’t get up from the chair. The chair melts with the figure, as if they are inseparable. The stability the chair and the lamplight therefore infringe on the natural complexities of the human figure.
The figure, which appears to be inhibited by the chair, represents the individual’s struggle against surrounding social pressures. The light illuminated from the lamp conceals the back of the figure’s head and the left shoulder. This suggests that humanity is always semi-conscious of social pressures, but it chooses to sometimes ignore them in order to stay socially functioning. Furthermore, the covering of the left shoulder represents the burden society places on the individual to comply with its demands. Additionally, the figure is empty. This emptiness shows the consequences for being a social creature. Humans are forced to follow norms and act within boundaries and are therefore dehumanized. Lastly, unlike the clean cut outs of the lamplight and the chair, the figure is decrepit. The lines that carve out its legs from the cardboard are distorted. The figure’s left foot, which is bent outward and abnormally sized, suggests a monstrous or inhuman quality. Essentially, these distortions to the figure’s body are the representation of social forces. Humans are too complex to perpetually fulfill social roles.
The penciled-in Korean lettering represents the former “selves” of the human figure. The level of brightness of each line of lettering shows how many times the human has been situated in a single spot. The brighter the line of text, the more frequent the figure has sat in that position. Because there are multiple lines of lettering, the artwork appears fluid, taking place over a period of time. Monologue-drawing portrays a human who has been “performing” under a spotlight, demonstrating the perpetuity of society’s demands on the individual. Yet, while the light shows how this figure is constantly being negatively impacted by social forces, the light also is a symbol of hope. The brightest portion of the lettering surrounds the head, demonstrating that the key to breaking free from the tentacles of society lies within. Essentially, the piece communicates that humans have the ability to escape social restrictions. Doing so would preserve a sense of self.
Through the social pressures as manifested by the lamp and chair, the decaying nature of the figure and the brightness of Korean lettering, Monologue-drawing calls for rebellious attitudes against social restrictions. More generally, the word “Monologue” in the artwork’s title implies that the figure is trying to communicate its deterioration caused by social forces. Monologue-drawing illuminates discussion around these forces and whether humanity needs them to be functional.