by Dr. Denise Carvalho
JaeWook Lee’s video, Nightmare (2011), focuses on a fictional persona, Nightmare, who shares the duality of having served in the US Army in South Korea. Based on the nightmares about the Korean War experienced by the artist in his youth, the work deals with the paradox of events, the duality of the meaning of words and situations. For this piece, the artist built a projector-gun, which shoots at the screen, but is also part of the screen, interplaying the two meanings of shooting, as a projector shoots images and a gun shoots bullets. The two screens, one inside the other, refers to the frame inside the frame referred by Jean Genet in relation to the work of Alberto Giacometti. In Lee’s work, the larger frame shows a train passing in front of the machine gun. In the smaller frame (inside the larger frame), one can see the bombardments conducted by the U.S. Army during the Korean War, while the projector-gun keeps shooting at the train. As the artist states in the interview with himself, which is part of the work, “The paradox here is that the U.S. Army destroyed Korea in order to protect Korea.” The sociopolitical critique of this piece parallels the artist’s self-discovery and the continuous unfolding of what art is. As he states, “I try to constantly re-position myself as someone who incessantly displaces himself from social forms as they begin to congeal and cohere. The socio-political subjects of my art practice might come out of this attitude toward society as a whole. In the art history, Duchamp is one of the artists of this kind.”
As Lee’s work suggests, we are entering the world of relative contingency, and we are moving from the outside to the inside, searching for some ground in new forms of subjectivity and imaginary exchange. This is a shift in perception.