An essay on ‘the biggest circle’ (in the world) Chief Curator Total Museum of Contemporary Art, Boseul SHIN

An essay on ‘the biggest circle’ (in the world)

Chief Curator Total Museum of Contemporary Art, Boseul SHIN

I have heard about this story one day. If you extend the curve of eaves of Korean style house, it will eventually become the biggest circle in the world. This is the reason why the line of Korean style house seems natural and comfortable to us. I didn’t validate it but I decided to believe the story at that time. Ever since then, I have got this habit to picture ‘ the biggest circle’ in my head whenever I see the Korean style house.

One day of early summer when I met artist Minchul Song for the first time, I heard about the story of <How to make the biggest circle> from his work. He said he would make the biggest circle by making a big semicircle on one plank with using two biggest planks or cutting off the circle after collecting a number of planks around the circle. But I could find two flaws in this theory. Firstly, you can’t measure the biggest circle since there is no comparison. Secondly, the circle made from above theory is actually an empty space and it is nothing but a boundary created by different colors and qualities of paper that make the circle. In other words, ‘the biggest circle’ is made due to the absence of paper. Therefore, the audience will look at the circle as the biggest without something to compare but the space does not actually exist but just the space made out of absence revealed by the surroundings. He let circle be created by organizing external conditions instead of ‘making the biggest circle’ himself. Of course, he didn’t define the circle as physical or mathematical. It might be similar to the circle pictured in audience’s head like the eaves of Korean style house pictured in my head. The circle that can’t be measured in one size which can be extended infinitely by sheets of paper. So the audience can catch his breath at the certain point where audience feels it as wordplay between the work and its title. They audience won’t be able to leave the spot easily because of being trapped by the question asked by the biggest circle and circulating system of consciousness. This characteristic is also shown in the work named <Half mirror> which completes the image by the illusion reflected by mirror.

The work process of defining absence by existence (or actual space) and recognizing absence (circle) by existence is the tool used in Minchul Song’s works. As you can see it from his well-known work <You are the picture> that he created the work based on the process and material from the things you can easily see around us. He also made us to confront the changed and twisted space thru them.

As you can imagine from the title and the work, <You are the picture> utilized the form of negative film which presents the opposite figure of original subject on the canvas. He drew a picture by switching the picture and brightness on the canvas and he took a picture of the process with negative image. Finally, he presented the spaces from different dimensions by lining them up on the same ground. Those spaces look unfamiliar, awkward and strange. The images look like a planet in the universe and familiar materials are interpreted into a different image by being separated from their original context.
Minchul Song doesn’t exaggerate his works and this is why his works look easy and relaxing. Of course, it doesn’t mean that he does not take a lot of effort. Because of the fact that his works are not exaggerated, the audience can observe them easily. Things like rainbow shaped little circles, mirrors, tension between the actual image and reflected image thru mirror and question asked by the actual image and illusive image are not easy to observe. It is just a circle made out of different planks and sheets of paper but when the circle is presented to the audience with the adjective ‘the world’s biggest’, many questions will be raised. There is no correct answer but it is an enjoyable experience for audiences to encounter the works that pop up the questions in front of them.

I pass by Gwanghwamun on my way to work every day. The eaves of Gwanghwamun stand out unusually today. They remind me of the circle of Minchul Song with drawing ‘The biggest circle in the world’ in the air that is created by the line of the eaves.