Gallery Baton is pleased to present “The Secret Life” from 9th March to 9th April in the Hannam-dong exhibition space, Seoul. Constructing sophisticatedly-crafted unique mise-en-scène of an association of videos, sculptures and collages by five artists, the exhibition carefully portrays an undertone of ‘the secret life’ through their authentic narratives as though a collection of short tales unfolds distinctive separate storylines.

Every artwork can finally be acknowledged and gain its influence and public value by going through a stage of ‘being exposed’ such as exhibitions. The phase lets the work eventually be a subject of critique and be categorized depending on its art-historical context. When dominant expression and style of a piece are accepted as an aspect of specific trends and groups, the work is perceived as ‘an outcome derived from an existing mode’ and it is often consumed or discussed within the framework of what the specific groups, trends and generations have consciously sought for. At the same time, what we should not overlook is that every single work conveys a statement of artists’ life.

It may not have a strict uniformity of WYSIWYG (an acronym for What You See Is What You Get)—an editing-software allows content to be edited in a form that resembles its appearance—however, ‘the second trait’, artists’ experiences and origins inevitably emphasized while encountering objects or events, is a fingerprint or historical data for an artwork which can be regarded as either a product or output. By sharing the perspective, the viewers will discover that each work of this exhibition not only is a result of representation but plays a role of a window giving a glimpse into parts of the artists’ life. Thus, what the audience should not miss at this exhibition is the experience of looking at the sealed images while already indulging in thoughts rather than indulging in thoughts triggered by the images.

Once Called Future (2019, 3-channel video installation with sound) by Jaye Rhee subtly delivers inspiration and nostalgic sensitivity of poetic narratives instead of taking unidirectional attitude, flamboyance and swiftness which are typical representative characteristics of video works. Along with the monologue containing a love story an old man has experienced in his early days and his personal and profound contemplation he has realized throughout his entire life to this age, the video shows cross-edited photographs of the Saturn V rocket and Futuro House derelict on the outskirt of Texas under the hypothetical situation where a future blueprint of the past already has become the past. The old man’s monologue, “Likewise you give the flowers because you give the flowers, because you have the emotion that makes you give flowers and you will go on giving the flowers…giving the flowers…” demonstrates the artist’s kind attention to fragments of life not glamorous yet significant enough to each individual.

Sejin Kim’s Messenger(s) (2019, 2-channel 3D motion graphic video on each OLED & LED Monitor, stereo sound, LED lights) was premiered at the 16th SongEun Art Award exhibition in 2019. The video depicts “Laika”—a dog on board Sputnik 2 launched by the Soviet Union in 1975—in an extremely detailed manner. With Laika’s image realized by the 3D digital motion graphic repeatedly crossing over the right and left of the monitor, the lighting fixture and Nasa-recorded sound of the installation metaphorically suggest the hidden side of the early space exploration era more than half a century ago. Laika whose eyes and expression seem to show a premonition of his fate dauntlessly gazes into the distance in the spaceship without a promise of returning; the scene combined with the vividly directed landscape of outerspace consequently encourages the audience to reflect upon the Laika’s fate and life for a moment.

Hans Op de Beeck, a Belgium contemporary artist, presents Dog (2019, polyester, coating) —a life-sized sculpture in the shape of a dog taking a rest letting his stomach down on the floor. Having the meticulously represented silky hair which covers the entire body, the dog figure with eyes calmly closed looks like enjoying the comfortable moments but showing a sign of being tired at the same time. Especially, its grey tone similar to the colour of the exhibition space’s achromatic floor generates the placid ambience and a sense of relief as if the long break the dog is taking would never end. This work successfully delivers the message of the artist who has been consistently exploring existential angst and stories of individuals who belong to the finite and complicated stage—life.

Fragment of Forgetting (2019, patinated bronze, brass, wood) is a human-face-shaped sculpture by a Dutch artist, Mark Manders. On a delicately manufactured wooden shelf, the figure looks like being corroded by an external force and its remaining part above the lips leads the viewers to conjure up a gentle facial expression. In the case of sculptures containing figurative elements, their absent parts are not necessarily equivalent to a blank space of paintings since the sections are ‘Spaces of Possibility’ which can be once occupied or reasonably inferred from the rest within an imaginary realm. The presence of the work’s vertical structure is more prominent on its sides and back because the figurative traces of the front disappear on the sections and these sides rather reveal rough features reminiscent of artefacts from the Bronze Age which have seemingly waited for being excavated for all those billions of years. The paradoxical coexistence of practical forms and a desire for decomposition in one sculpture consequently indicates seething energy underneath the peaceful surface.

Max Frisinger, a German artist, has shown two-dimensional installations whose titles are adopted from names of nebulae such as Volans (2015, polyethylen, wood, LED), Cygnus (2015), Leo (2015). The works which consist of found objects such as LED lightings or worn-out nets no longer used prove that the artist can recreate the aesthetic qualities of industrial products whose functional worth is already extinct by establishing a colony of light achieved by illuminating effects thoroughly directed depending on his intention. Frisinger’s interests in the border between art and the ordinary and its expandability in terms of contemporary discourses are distinct in H.D.N.R.I.B.I.R. (2016, post cards and painting magnets), the series also displayed in the exhibition. This assemblage of a pair of a postcard and a magnetic which both are staple souvenirs of museums provides a motif for a new story and instant dynamics over the work as each independent work’s image and narrative are connected with images of the other works.