series Aesthetic Surgery

Performace Films, Oil on Canvas, Photography

 The Aesthetic Surgery series is a project which includes Suture, Gauze Dressing, Count, Shoot, Aesthetic Surgery, and Make-up.
The series shows steps of an aesthetic surgery as a metaphor for beautifying the past. To be specific, Suture shows giving a skin graft to victims of the Korean May-18 (518) Democratic Movement, a violent clash between people and the government in 1980. In this piece, images of the dead bodies get transplants with images of today's people. The operation only results in bizarre, grotesque images. In Gauze Dressing, The blood from my own wrist and dropped a few drops of blood onto the victims' body, which was then got dressed as if the blood was from its own wounds. I tried to demonstrate that all humans are burdened with sadness that transends time. In the next step, Count, the victim's image is glued onto the bottom of the street, face down, in Myeong-dong, the most expensive piece of land in Korea. The video focuses on the image until it is stepped on 518 times by passers-by, trying to capture the insignificance of the number 518 and the silent screaming of the victim. I tried to show how people pay the least attention to the past, readily accepting given explanations to it, and how shared memories are abandoned. The next piece Shoot tricks passers-by to walk into a booby-trap and unknowingly pull the trigger of a rifle aimed at a May-18 victim's face. My intention was to raise a question on who should be responsible. Aesthetic Surgery shows the actual procedures of an aesthetic surgery - gauze removal and skin graft - being done on the May-18 victim. The operation creates a pretty yet artificial face so common in Sinsadong, Seoul. In Make-up, the last piece of the series, the victim's image wears make-up as it is painted over with a super-realistic oil-painting. Thanks to the make-up, the May-18 victim's face now looks like that of a modern beauty.

[IMAGE] After Make-up

Installation View, Seoul Museum of Art, 2013


Performace Film

  Suture of the Aesthetic Surgery series is a 1min-38sec single channel video projecting pictures of the May-18 movement victims being patched up with the photographs of people today shoot from the same angle. The wounds and blood on the victim’s body are covered with the pieces of modern people’s pictures shot from the same angle. With its surface treated, the images of victims no more bear disturbing traces. The tools and suture methods used in this video are the ones used in actual surgeries.


Suture among series Aesthetic Surgery, 1min 38sec,
Performance Film, Single Channel Video,
Stereo Sound, 2011

Gauze Dressing

Performace Film

 Gauze Dressing of the [Aesthetic Surgery] series is an 2min-40sec single channel video where live blood from my wrist is dropped onto the image of a female May-18 victim, which is then dressed with gauze as if the drops are from her wounds. There is 21 years of time gap between the victim and me, but the permanence of human blood transcends time to highlight the tragedy of the two victims separated by time. Helped by a live person in his 20s, the victim killed in her 20s comes to bleed once again and get her wounds dressed. In this process, no more important is questions like what led to her death, whether the process was justifiable, or whether it was right or wrong. The camera only focuses on the process where victim’s renewed wounds are taken care of.

Gauze Dressing among series Aesthetic Surgery, 2min 40sec,
Performance Film, Single Channel Video,
Stereo Sound, 2011


Performace Film

 Count of the Aesthetic Surgery series is a 11min-35sec single channel video. This piece shows the picture of a female May-18 (518) victim on the recovery phase after Gauze Dressing session. The picture is glued on the bottom of the Myeongdong street, face down. The district is the most expensive piece of land in Korea. The picture is walked on by passers-by, and the video records it until it is stepped on 518 times.

Count among series Aesthetic Surgery, 11min 35sec,
Performance Film, Single Channel Video,
Stereo Sound, 2011


Performace Film

 In Shoot of the Aesthetic Surgery series, three parties appear: the one who holds the rifle, the other who pulls the trigger, and the target or the image of a female May-18 victim. The one with the rifle is aiming at the target in the prone position. The trigger, however, is connected with a mock booby trap away from the rifle. When a passer-by touches the trap by mistake, the trigger is pulled. When the victim’s face on the target image is attacked with the shooing, a question arises: who is morally responsible?

Shoot among series Aesthetic Surgery, 2min 33sec,
Performance Film, Single Channel Video,
Stereo Sound, 2012

Aesthetic Surgery

Performace Film

[IMAGE] Aesthetic Surgery on the Set, Performance Studio, Anseong, 2012

 Aesthetic Surgery of the Aesthetic Surgery series is a 6min-16sec single channel video comprised of five chapters: Gauze Removal, Design, Print, Skin Incision, and Skin Graft. In the first chapter, the gauze from Gauze Dressing is removed from the images of the May-18 victims. In the Design chapter, the design of the surgery is drawn on the victims’ face. In the Print chapter, the camera goes into a real beauty clinic where real patients are waiting for their surgery with the design line on their face. The photos of each patient is taken and printed. In the next chapter, the photos of the modern women are spread out, and pieces are cut out from them for the ingredients for skin graft, the next step. In this process, the ingredients were selected among the parts that survived the patient’s own censorship. In other words, only the parts that were not to be augmented were selected as skin graft ingredients.
 I mentioned the patient’s censorship because aesthetic surgery in general is done in line with modern women’s beauty standards influenced by the person’s characteristics as well as the society. This pattern is quite similar to how history is built. By keeping only the pretty features, we may be turning ourselves into monsters. There are reasons I chose the term ‘aesthetic surgery’ as the title over the more common term ‘plastic surgery’. I wanted to exclude operations that are not for beauty, but for treatment or restoration. And, above all, I wanted to focus on the aspect of the surgery that it is an individual’s bloody and bone-cutting struggle against the beauty standards of the society.
 In the Chapter V. Skin Graft, the cutout pieces are transplanted to the May-18 victims’ faces. The victims now look like pretty yet artificial girls very common in Sinsadong, Seoul. The so-called Sinsadong beauty is characterized by abnormally big eyes, an elevated nose, puffed-up lips, surgical lines on eyelids, and a deep chin.

Aesthetic Surgery among series Aesthetic Surgery, 6min 16sec, 
Perform0nace Film, Single Channel Video,
Stereo Sound, 20


Performace Film

[IMAGE] Make-up on the Set, Performance Studio, Incheon Art Platform, 2014

 Make-up in the Aesthetic Surgery series is a 14min-57sec single channel video. Thanks to Aesthetic Surgery, the May-18 victim has turned into a Sinsadong artificial beauty. Now she puts on make-up through super-realistic painting and obtains the look of a woman of today. After the three years of work, the image bears no sign that she was a victim of the violent democratic movement.

Ghost, Pigment Print, 120 x 150cm, 2009

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