The eiffel tower(s)
The eiffel towerS
When I was in middle school, my English teacher emphasized the fact that ‘the Eiffel Tower’ must be capitalized and accompanied with the definite article, the, in the English grammar. The reason is because there is only one Eiffel Tower in the world, which is in Paris, France. However, as I traveled many countries in Asia, such a grammatical law might not be true in this contemporary era because I found numerous eiffel towers in Korea, China, Japan, Vietnam, and Thailand. Of course, they are replicas of the real one in Paris. However, in my photographs, they just seem like multiple representations of the same one although the representation of the real does not share the same aura with that of the fake. Such a thought lingered in my mind, and thus, I decided to undertake a project, The eiffel towerS.
My project has two folds. First, I wanted to see how the public perceives when I juxtapose photographs of the real with those of the fake. In each diptych, I showed a clear difference between the original and the replica, and yet, represented in identical style and manner in order to minimize a distinction between these two. By the human cognitive process in steps of icon, index, and symbol, the public would perceive the both as slightly different representations of the Eiffel Tower, a monument of the glorious nineteenth century France. However, before they see my work, they have to remind themselves again that the human cognition does not always provide a right answer in an instant second.
Secondly, I wanted to discuss the issue of originality. When the photography was born in 1839, many thinkers saw photographic images much more direct and realistic than paintings, and thus, they assumed that such a quality of photography did not allow either imagination or idealization. The genre of photography, they believed, was just an outcome of technical development providing vivid representations of the world without any artistic intention. Particularly, its reproducibility pushed this newly invented medium outside the boundary of art. However, in the contemporary era, the photography slowly gained a status in art as the concepts such as destruction of aura, complex relationship of icon, index and symbol, and imaginative reality and illusion were emerged. Closely observing the contemporary theories, I realized there is a common denominator amongst these various thoughts, which is the issue of originality. Then, does the photography itself have the originality? What is the original of photographed object? Does the replicas of the real Eiffel Tower have the originality in and of itself? If so, do the photographs of the real Eiffel Tower have the originality? Or, is it just a representation of the simple present? In contrast, can we claim the originality of photographs of the Eiffel Tower replicas? Or, are these simply fakes?
My project, The eiffel towerS, would not answer all the questions that I posed above. However, I concluded that any eiffel towers may claim the originality for the sake of their existence but they are simply an objet du désir resulted from the fanatic illusion of the past and culture beyond the cultural globalization.
March 2011 Han Sungpil