The works of Choe Uram (b. 1970) truly embodies “on-go-ji-shin,” a Korean proverb meaning “to review the old and learn the new.” Choe, as a sculptor, explores the borders between science and art and attempts the hybrid of the two. The series of sculptures reflect the artist’s interest in mechanics developed from his childhood, as his grandfather was one of the inventors of automobile in Korea in 1955, along with his artistic talent. The world that Choe unfolds in front of the viewers’ eyes – a brand-new ecology in the non-existing universe – imagines the futuristic organisms evolved from the modern technology and urban environment.
Choe creates complex kinetic sculptures in different biomorphic forms such as insects, worms, electric ivy, etc. after undertaking a careful study on moving mechanisms. Otherworldly, if not celestial, these metallic forms are not only reminiscent of prehistoric fossils that one may encounter in the natural history museums, but also remind the viewers of futuristic, science-fictional aliens. The visual language of Choe describes natural biomorphic forms that are marked by a seemingly organic incorporation of etched stainless steel, robotics and acrylic. These metallic bodies vividly come into being as their delicate silhouettes and sheer movements show. Then, the artist provides academic descriptions of his creatures, endowing Latin nomenclature. Choe’s experiments explore the relationship between imaginary creature and human beings and ultimately question the relationship between art and technology and between the present and the future.
In Choe’s universe, everything moves unhurriedly. Such movement is not possible in our world (especially, in our world of Capitalism), where efficiency and strength are crucial to one’s survival. But that is not the case in Choe’s universe. Survival is not necessary, as there is no enemy or any conflict between/amongst the creatures. Modern SF films and novels depict brutal massacre and bloodshed, but that is the exact opposite of what Choe imagines.
Choe Uram received both his B.F.A and M.F.A in Chungang University, Seoul, Korea. The Opertus Lunula Umbra, presented at the Liverpool Biennial in 2008, is massive in its size and weight. The sculpture slowly swam through the exhibition space. Choe commented that this is the re-presentation of an organism that once existed long time ago,” and that it “has resurfaced underneath the bright moonlight,” imbued life by the artist himself. The title means ‘hidden shadow of the Moon,’ and it is the reflection of Choe’s nostalgic attempt to bring back the ancient mythology lost in the midst of our modern civilizations. His 2010 exhibition entitled “Kalpa” featured the artist’s realization of an awe-inspiring night sky, a cosmos made out of lights, reflective surfaces, and glimmering jewel-like resin shapes suspended in a darkened gallery space.