Monday, April 6, 2009

Korean Business Directory 1975-76 by Christoph Buchel

I want to follow up on the Bacon Inacabula posting with another collection of paper ephemera, this one by the Swiss artist Christoph Buchel and the book Korean Business Directory 1975-76 published by Snoeck.

Buchel creates realistic and richly detailed installations of interior spaces. His extreme installation Simply Botiful took up several floors of a warehouse sized gallery and included rooms that appeared to represent an import/export business, a used refrigerator storeroom, a hotel of sorts whose room decor implied sex-trade was the norm, kitchens, offices, and for the persistent, discoveries of sinister looking secret passageways leading into underground rooms that most viewers would miss. They are spaces that seem preoccupied with the mindset of those that created them. Within these interiors, many of which seem familiar already, we wonder of the occupants and the real order of the lives in such spaces. The same unlocking of a flood of questions goes for this small artist book in Korean Business Directory 1975-76.

First and foremost, why a Korean business directory? The interior scrapbook collection of newspaper clippings are mostly from German sources. Was this just a useful book of pages to be glued over with mementos? Why from 1975-76? Certainly a significant time period for Korea but is that significant here? Animals, news events and human interest stories, pin-up type photos of women, postcards, b-list celebrities, vacation brochures - none are dated from what I can see and many are from well after 1975-76.

We assume it is one person's collection (Buchel's?) we don't even know who. The book is credited as Concept: Christoph Buchel but the design is credited to Anonymous. Is this a "found" object, or like Buchel's installations just made to look "found." The scrapbook usage ends after about a third of the way into the book, giving over the last pages to the regular directory listings. This begs the question, did the "person" who assembled this just lose interest? Did they die? How much was at stake in assembling this collection for them? Did this represent their sense of humor? We might assume it was a man with the inclusion of so many images of scantily clad women - was this their idea of sexy? Are the foreign lands shown an acknowledgment of a desire for travel? Leisure? Escape? Was this collection an escape from the monotony for a bored soul?

The entire book has the sense of hidden messages which perhaps could be deciphered if one spoke its language but I doubt anything that literal is going on here. Are there more hidden messages to be discovered within the directory where, like in his Simply Botiful installation, the persistent are rewarded? Are we being prompted to look for more where there is only what you see on the surface? Does this work extend into the mindsets of the viewer parsing those of us who are willing engage and not engage?

So many questions from some clippings glued into a Korean business directory...