The project, Scrached Photography, address a subject critical to urban practice: the complexity of the prison as concealed yet simultaneously existing in plain sight. Because the modern prison system was privatized, punishment was no longer visible and therefore it eluded state power. The project embarks on a comparative formal investigation of the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Chicago and the Korean National Police Agency in Seoul. Through the medium of scratched photography, I examine architecture itself as a representation of visible and invisible state power. The exhibition opens critical questions about the idea contemporary punishment—What is revealed and what is concealed? What is visible and what is invisible? What is transparent and what is obscured (obfuscated)?
The two analyses shift from the physical structures themselves and the concepts the structures manifest. The architectural form—the narrow windows, spiral stairs, brick façade, thick concrete walls, and empty plaza—isolate the inmate from the city. Restricting sensory information such as vision, sound, and touch, the prisoners are physically secluded from the surrounding area and from one another. The invisibility extends to the broader public who are unable to look inside the workings of these institutions. The impermeability between what is visible and invisible, what is revealed and concealed, interior and exterior, complicates ideas of access while revealing dimensions of power dynamics.By contrasting the historical development of the Korean and Chicago prisons, I will examine how each institution operates with its own contemporary specificity.
I roughly etch directional lines to emphasize the flatness of the pictorial surface. The mark making also creates a subjective psychological space of history and memory. The act of violent erasure, concealment and obstruction of the information in the photographs challenges the viewer to imagine the space of the jail. I question how the indexical presence of the artist’s body is revealed in the photographic surface and in relationship to the monumentality of architecture.
For example, Galwol-dong, 98-8, 04322, no.1 is a scratched photograph of a spiral stairs inside of the Korean National Police Agency in Galwol-dong in Seoul (Galwol-dong 98-8, Young San Gu, Seoul, S.Korea, 04322). The photograph extends a black negative space scratched with diagonal lines on the surface, which delineate (trace/ echo) the structure of the spiral stairs, window and wall. Only a small ray of light illuminates the space, cast through a narrow window.