Woaw Gallery and Case Studyo are pleased to present the works of Sun Woo, Canadian artist of South Korean origin. You Have a New Memory is her first solo exhibition in Hong Kong and with the gallery and production team. Alternating between canvas and digital screen, Sun Woo’s practice has engaged with today’s image culture and the contemporary psyche reflected in humanity’s interaction with commodified technologies.
With her new body of works, the artist extends her focus to digitized memory. In an age where technical machines have become a boundless repository for both personal and collective histories, memory is no longer a process of constant recollection and reconstruction but rather a file that can instantly be retrieved, ready to be played back over and over. The latest features in our devices periodically remind us of selected moments from the archives, curated based on personalized algorithm, eroding temporal distance and taking part in our decision of what to remember and what to forget. These archives—an entanglement of personal and public data—further go on to blur the schism between individual and communal history, often producing vivid flashbacks of events or emotions that derive not from our lived experience, but from that of others. As such digitized memories complement the limits of the human body, we are left to wonder which past is worthy of remembrance, how much agency we have over the selection process, whether these phantom memories impact our identity construction, and where to draw the line between our bodies and our prosthetic enhancements.
In the works presented, Sun Woo takes images, texts, and videos that have been rummaged from her digital archive and combines them with those that have been offered to her by automated memory suggestions. She then summons sensory impressions of the moments relying on her bodily memory, weaving together the vividness of audiovisual cues provided by technology and the haziness of texture, smell, and other senses associated with recollection. Treating the surface of the paintings like the skin—a symbolic place that carries the traces of our encounters with the surrounding world—she embeds readymade scars onto the canvas, molds them, and wraps the battered layer around the skeletal structure of the aluminum frame. In doing so, Sun Woo attempts to physically anchor fleeting images of the virtual onto the anthropomorphized surface of the canvas, questioning the location of memory in today’s society and constructing a form of contemporary body where the physical, digital, and virtual intersect.
As she did with her previous works, Sun Woo continues to explore the traces produced by the interaction of the digital and physical within the tangible space that we occupy, taking interest in the moments where the digital’s lightness and volatility encounter or clash with the weight and density of the physical. Borrowing from digital conventions and building up layers of paint like she would layer images on computer programs, she constructs eerie spatial compositions that are defined by flattening and inversion of space, which arouse feelings of a dream-like tale or an uncanny phantasm. Through her paintings, Sun Woo continues to reflect on the close correlation between us and our increasing dependence on the commodities and technologies that surround us, as well as the contemporary desires and fears encased within.