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Yeon Doo JUNG

Yeon Doo JUNG, Hello Museum


1969, Seoul


Painting, Installation, Photography, Media, Performance



Virgil's Path, 2014

3D Media Installation using Oculus Rift, Variable Size

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The World of Yeondoo Jung's Art Work

Yeon Doo Jung has primarily produced photographic and video work in which fantasy coexists with the real world, the ideal contrasted with reality, and different cultures are fused. Jung has additionally documented the conceptualization and production processes of his art. At work on a project, he invariably engages a broad perspective. When selecting locations or objects for his work, Jung does not apply any constraints regarding age, gender, nationality, or cultural background; instead he works with diverse models and sites.

Although Jung majored in sculpture in college, in graduate school in the UK he also began creating photographs and gradually established himself as an artist in this medium. While attending school in London in the mid-1990s, I had the opportunity to curate an art exhibition with Korean artists studying in the city. Jung was among those who took part in the show and I recall vaguely that Jung placed thick slices of cheese on bread and heated it in a microwave oven, then formed the hot and gooey cheese into a human face and photographed it. As a graduate student of sculpture at the time, Jung did not appear to have completely freed himself from his major, but he had already selected photography as a medium to convey his interests.

One of the themes which interested the artist from the beginning is the uninhibited and lighthearted infringement of cultural stereotypes, along with intentionally highlighting the cognitive distress caused by a mixture of heterogeneous cultures. Jung has portrayed Korean faces using cheese, a staple in Western cuisine much like kimchi in Korean. For his show Elvis Gungjungbanjum (1999) at the Sungkok Art Museum, held following his return to Seoul, he put up a performance on Chinese noodle home delivery. By focusing on a form of delivery culture unfamiliar in London but ubiquitous in Seoul, Jung highlighted a difference between the two cities in terms of lifestyle and the social recognition of delivery as a form of labor.

Next, Jung began creating collages of ordinary people he encountered on the subways of London and Seoul and arranged them side-by-side in a virtual world, juxtaposing small with large, male with female, and Asian with Westerner. This project was instrumental in cultivating his artistry of drawing motifs from his experiences of distinct cultures during his study abroad, as well as detailed observations of anonymous people.

Jung’s subsequent project was a performance photograph series titled, Boramae Dancehall, which received significant public recognition. He transformed subway line 7 cars and exhibition gallery space into a dancehall, and converted the dances of ordinary people into an artistic performance. He also conveyed the mood of these performances in photographs. In a stage-like environment set up in a middle class neighborhood in Seoul, middle-aged men and women dance the tango, which originated from the opposite corner of the globe. This situation is authentic, yet seems unreal since it is a sphere wherein two distinct spaces and time periods, two different cultures are fused and crossed. However, through Jung’s presentations, we can understand the situation within the context of reality and more clearly recognize and respond to it. In the majority of his early work the artist adopts a light and humorous touch in delivering his subject matter, and presents artworks that juxtapose motifs discovered from the artist’s daily experiences, or sometimes disturbs time and space to induce a cognitively distressing effect, and at other times instigates a sense of nostalgia for memories and emotions.

The important artworks that brought him critical recognition from the art world were the Evergreen Tower (2001), Bewitched (2001), and Wonderland (2004) series that fell in line with his previous work. The Bewitched series was named after and inspired by the eponymous American sitcom that ran from 1964 to 1972. In this show, a witch, the main character, performs teleportation and telekinetic magic by wiggling her nose. Despite its incredulous concept, the show gained wide popularity and was aired in many countries, including Korea.

Jung’s Bewitched series shows a pair of portraits of the same person in nearly identical postures. One is of the person at present, the other is his or her future self representing their accomplished dreams: a young Korean teen working in a gas station in Seoul with a dream of becoming a Formula 1 champion; a Chinese waitress working at a karaoke bar in Beijing with a dream of becoming a pop star; a Japanese high school student dreaming of releasing the stress of daily life by climbing a soaring mountain peak, along with other similar scenarios. The portraits present not only the hopes of each individual, but also the social context in which the characters live out ordinary lives in their homelands.

In Wonderland, an extension of the Bewitched series, Jung’s photography realizes the fantasies of children as expressed in their drawings. In preparation for this project, the artist served as a kindergarten teacher for four months, observing children’s behaviors and thoughts, and collected 1,200 drawings. Throughout the crafting of Bewitched and Wonderland, he adhered to certain principles as a realizer of dreams. First of all, the artist needs to fully understand the objects depicted or the children who created the drawings--the source of his inspiration. In order to faithfully actualize the dreams in detail, rather than relying on the facile aid of computer-generated graphics he constructed the spaces and figures with his own hands or hired professionals to custom-make clothing and props for the shoots. Jung’s dream realization project was established in this manner. The two series, Wonderland and Bewitched, entice viewers to project their own dreams onto the photographs by constructing the illusion that the artist makes dreams come true.

The Evergreen Tower series (2001) took a distinctly different approach to its objects than did its predecessors. Around the time of its production, freestanding houses in Korea were gradually being replaced by apartment buildings, uniform communal spaces. The series is a collection of portrait-like images of 32 families in their living rooms, all residing in identical units of an apartment building called Evergreen Tower. Showcasing the families’ individuality situated in diverse furniture arrangements and decorations of their living rooms, Jung awakens the voyeuristic instinct in the audience, which becomes enthralled in comparing their own living rooms to their Evergreen counterparts.

As an extension of Bewitched and Wonderland, the artist commenced the production of the Location series in 2005. As the title indicates, the series was produced in a variety of sites both at home and abroad, such as highway rest stops, Jeju Island, Mt. Seorak and a beach on New York State’s Long Island. By appending artificial lighting and devices to natural scenery, Jung established the co-existence of fiction and reality as he had done in previous projects. Through this process, he focused on the surrealistic quality that sprouts up at the intersection of actual and fictional images. The photographs, containing ambivalent landscapes shared by reality and fantasy, allow their viewer to pass beyond spatial and temporal limitations and simultaneously experience a yearning for the past and hopes for the future.

In 2007, Jung was named Artist of the Year by the National Museum of Contemporary Art in Korea. At the celebratory exhibition hosted by the museum, he presented Boramae Dance Hall, Location, and Documentary Nostalgia, the last of which is a two-part installation piece. The audience for Documentary Nostalgia first enters a space displayed like a living room where they may sit on a couch and watch a wall-mounted plasma television playing a video composed of six scenes. The room leads into a spacious exhibition gallery equipped with a camera and other recording devices, lights and props; the video shown earlier was recorded here over 70 minutes in a single take. The ‘video’ in the first room and the ‘installed works’ in the second room?the props and devices?constitute Documentary Nostalgia.

As noted above, in his video, photograph and installation works, Jung has conveyed the memories, cognitive distress, and hopes for the future that all originate in the boundaries between reality and imagination, the contrast between the ideal and the real. In creating his work, the artist carries out processes of seeking, producing, experiencing, and photographing as diligently as possible and strives to take every step on his own terms. Rather than adopting the simpler methods offered by today’s digital environment, Yeon Doo Jung remains faithful to his personal technique of branding his author’s signature to every element of his story to allow an intense and intimate communication with his audience.

Gaehoon Ha (Art Critic, Prof. of Dankook Univ.)


The Next Best Thing To Heaven

In 1702 a mysterious blond man arrived in London, travelling by the name George Psalmanazar. He spoke Latin with a heavy Dutch accent, occasionally babbled in an incomprehensible tongue, slept upright in a chair, and ate raw meat; he claimed he was Formosan. In 1704 he wrote a book about his homeland: A most exotic place where the elite lived underground (hence his fair complexion), people dressed in gold, polygamy was rampant, young boys were sacrificed by the thousands and their hearts eaten in a seasonal heathen ritual (the rest of the time Formosans mostly hunted snakes with sticks). He was eventually caught out as an impostor, but that just made him even more famous. He is still the best known Taiwanese in England.[1]

There's a little known 19th Canadian explorer, a trapper by trade, a wee literate Scotsman who sold beaver pelts to feed his ever growing family. He was lame in one leg (hunting accident) and blind in one eye (most probably from snow glare), and in the 1890s was nearly bankrupt. Out of desperation he put himself forth to search for the fabled North West Passage: Travelling by birch bark canoe, with wife, 9 children, and the family heirlooms in tow (everything from the grandfather clock to the good china) he paddled and portaged the entire breadth of a continent, conquering the most impenetrable terrains, deathly weather, hostile natives, wild animals, and the omnipresent barrage of mosquitoes. He eventually reached the Pacific in 1915 after 22 years of the most unimaginable nine years after a more functional passage was discovered by somebody else.[2]

To be truly great has nothing to do with success.

And sometimes the best stories are based on lies.

Deep in the heart of Seoul is an epic adventurer. Part explorer, part mystic, his exploits are legendary. You may have heard of Yeondoo Jung? He's the man who can make dreams come true.[3] Really. In some parts of the world he is known as Mr. Wonderful.[4] Most people encounter him as a travelling stranger; a sort of miracle worker from a far off land. (In reality he's a shy Korean man with a penchant for funkadelic suits and Elvis tunes, he lives in an anonymous high-rise with his wife and 2 kids, and enjoys modest hobbies: Tango dancing, mountain climbing, cooking, photography.) But Yeondoo Jung has an incredible talent for making the impossible happen.[5] Empowered by a philosophy of optimism and good will, Jung is on a mission of enlightenment: Forging paths to new worlds of discovery, making contact with obscure, spreading his evangelical message. He's a man of tall tales and impeccable repute, a hero who transverses the great unknown, reinvigorating our faith in serendipity, making the world seem just a little bit smaller. No one is ever disappointed that it is all a complete sham.

To believe in Yeondoo Jung you have to believe in magic; not the abracadabra-presto-voila variety, but in the power of spells.[6] Conjured, brewed, manufactured, recipe constructions - the kind of elixir juju born of meticulous process, high hopes, and hard graft. Jung specialises in a brand of DIY alchemy offering phantasmal solutions to life's little problems: Love-potions, time travel, teleportation, three-wishes-richness. Strictly speaking, Jung is no magician. He's a master illusionist of the good old fashioned variety, a swashbuckler in his own imagination, a travelling showman taking pleasure not from trickery, but in revealing exactly how it was done.[7] His claim to greatness resides in championing the naiae, the will to accept marvels unquestioningly, the yearning desire for panacea. He offers the power of illusion as something universally attainable: Clumsy, charming, intrinsically flawed. Not quite heaven, but as close as mere mortals can get.

- Location -

On April 15 2006, a group of men climbed up a mountain with a ridiculously large amount of building material strapped to their backs. They look like something from an historical expedition, Captain Robert Scott's[8] team or Henry Hudson's[9] crew, ghosts of fated and monumental crusades. The snap shot though is in colour, and their mission was safely and successfully completed, as evidenced in Location #11: They built a fake rock face into the cordillera to make the awe of nature look like a stage set.

In Yeondoo Jung's photos and videos things are exactly what they seem. Their simplicity is their splendour. A moonlit photo-studio beach, a window sill dressed with tea set and bonsai tree over looking a fantastic landscape, a middle-aged Korean couple driving Doris Day/Rock Hudson style in their shiny red Cadillac, a woman staring in wonder at a frozen waterfall pouring out of the side of an apartment block.

All good charlatans appreciate that even the most outrageous claim will be accepted as long as it lives up to expectation.[10] Everybody knows Taiwan is one crazy place[11] Psalmanazar just embellished the preconception. Similarly Jung appropriates all the tropes of photography to authenticate his world turned topsy-turvy. Blurring fact and fiction is what Jung does best, craftily seeding everything we've come to expect from pictures - their doppelganger props, contrived lighting, computer manipulation, and manicured content - with bold-faced whoppers. In Jung's Location series, this 'Photoshop' simulation is made inexplicable and delightful - because Jung's deception is that it's been done for real.[12]

Like all Jung's work, the wow-factor of these images is in their making. In Location #17 the post-card pretty sea-scape is everything holiday brochures promise; romantic escapism of the most luxurious variety. On closer inspection, however, the too-perfect surf and idyllic night sky give away Jung's process of invention: Stage-dressing paradise as tourism fakery, this scene isn't a photographic hoax, but rather an actual beach. Burying a spotlight in the ground, and covering the sand with cheap fabric, Jung frames the vista as a theatrical backdrop, contriving nature as a mural - equally festive and cheesy under the groovy effects of a disco ball moon suspended from fishing line. The still-life in Location #13 is pure stage set, subverting the concept of 'on location'. Painfully transported by a caravan of assistants, who hiked miles into the countryside with bits of 'pagoda' in backpacks, this elaborate structure was assembled by hand, effectively setting up the 'interior' outdoors in the most perfect remote spot. In Location #12: The couple look all Hollywood glamorous in spite of the fact that they were actually photographed on a farm: Car up on blocks, wind-machine blowing their hair, it's assumed that the background is a blurry projection; the classic trick, the universal dream. Posing rural Korea as California-leisure, the only falsification is the road, which is a strip of pained canvas laid over the grass. The waterfall in Location #4, however, is completely real: A lucky image Jung found by chance when walking one evening, burst plumbing pipes seeming majestically surreal. 

The thing with little white lies is that sometimes they're truths; if you look hard enough you'll find the magic is already there. In capturing his fabricated scenarios, Jung photographs not only an illusion, but a sentiment. Like those faded daguerreotypes of legendary explorers, Jung's works document and immortalise his heroic attempts. His heart-felt efforts to realise the impossible; to bring out the greatness in us all.

- Documentary Nostalgia-

They say that just before you enter heaven you'll see your life pass before your eyes. Usually imagined as a fast-forward flip book of sentimental still images: birth, parents, school, holiday, first girlfriend, first sex, job, wife, kids, etc. and all the little things in between, summating a totality of meagre existence in a split second flash. Yeondoo Jung, however, is a man who likes to take a bit of time with things, savour every precious moment, sit back and enjoy the ride. But then again, his is a life less ordinary; it only makes sense that his vision is a little bit different. For starters, Jung's memory bank is entirely housed in the National Gallery of Korea; for toppers 'god' is an anonymous team of X-Files-like orange-suited men.[13] Yeondoo Jung, of course, isn't dying - this an 85 minute long performance staged in a museum, titled Documentary Nostalgia. Though it is the next best thing to heaven. 

The film starts out in Jung's parents flat: A spartan middle-class apartment shell, which slowly comes to life as technicians float in and out of the scene, adding rugs, pictures, light fixtures, a shrine. The image rests for a moment in a warm reminiscent glow, then is pushed aside - quite literally - to reveal the street outside Jung's father's medicine shop.[14] Orange clad men get to work: Rolling out the 'pavement' from a long bundle of fabric, dragging in street lamps, spraying graffiti. A pedestrian couple stroll by and wait at the bus stop; they open their umbrellas when it starts raining (screen right: man nearly falling off ladder, unbalanced by unusually large watering can). A car drives past; the street lamp is converted into a tree, while busy workmen in the distance pack up solid polyurethane 'puddles', bustle away the sidewalk. They stretch out a large backdrop of pastoral hills, install bushes, a field, a fence; someone walks past with a cow.

A ladder is placed immediately in front of the camera while a guy climbs up to position a bird's nest. He's a bit of an amateur magician and produces some eggs and a live bird from nowhere. He sets them on a branch, he climbs down. The bird's nest falls off, the eggs bounce like ping-pong balls on the fake grass, the bird flies away, the camera just keeps rolling... The Jersey eats some hay, a farmer tends the crops, then the whole lot is dismantled (with some belligerent resistance from the cow) and replaced by a haunting image of a forest, made up of a dozen or so plastic tree trunks dotted between with carpet swatches of wild flowers, rendered all dreamy and enchanted by a couple of men with cans of aerosol mist; before transforming to the grand finale of 'Jung', posed ?la Friedrich[15] atop a mountain pinnacle, gazing out into a sublime billboard sunset, clouds billowing around his feet via a few off-screen dry ice machines.

In the moments between all the ballet-like commotion the finished scenes are left to dazzle with their placebo wonder: As mesmerising as the grandest paintings,[16] the monumental choreographed feat of their accomplishment is all but forgotten in the wake of their simulated beauty. The credits roll when someone places an easel in the foreground, fitted with a narrow window blind; names are pulley-ed up the screen, neatly printed in magic marker.

Documentary Nostalgia is a one-take one-chance-only performance shot in real time.[17] No stops, no pauses. This is Jung's beautiful, magnificent autobiography, warts and all. Or at least that was the intent. Jung confesses there was one moment when the film stopped rolling for a few moments when a piece of equipment accidentally fell on one of the assistants.[18] But c'est la vie - Jung's has always been a fallible bewitchment, temporal and subject to error. The quirky prone-ness to failure is the key to his success: the most sympathetic human quality, the side effect of heart-felt aspiration. More often than not it works out right; but it's the best-attempt frailty of human endeavour which makes his hocus-pocus so endearing.

Birthday party clown tricks, slapstick humour, cartoon exaggeration, and the clumsy 'special effects' of silent movie cliche[19]: Jung draws from all the low-fi mysteries of childhood delight to reconstruct his own reality. Not as it was, but as he prefers to remember it (continues to invent it): The grand stage of art emulating life, packed to the gills with goodness. It's a positivism that's contagious, presenting not a fait accompli, but a make-shift mythology in its conception, wide-eyed, innocent, and confounding. Hand-crafting the secret riches of an inner-life well lived with the nubile freshness of exotic discovery.

That Documentary Nostalgia is Jung's story isn't important; his ethos is imagination for all. One man's vision transposed to the limitless expanses of collective consciousness, fabricating a universe in microcosm, flat-packed, interchangeable, readily transported. Through sheer will (and some serious orchestration[20]), Jung offers the possibility of not one existence, but many: to be urban and rural, contemporary or ancient, Eastern or Western, to be anywhere or anything at all.[21] Jung can do this all without leaving the confines his studio; this elaborate hoax illustrating the poignancy of inspiration, the possibility for the most fantastic exploration. A model of altruism, a doctrine of philosophy: Everyone can do this simply by daring to dream.[22]

- The Unfinished Frontier -

In 2007 a mysterious Korean man arrived in New York, the rumour's that he's some kind of mystic or explorer; he has no tales of his own to tell. Instead he placed an ad in a newspaper, and acquired the experiences of strangers: A Chinese man's philosophy of urban life, an Indian woman's happy-sad love story, a Korean girl's poetic observations, a Spanish woman's hopes to find her lost cat. These recollections, diligently recorded, became his own; these solitary hopes and aspirations, like tiny beacons of light, helped him navigate this strange new land. But New York for Yeondoo Jung is not like New York for anyone else. This vast urban jungle, world weary metropolis, Jung's NYC is collapsed into one familiar local neighbourhood.

Jung's American excursion is a monumental quest not yet complete. To shrink an entire city is no easy task, even for a master illusionist. Working from literally thousands of photographs he took on his visit, he's been cropping together the best bits of The Big Apple: Korean Town, China Town, Little Odessa, Jackson Heights, Spanish Town, Little Italy. Reconstructing these immigrant Meccas as one long community high-street; presented as a flawless animated filmic pan shot with voice-overs from his collected stories. Like faint echoes in an unpredictable wilderness, from heroic explorers forging a new world, each one, in its own way, is a testimonial of unsung greatness. A history yet to be realised.

For, as every good impostor knows, to be truly great has nothing to do with success. It lies in the secret lives of the humble, the ambitions of the meek, their untold stories and closet adventures. To be epic isn't to be admired, or even remembered. It's an attitude: of being magnanimous, kind, and hopeful. To have faith in miracles.

To believe in magic is perhaps the bravest thing of all: to risk ridicule and embarrassment, to celebrate naivet? to champion innocence and awe. Sometimes the best stories are based on lies; but to indulge them isn't gullibility. It's accepting them for what they are, and what they aspire to be. With each slight of hand, and affectionate deception, Jung makes the world appear little bit smaller, a little bit gentler, and infinitely, intrinsically wonderful. Yeondoo Jung conjurers the greatest ever illusions, recites the best stories ever told. The next best thing to heaven's a sweet, magnificent, and stupifyingly simple charade.


[1] As outrageous as this story sounds it is entirely true. For more info on Psalmanazar check him out at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Psalmanazar; excerpts from his book An Historical and Geographic Description of Formosa can be read at: http://www.romanization.com/books/psalmanazaar/index.html


[2] The story of Rory Mackenzie Wainwright may very possibly be true; it was told to me by a history teacher in Delaware Ontario where Wainwright is supposedly buried in a pauper’s grave; though tall tales of early setters roaming the wilderness are quite commonplace in that part of the world. Some liberty was taken with the account of his physical afflictions, however: These injuries were borrowed from a description of David Thompson, the explorer who discovered a trade passage through the Columbia River; The North West Passage was discovered by Roald Amundsen in 1906.


[3] Jung’s Bewitched is an ongoing project. Bestowing upon complete strangers the chance to make their one wish come true, Jung goes to extreme lengths to accomplish their dream, if only for the duration of a photo session. The fabrication of these images is immensely complicated, sometimes taking years to accomplish, and always involving the benevolence dozens of people to ensure the happiness of one lucky individual. To date, some of these dreams have included: A movie theatre projectionist who wanted to be Tom Cruise in Top Gun (Jung arranged for him training with the Dutch Air Force, temporary access to a fighter jet, and a date with a beautiful ‘movie star’), and a man who wanted to play the spoons with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (a dream realised during the Liverpool Biennale in 2004). So far Jung has had only one dream he couldn’t make happen a woman who wanted to travel to Antarctica. This photo was falsified at the top of Korea’s highest mountain.


[4] The full story is at: http://www.yeondoojung.com/press02.html


[5] Since 2004, Jung has been working extensively with kindergarten kids to realise their drawings as photographs. In his Wonderland project, Jung translates children’s fantasies into the 3 dimensional adult world. Collaborating with set and costume designers, location managers, and high-school students, Jung faithfully stages each scene, with stick figures brought to life by teenage models, giant flowers constructed from nylon, and rainbows represented by fabric banners.


[6] The link between new world exploration and magic is not as far fetched as one would believe; religious ‘miracles’ and spells were often used to ingratiate local savages to their European visitors. In 1856, Jean Eug?ne Robert-Houdin (the great master from whom Houdini took his name) was dispatched to Algiers by Napoleon III in an effort to ‘out-mystify’ the rabble rousing mullahs and win over the Arabs (though his trick of catching a bullet between his teeth was construed less as amazing than down right terrifying; an effect which also had its political benefits). Fun fact: Robert-Houdin was the fistmagician to use electricity in his act. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jean_Eug%C3%A8ne_Robert-Houdin


[7] In the words of David Devant, 19th c. illusionist extraordinaire: “A conjuring performance cannot be properly appreciated by anyone who does not know something about the art.” Devant was considered as the greatest magician of his time and much of his repertoire bears an uncanny resemblance to Jung’s. From his pioneering use of photography and film to create mystifying spectacle, to his collaboration with children, and trademark catch-phrase: “All Done by Kindness.” 



[8] Remembered as history’s most heroic looser, Walter Scott lead a 5 man team in a race to the South Pole, at which they arrived on January 17, 1912 ? nearly one month after the winner (paradoxically the afore mentioned Roald Amundsen). The return journey, however, is one of the best documented grizzly demises: Of frostbite, madness, scurvy, and starvation, faithfully recorded until the very last, with Scott’s final journal entry reading: “Had we lived I should have had a tale to tell of the hardihood, endurance and courage of my companions which would have stirred the heart of every Englishman.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Falcon_Scott


[9] One of the earliest North American explorers, Henry Hudson’s 4th expedition to find the North West Passage was met with doom when, in November 1610, his ship was frozen in the bay which now bears his name. By spring, rations were low, and his crew mutinied; Hudson and 8 of his allies were set adrift in a small boat never to be seen again. The story doesn’t end there however: His crew sailed homeward bound, stopping fatefully at Diggis Island, where they were attacked by Inuit; many took days to die from their wounds. A handful survived however, and did eventually make it back to England, after resorting to eating bird bones and candles to last the journey. All were immediately imprisoned on their arrival. http://www.usask.ca/education/ideas/tplan/sslp/yukon/henry_h.htm


[10] "Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities. Truth isn't." Words of wisdom from the world's greatest yarn spinner: Mark Twain. http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/m/mark_twain.html


[11] OK, so they're not cannibalistic snake-chasing cave-dwellers, but the Taiwanese have more than their fair share of bizarre customs which include a calendar which started only 96 years ago, and a rather gluttonous penchant for slurpies and nacho snacks as evidenced by the highest number of 7/11 stores per capita in the world. http://www.omf.org/omf/taiwan/about_taiwan/taiwan_facts


[12] Photography and magic share the same history; some of the first films were shown in the 1890s at the Egyptian Hall in Piccadilly London, a venue renown as Magic HQ. Incorporating the theatrograph - an early prototype projector - into his act, David Devant regularly bedazzled his audience with his Living Portraits. Many of the films Devant (and others) popularized featured actors performing various tricks; often edited to enhance the audiences' astonishment. Even in the earliest days, photographic images were not quite what they seemed. http://www.victorian-cinema.net/devant.htm


[13] The great thing about Jung's fabricated 'heavens' is that he anticipates that if it was reality you just wouldn't get what you wished for. His perfection is idiosyncratic and always a bit defective - you can't have blissful astonishment without an aspect of surprise. The most staggering spectacle is often found in the most pedestrian things. Besides, isn't it nice to think that all moving men are actually angels?

[14] Jung's father is also miracle worker in his own right, a maker of herbal remedies and highly acclaimed doctor. There is no doubt that this is from where Jung's altruism and shamanistic interests stem. It should be noted that until recently medical practice was considered as magical power. Until his death 1932, Charles 'The Great Sequah' Rowley was perhaps the most outrageous magical doctor of all. Specialising in tooth extraction, he even once treated the celebrated occultist Harry Price. Invariably his 'treatment' involved wowing the patient with a plethora of cheap parlour tricks and yanking out the offending tooth at the highest moment of surprise. This was often accompanied by the distracting melodies of a live trombonist. http://www.bbk.ac.uk/english/skc/hpc/ and http://www.nzlive.com/en/articles/southern-odyssey


[15] "Magicians have an uneasy, debilitating relationship with secrets, which they know to be priceless and worthless at the same time." Says magic historian Jim Steinmeyer. "He likens magicians to Leonardo da Vinci, who stubbornly guarded his paint recipes, though we now realize that simply having his formula for pigment would not have enabled anyone else to achieve the same calibre of masterpiece." Excerpt from a book review of Steinmeyer's Magic Touch by Kirsti Potter. http://www.yalereviewofbooks.com/archive/spring04/review02.shtml.htm

[16] Jung's scenes are influenced quite heavily from panting, in their subject, composition, and process. Painting is the artist's ultimate escapism, with all its epic, heroic, and timeless tradition. In Documentary Nostalgia, Jung's tableaux evolve as synthetic suggestions of Millet, Hopper, Degas, Church, Friedrich; their 'pick n mix' assemblages referencing the pastiche of 17th century Dutch landscape painting and the sublime visions of America invented from composites by frontier artists such as Thomas Cole.


[17] Presented in the format of a silent movie, Documentary Nostalgia draws upon many of the visual devices of cinema's Golden Age. Unlike greats such as Chaplin and Keaton, who commonly used 'camera tricks' and sometimes up to hundreds of takes to get a gag right, Jung's confounding feats lie in their openly hoakyapproximation. Chaplin wished that all of his 'out takes' should be destroyed after his death so that no one would ever learn his secrets; though these have in fact been preserved at the British Film Institute, and can be viewed in the documentary Unknown Chaplin. In Documentary Nostalgia the lack of sound both operates as a tribute Jung's cinematic lineage and a clever strategy to mask the audio commotion of the behind the scenes direction. Paradoxically, Charlie's accidents look something like Jung's triumphs. http://chaplin.bfi.org.uk/resources/bfi/out-takes.html

[18] This apparently occurs in the street scene. Though I've watched the film a dozen times I couldn't spot the blip.

[19] Documentary Nostalgia draws more than a little comparison to Buster Keaton's 1920 masterpiece One Week - the famed silent film where Keaton builds a dysfunctional house - both in its comedic choreography and it's playful manipulation of architectural sets.


[20] As always, the real magic in Jung's work lies in his creation of community. In order to accomplish Documentary Nostalgia, Jung collaborated with over 30 individuals, companies, and organizations. It takes a cast of dozens to make one man's dream a reality. It's the kind of shared experience which forges lasting friendships. Fun fact: Documentary Nostalgia involves 90 component pieces and props.


[21] Like Rory Wainwright's 22 year voyage, Jung's shifting landscapes evolve as a perpetually expanding terrain; a kind of virgin wilderness in which one can loose a life time, but gain so much more.


[22] Jung's predecessor, Devant, of "All Done by Kindness" legend, never stopped re-living his music hall memories. In his old age, he was confined to a home, crippled and afflicted with trembles; he could no longer perform his slight of hand tricks. Befriending a nurse, he taught her his craft; she became an extension of his withered body, a rejuvenated self, performing his magic for his visitors as if incarnated by the spirit of the great illusionist himself.


Patricia Ellis (Artist and Curator)