As someone who exists in both of the closely related but often very far apart worlds of poetry and contemporary art I’m always intrigued about projects that seek new approaches to both. I first came across Young Hae Chang Heavy Industries at Tulca, a yearly visual arts festival held in Galway, Ireland curated in 2014 by Aisling Prior and was fascinated by the strobe-like text that demanded your attention and the fact that their work seems to create its own landscape somewhere between literature and visual art. It inhabited a far more interesting landscape than the majority of digital literature innovations it has to be added. And of course I was fascinated by the name, which sounds like a construction company. They are based in South Korea, a country that they claim ‘loves their big companies’.
Young Hae Chang Heavy Industries consist of Korean Young-hae Chang and American Marc Voge. Their work is digital based text pieces (using ‘Monaco’ – a 1980s Apple originated font that was often used by computer programmers) backed with a music soundtrack, mainly jazz. In an age where interactivity and the social is all prevalent theirs is an admiral determination to stand aloof from all this interaction and pre-programmed sociability. In fact they make poetry reading a physically uncomfortable action as the text flashes and disappears before the reader fully registers its meaning. It’s as if they’ve decided to dispense with the reader’s power over the page and ensure that their poetry is experienced on their own terms. Often it is necessary to start over and play their works again. They remind me of Michael Gira’s Swans in the purity of their assault on the senses and on the imagination. Purity is I feel the right word. They operate in an environment that insists these days on a polluted connectivity, interaction and a mediated sociability – perhaps only our present society would consider Twitter as a triumphant medium of communication – and have created work that forces us to consider contemporary communication (and existence) through exposing the limitations in our ability to take in text. In fact in ‘Metablast’ a work seemingly consisting of posts in response to ‘Operation NuKorea’ we have complaints that it is impossible to read Young Hae Chang’s works amidst a discussion on North Korea and nuclear annihilation. Operation NuKorea is an apocalyptic imagining of a North Korean strike on the South that somehow though much more slowly animated that many of their previous works through the simple use of differing text-size manages to convey, horror, hysteria and a very dark humour. Perhaps the work was designed to be a catalyst for Metablast which whilst seemingly a discussion on a piece of literature to indicate an (often not very flattering) portrait of internet posters in all their divisive, surreal and occasionally utterly extreme beauty. I couldn’t help thinking of ‘Threads’ the infamous BBC production of the consequences of nuclear catastrophe and the way internet ‘threads’ seems to mostly degenerate into verbal violence.
Young Hae Chang Heavy Industries have created a hybrid creature, an art/poetry/literature/music that insists on the integrity of its own rules in a seemingly chaotic but in reality heavily mediated digital environment. They offer something so apparently simple but vitally evolutionary in the sandstorm of data that permeates our lives. This short introduction hopefully will serve as a guide to their work. Below is Operation NuKorea and Metablast can be found in the Poetry section. More of their work is on their website: http://www.yhchang.com/.