[“Anonymous #59, #60, #61, #62” (2011), computer punch tape & blue masking tape. “Anonymous #54” (2011), computer punch tape & blue masking tape. “Anonymous #53” (2011), computer punch tape & blue masking tape. “Anonymous #26” (2011), computer punch tape & blue masking tape. “Anonymous #27” (2010), computer punch tape & blue masking tape.]
Exploring relationships between technology, memory, and identity, Henry Chung continues his ongoing “Identity/Anonymity” series. These anonymous portraits—rendered in an obsolete technology no longer accessible—are forgotten faces culled from flea markets and antique stores. In looking at these “forgotten” individuals, one is compelled to ponder the lives they lived and their evaporated memories. Integral to how this “evaporation” occurs is its relation to relative levels of anonymity, familiarity, and fame of those individuals.
Cultural/historical memory in our transient and “throwaway” society-in-economic-upheaval is sketchy at best. With personal identity is more fluid than ever, Chung points out the importance of permanence and consistency. Perhaps the Chinese cultural heritage of honoring one's ancestors is the root of Chung's sadness at discovering the discarded evidence of lives experienced. However we come upon these individuals, Chung asks us to contemplate their lives.
Before the advent of disc drives, DVDs, Wi-Fi networks, and cellular technology, paper punch tape was used to store and transmit computer data. Rolls of 1" paper tape were punched by a machine attached to a computer that translated the binary information on the computer into a pattern of holes in the tape, a hole for the number one and the paper left uncut for a zero. This tape was then fed into a punch tape reader connected to other computer equipment and translated back into usable information.
Ingeniously, Chung wrote a computer program translating found images of the forgotten into such aforementioned 1” strips of data: These were then punched by a computer punch tape machine. Chung “recomposes” these images by aligning resultant strips of black paper punch tape. By “drawing” these images of unknown people in holes in paper, he emphasizes loss of memory and identity experienced when he found these vintage images. His work acts as a metaphor for loss, exposes the inherent sadness associated with it, and partially restores the spirit to wit. This body of work deftly and sensitively juxtaposes such losses in physical, metaphysical, and conceptual ways. These images “come to life” when Chung is cuts holes in the paper, creates loss in the paper, and uses an obsolete and unreadable technology to mimic his experience of finding photographs of unknowable people.
Chung’s technological competence and curiosity get vigorous pushes from his background in engineering at Columbia University. But these Conceptual works go far beyond technical fluency: In them one finds powerful currents of history, sociology, and transcendent soul.
Through July 31, 2011
683 6th Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11215