broken glass

Glass and light are at the forefront of all Bongchull Shin’s works. Both elements complement each other in his room and wall installations. The series broken glass is dominated by the theme of antagonism. For a long time the origin of glass was considered mysterious, being developed under god’s influence. Its fragile nature was another reason why glass was a valuable merchandise. Simultaneously glass is seen as a symbol of destruction due to its dangerously sharp edges. Günter Grass reinterpreted Rolf Breitenstein’s view of glass “as the seismograph of vandalism” when referring to the “Night of Broken Glass” during the Nazi era in 1938, seeing glass as the revolutionary instrument of power in the hands of little Oskar in the novel Die Blechtrommel. Opposed to the traditional Vanitas-symbol, the destruction of glass however is not a gradual natural process, but is rather a one-off powerful loss of form, normally at the hands of man.

It is precisely these antagonistic associations that Bongchull Shin utilises in his wall texts. Positive statements such as Love, Faith, Hope or Yes appear to the observer at first glance soft and harmonious. The artist contrasts these poetic statements, words and quotes like Protect me from what I want, with his use of sharp, jagged sherds of green glass. These sherds, cut and shaped with a glass knife, remain unpolished, thus retaining their dangerous edge.

Only after close analysis do the individual letters reveal themselves as a composition of glass sherds. As such Bongchull Shin summarises the antagonism and ambiguity of all things. On one level the beauty and simultaneous brutality of the glass. On the other the power of words which can summon up the most wonderful but also the most hurtful associations. Moreover his use of green glass in this series invokes the popular South Korean drink Soju which, as an alcoholic drink, portrays feelings of enjoyment but also dependence.

– Mira Nass –