[LAB NOTE] The public without imagination


Jung-ho Oak says that even work for the public requires imagination. It proves the necessity of imagination by revealing things that are too familiar to be aware of. For example, we can say public activities conducted by corporations (CSR; Corporate Social Responsibility).

LAB NOTE Summary: Publicness and common good


Jung-ho Oak is going to ask the question, ‘What is the identity of the companies (corporations)?’ through a video at 2021 Zer01ne Day. It is a work that questions about the public nature of the companies. There are cases that ultimately result in common good when discussing publicness. The common good is also connected to the public interest. In this case, the public interest should be quantified in numbers. The quantified public interest guarantees the benefits of the majority. Even if it benefits 51% of the public and damages 49% of the public. That figure does not even count the absolute absurdity of the 49%. Jung-ho Oak believes that this habitual public nature leads companies to fall into mannerism. A ‘good company’ does something for the underprivileged in society. When a company is called a good company, another company that does nothing at the moment becomes a bad company. The moment the underprivileged are defined for CSR activities, even more and more people become marginalized. Those who are classified as the underprivileged receive sympathy and pity from people. The question by Jung-ho Oak begins with this. What is the public nature? Is it defining the underprivileged and spending for them? Shouldn’t we begin by defining the publicness in accordance with the identity of the companies?

In the video work of <Camping Life> by Jung-ho Oak, the main character appears sitting-in demonstration at high altitude. He is a blind and also a sexual minority (LGBT). Besides, he is afraid of heights. He installs a tent on the roof of a building and shouts to society.



Camping Life:

How should we establish a relationship with the society of the future, and where does it start from?



“What is the public nature that fits the corporate philosophy besides Corporate Social Responsibility (publicness)?”


When someone says, ‘It doesn’t seem like you’, then I often answer by ‘What is it like me?’ This is because in many cases, ‘being myself’ is determined by people’s perception and value judgment. Jung-ho Oak sees that there is quite a distance between ‘being myself’ and ‘being yourself’ and hopes to find oneself from a subjective point of view. Of course, this also applies to organizations such as companies.



“Who will you build the publicness with?”



“Pretending to be nice kills the imagination!”


Companies sometimes discuss the publicness without stipulating themselves. They recklessly try to help someone for the sake of the publicness, and that person often becomes the socially underprivileged class. Defining and objectifying groups without enough consideration has the side effect of creating another underprivileged class. Jung-ho Oak requires companies to define themselves and think about the publicness that fits them before discussing the publicness.



“Do not do good deeds just because for publicness!!”


In <Camping Life>, the blind and sexual minority appears. They are commonly referred to as the socially underprivileged. The tent is set up on the roof of a building and demonstrates against society. He raises his voice, shouts, and dances. A magazine reporter comes to interview this man. The reporter asks him what makes him difficult. He says that he is fine but hates people looking at him with pitiful eyes. After a short interview, he asks the reporter about the name of the magazine.

The work tells us that the underprivileged we vaguely picture in our head is different from the actual underprivileged. We ask whether the publicness which we just think of is really the socially underprivileged ones.



Public → Publicness (public nature) → Common Good → Public Interest (X)


Public 1 →→→→→→→→→→→→→→→ Target 1

Public 2 →→→→→→→→→ Target 2

Public 3 → → → Target 3

Public (O)


The artist says that the process of imagining an ideal public is achieved through antithesis. He defines oneself before discussing the publicness. After that, the target can be set up. Once again, he defines oneself as from others and from an objective perspective. In the process of bridging this gap, the publicness suitable for each person can be set up.


About the Artist

Jung-ho Oak was born in Busan in 1974 and received his bachelor’s degree of Arts in Media from Korea National University of Arts. He held solo exhibitions at Insa Art Space (2006) and Gallery 175 (2006), and recently presented his solo exhibition of <Sacred Scenery> at Art Space Pool (2011). He participated in group exhibitions such as <Playtime—Exercise of Doing> (Culture Station Seoul 284, 2012), <Art Spectrum 2012> (Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art, 2012), <The Prohibition of Excavation> (Art Space Pool, 2011), <New Political Art since the 1990s: Bad Boys/Now Here> (Gyeonggi Museum of Modern Art, 2010), <Peppermint Candy> (National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Argentine art museum in Buenos Aires/Santiago Museum of Contemporary Art, Chile, 2009/2008/2007), <Art in Busan 2008: Come back to Busan Port>(Busan Museum of Art, 2008), the 2nd Anyang Public Art Project(2007), <Declaration of the State of Affairs> (Korea Democracy Foundation, 2004), and residency programs such as Ssamzie Space (Seoul, 2008) and Street Art Center (Santa Monica, 2010) and Mongin Art Space (Seoul, 2011).