Nara Park inside "It Written on the Wall"

Nara Park’s winning installation It Was Written on the Wall holds down the main gallery at Conner Contemporary with an imposing yet simple architectural structure.  Up close, the trompe l’oeil effect of brick-like coursing turns out to be cardboard boxes. An entrance invites viewers to get down on all fours and explore the inside.  Part of Conner’s Academy 2012 show, the sculpture is a clever meditation on immortality and our disposable culture.

Q: Tell me how you got the idea for this installation? And the materials?

A: One time I was waiting in line at the cash register at Walmart, I saw this gigantic stack of soda boxes that looked almost like a shrine or a castle. I felt bombarded with its stately presence of a monument commemorating our culture. It inspired me to come up with the idea of a fake tomb with stacked packaging boxes. For my boxes, I chose the structure of KFC chicken boxes of the fast food industry, which mutates nature into a product. The granite pattern on the surface of my boxes was intended to imitate the natural materials used in sacred places such as a shrine or a grave.

Q: How does it relate to tomb architecture and our desire for permanence?

A: KFC chicken boxes can be folded and can become a container in a second. The way houses are fabricated today is parallel to the instant structuring of these disposable to-go containers. With these custom-made boxes, I created an instant tomb that mimics historic architecture as a permanent dwelling space for our body. It allows the viewer to be buried under the products of our consumerist and simulacrum culture and allow them to contemplate the ephemeral nature of the physical world.

Q: How did you decide on the scale?

A: I made it long enough for the viewer to lie down inside while considering the space for others’ work in the gallery.

Q: Why did you want the viewer to be able to go inside?

A: When I saw the enormous stack of soda boxes at Walmart, I was frightened that it would fall on people. That was when I decided to make a tomb and invite people to lay down underneath the boxes.

Q: At what point did the title come to you?

A: While I was designing the pattern of the box, I included the text that says, “tear here to fold down top” on two corners of the box. It is the instruction that is written on a KFC chicken box to open up the top to use the box as a temporary bowl. If the corners are torn and the boxes are open, the structure of my installation will be demolished. My friend told me the text reminded of the expression, “the writing on the wall,” which means “the future is predetermined.”

Q: Is this a theme you would like to pursue in the future?

A: My art can serve as a celebration of modern life but also a threat warning. I pay attention to how imitations substitute the genuine today as they are produced as a copy of an idealized original. Not all my work includes packaging boxes with granite pattern but most of them are made with objects that imitate the genuine, such as vinyl siding with faux wood grain or vinyl covering with marble pattern, inspired by artifices found in domestic environments and store displays. I create artwork to inspire the viewer to contemplate by allowing them to consider more than one answer. The message is open to the individual’s interpretation and imagination, which is distinguished from a critical message that is always implicit in consumerist society. I question the lost meaning of authenticity in order to find what’s beyond the surface in today’s surface-oriented culture.




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