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VITRINE: Proposition 2: Index. 2020-2021

Proposition 2: Index. 2020-2021

by Ivetta Sunyoung Kang

September 7th – November 7th, 2022 (EXTENDED: November 14th, 2022)

I am hesitating to use the word, decolonial, in this short description of my new work, Proposition 2: Index (2020-2021). That being said, the word came and stayed with me throughout the production. It may not be too much ambition to use the word in this sense, yet I’m hesitating, and I like myself to be hesitating. 

This work brings fifteen sets of hand-stamped sentences reindexed from the every May issue published from 1986 to 2000 National Geographic Magazines. I looked at this tedious action of extracting all mays, mights and might haves from the issues and reformatting them into question sentences that start with “May…” as a decolonial gesture. 

However, I also acknowledge that all the sentences are still formulated in English—one of the (post) colonial languages—and that I don’t know how and what this project will return to the spirits and lands that were, are and have been colonized. 

So I am indeed hesitating. 

In standard English grammar, the three English auxiliary verbs are used when indefinite ideas are introduced. Significantly, the sentences that contain these verbs are more likely found in articles where non-western countries such as Asia, Africa, and/or native regions are introduced in the magazine. At frequent times in the magazines published up to the new era of the 2000 millennium, these articles depict those cultures of non-western societies similar to how they explore unprecedented climate crises or newly discovered facts about Mars in the publication. This factor draws the underlying perception from the western that mystified and alienated such geo-cultural aspects in the 20 century: non-western regions and countries were treated as unknown geographies whose knowledge and culture were “believed” to be enriched by the knowledge that “provided” by the western. 

The entire set of the work contains 15 sets of index cards, index lables, and reindexed sentences with the page numbers where their original sentences with the auxilary vers are found in the magazines. Beginning with the repeating anaphora which shifts either may, might or might have, the sentences sometimes bring political analogies responding to the topics of the magazine articles or are imbued with a sarcastic perspective that shakes up actual jurisdictions of such regional and/or global issues mentioned in the articles. The anaphora simultaneously renders all the reindexed sentences into a form of question poems that end with a question mark. 

In its entire set, the piece consists of 237 sentences extracted from the articles about 68 regional areas in the 15 issues. 184 question poem sentences are reformulated and reindexed from them.

Like its subtitle, Index of Maybes, connotes, the piece attempts to gather “maybes” as an idea of possibilities, alternative ways of knowledge (re)gathering and sharing, and new indexing of future generations. The audience can actively touch, read and re-sort every piece of the (re)index cards. For Trinity Square Video’s Vitrine space, Kang created a mini-version of the entire piece with a few reindex sets presented at the site instead of the complete 15 sets. They accompany a video where reindexed sentences are juxtaposed with their original sentences, redeeming possible reads in the form of a durational moving image.

On 13 March 2018, National Geographic Magazine publicly acknowledged their racist misrepresentation of BIPOC groups in their history. In this official apology, they expressed their apology for the prevailing hierarchy between white people and the “other” races, especially black people. While it is still doubtful whether the magazine has actively modified their “racist history” in their recent issues, these reformulated question sentences in this work stand as a collection of Western traces of colonial and superior eyes oppressing people of different ethnicities and races. They are a series of indexes that counter-question the information, research and knowledge passed down through not only this particular publication but also all prints, media and librarial platforms dominated by western society. The indexes of questions herein turn their authenticity and validation back to the “owner” of the language and the given knowledge, questioning globalization and cultural extractivism by western cultural reading.

The artist sends gratitude to the Korean Cultural Centre in Ottawa for co-premiering Ivetta Sunyoung Kang’s Proposition 2: Index at the duo exhibition presented to celebrate the 60th anniversary of Korea and Canada’s bi-lateral relationship. The duo exhibition, Entanglements (Tea, Maybe), will be presented at the KCC from September 22 to October 31, 2022.


Ivetta Sunyoung Kang

Ivetta Sunyoung Kang is a South Korean immigrant artist working across interdisciplinary, including cinema, installation, text, performance, and participation. Kang obtained a BFA in Film Production at Sang Myung University in South Korea and an MFA from Concordia University in Canada. She has presented internationally, including the Smithsonian Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden (2022), ArtScience Museum (2022), and Dazibao (2022), among others. She has participated/is participating AiR programs at the AGO X RBC Artist-in-Residence at Art Gallery of Ontario (2022) in Canada and ZK/U in Germany, among others. She has been awarded the RBC Newcomer Arts Award (2021) and was shortlisted for the Simon Blais Award (2016). She has published two self-publication projects, Absent Seats (2019) and Tenderhands #1-100 (2022). She is a co-founding member of Quite Ourselves, an artist collective seeking sustainable mobility in life and art creation. Ivetta wanders in Tkaronto/Toronto and works based in Tkaronto and Tiohtià:ke/Montreal on the land now called Canada.

To view more of Ivetta’s work: https://ivettakang.com/