Seo Hae-geun, F-15K, 2011, pencil, paper, wire, and glue, 32' 10“ x 19' 8” x 7' 6".

Seo Hae-geun, F-15K, 2011, pencil, paper, wire, and glue, 32' 10“ x 19' 8” x 7' 6".

Seo Hae-geun


Seo Hae-geun, F-15K, 2011, pencil, paper, wire, and glue, 32' 10“ x 19' 8” x 7' 6".

When Anselm Kiefer made his lead airplanes twenty years ago, they were laden, as were all of his creations, with metaphors of war, violence, history, and, ultimately, death. Distantly resembling the planes used in World War II air battles, Kiefer’s earthbound aircraft with a polyhedron on one wing (Melancholia, 1990–91) or with gigantic books made of lead sheets on both (Angel of History, 1989) eloquently insinuated the unbearable weight of a ruinous history and a reflection on the unending process of mourning. If Kiefer’s monumental installations were an effective prescription for those viewers yearning for dramatic and grandiose spectacles paired with readily decipherable symbols amid the return to figuration of the 1980s, Seo Hae-geun’s F-15K (all works 2011)—a multirole combat aircraft also known as the Slam Eagles, made of paper and glue and a little wire—is the perfect anti-monument for and by the current generation, for whom historical gravity and a sense of tragedy and death are remote and simulacral phenomena experienced only through media.

Interested in the arms industry as an index of national wealth, Seo chose the latest fighter plane built for the Korean Air Force by Boeing as his motif for F-15K. Without access to the actual aircraft, he used visual information gathered from special-interest websites and magazines as well as a toy replica, which he wrapped with paper to render the outer surface. He then removed the paper cast and scanned it, printing digital enlargements on rolls of printmaking paper totaling nearly four hundred feet. In a labor-intensive process, all parts of the aircraft were shaded in with lead pencil, Seo’s favorite medium for drawing over the past decade or so; upon coloration, each part was cut out with an extra border for the gluing area, then pasted into three dimensions.

The paper aircraft stretches about ten yards in length, half the size of the actual aircraft, yet big enough to convey an uncanny presentness. Lying on the floor, wrinkled and partially crushed by its own weight, it evokes the self-deprecating black humor familiar in the drooping soft sculptures of Claes Oldenburg. The dull, metallic shine of the surface from the lead-pencil shading and the scattering of paper missiles, meant to be carried by the aircraft but instead haphazardly rolling on the floor, only add to the strangeness of the situation, in which the essence of the aircraft, as a high-tech killing machine, is completely missing.

In the neighboring room, Tosca—the exterior of an entire automobile—spread flat and crusty on the floor, like an old skin or shell cast off by a snake or crustacean. Seo made it by gluing layers of tracing paper onto the actual surface of the car and leaving them to dry. Once dried, this shell was separated from the car, and, without substantial support anywhere, it collapsed to the floor. The contrast between the physical power of an automobile and its pale and fragile indexical remnant creates a poignant counterpoint. Here, as in F-15K, the contradiction between the meticulous, time-consuming process and the worn-out, casual appearance of the resulting object is intriguing. Seo suggestively shifts the connotations of objects through simple material transformations.

Shinyoung Chung