Monday, June 16, 2014

Prelude: Douglasism Book

I 1st met Douglas Park in 2006, at AIR, in the former lock-keeper´s house of the harbor of Antwerp, where Nayoungim and I were granted a studio for a season.  A rather gothic building, in a post or actively industrial location, on the border between the old and new harbor, next to a still working and busy watergate.  Later on, Douglas described the location, atmosphere and experience in retrospect as being “a dreamlike, but real and credible environment, seemingly middle-of-nowhere, whilst very much next door to the main city. A place I already knew well, having stayed there several times since the early 00's, during renovation and building work.”  DP stayed in a sparsely furnished room on the upper floor.

The first conversation I remember with DP was an inquiry about his daily diet, due to concern and curiosity about his rather slender physique.  He smilingly lifted his index finger and answered in his melodious baritone voice rising to crescendo, “I only drink and do not eat and will finish by slipping through the cracks in the floor…”  Not for the last time, I was surprised by the pedantic and precise manner of speaking, intermingled with inventive wordplay, which is so common to him.  To my delight he did not tire to repeat this statement very voluntarily as soon as he lay eyes on me over the following few weeks.  Even though I caught him a few times preparing solid food.

Since early on, DP had an insatiable interest in art and art history.  Whoever converses with him for more than a few moments might experience that DP´s memory is inexorable if triggered and totally recalls some of his arcane historical fact.  For example: the not so well known at all, maybe no longer existing, just undisclosed, or simply rotting away, in some classified folder, still falling under the seal of official secrecy, but soon hopefully to be published, and realized project, which Robert Filliou claimed to have or is said by some to have undertaken during his time spent working for the UN Reconstruction Department in Seoul, in the 1950s.  Perhaps, we might never know.

Despite known influences, the idiosyncratic amalgam of Park´s work spans from  journalism to poetry, from art criticism to curation, from essays to acting, and to an abundance of recitals, which he reduces down into a summarized definition or downright stub, whilst also entered into and recorded as an ever-updated and growing, already extensive and multi-categorical biobibliography.

In order to get an impression of the consistency of DP´s work, I am careful to quote Clemens Krümmel analyzing DP´s recital form as follows: “The paratactic approach that he uses when he reads out, to not only expand into the notional and phatic spaces that speech offers, but also to line up words, the sound, their facture, their texture, like pearls on a shaky string - in TIME. I claim that it is a meaningful component of his mastery to make words sound like something extremely equivocal and even fishy. It always remains a speaking act, not in an emphatic sense (in which articulate speech always only appears as a tool of empowerment of a subject), but rather in the sense of speech as a tool of caution. By taking out, or leaving out, most syntagmatic grammatical elements that usually regulate the economy of power in spoken and written language, especially in Western languages, by avoiding larger sentence and sub-sentence constructions, he carves out of language what really makes it tick, what really gives it its power over people: the incredible situational power of the continuously moving and elusive present, the ungraspable present tense of time-space.”
More often than not, considered strange or at least a defiant, mysterious and wildly eccentric personage, by his less unforgiving contemporaries; he is an artist and figure to be considered in the historic line of the tradition of a James Ensor, William Blake or even an Aleister Crowley (but without the latter’s character and actions, of course).  Eccentricity is often associated with genius, intellectual giftedness, or creativity.  People may perceive DP's eccentricity as the outward expression of his unique intelligence or creative impulse.  In this vein, some of DP´s habits are incomprehensible, not because they are illogical or the result of irrationality, but because they stem from a mind so original that it cannot conform or be confined to societal norms. During a light lunch on the first day in Seoul after the shooting of the documentary “Mr. Park D.” on Jeju Island he described his frame of mind as such: “Usually, when I am staying somewhere strange to me and something is about to happen like a meeting or a project or a journey, I keep falling in and out of sleep and dreams; and reality and the immediate environment sort of becomes what I call “reality-warps”; they sort of cut-up and exchange and there is much interplay and hybrid between them.” 

The following book attempts to show and honor the wide range of DP´s creativity, transferring how it was presented as an “Itemized Miasma”, during the ‘Douglasism’ Festival, in Seoul, in 2013.
The term “Douglasism” derives from an event called “Douglasisms” which commemorated the 33rd birthday of DP, and was initiated by the London-based collective, Decima, with an artwork of DP by the late Piers Wardle (aka: Lewis Draper) at the Gallery Upstairs in London in 2005.

Kim Kim Gallery appropriated this “great” title to embrace the totality of DPs work, collaborations with DP and DP related work and material.
Special thanks go to Rut Blees Luxemburg, Keef Winter and Tom Fox for producing the ‘Greatest Hits’ CD, of works, chosen and recited by DP himself, which may be found in the back of this book you are holding now, as well as to Cel Crabeels, who realized a documentary about and with DP, however improbable the outcome and against all odds, following DP´s every step through the tropical island of Jeju, from public recital and autographing at tourist-trap waterfalls, then on-set shooting sessions, to a smoky motel room delirium climactic rant.  Special thanks go to Sonia Dermience from Komplot, Brussels, and writer/curator Damien Airault from Paris, for all their active support and personal involvement; all those who contributed to this show, such as collaborators, galleries, collectors; the people from Workroom Press, who all made this publication possible; then, finally, of course, last but by no means least, Douglas Park, himself.

Gregory Maass
 (excerpt from “Speech is matter.” a video lecture by Clemens Krümmel)

 (DP in “Mr. Park D.”)

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