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U-Ram Choe, Opertus Lunula Umbra, 2008. Installation view at FACT.

Opertus Lunula Umbra (Hidden Shadow of Moon) (2008)

Modernity, based on a symbiotic relationship between man and machine, is fraught with contradictions: we strive to embed human intelligence into machines to make them ever more capable and powerful, but we fear and feel repelled by our increasing dependence upon artifice, yearning for a simpler life.

U-Ram Choe's ((b. 1970, Seoul) work embraces the man-made and the natural. He makes up a world of mechanical creatures that shift between streamlined metallic objects and amorphous biological forms of delicacy and weightlessness. His large-scale automated sculptures move with an effortlessness that suggests gliding through water or being ruffled by a gentle breeze. They appear to be a life form that reflects both our desire to create an intelligently designed universe, and the relationship between nature and beauty.

They also suggest an archaeology of undiscovered futuristic organisms, resonant of primitive life forms, imaging a future past excavated from the ground or from the bottom of the sea. Each object has its own notes and biological profile to locate it in an imagined history and place; each is based in the evolutionary logic of a parallel universe, with detailed descriptions for each species, information concerning feeding habits, reproduction cycles and behavioural characteristics.

U-Ram Choe embraces new technology as someone raised within a post-modern culture, a generation completely at home with computers, video games and robots. His science fiction is of a playful nature, but nevertheless draws upon the ‘real’ science of genetic engineering, the blurring of boundaries between biological life forms and new generation technologies. His pieces have both negative and positive connotations: some are elegant forms reminiscent of the streamlined design of the early twentieth century; others are more sinister, as if from a world taken over by mutant creatures. The polarity of these aesthetics is represented within Choe’s family history – his mother being a painter and his great grandfather responsible for Korea’s first automobile, the SIBALcar. Having studied sculpture at Art School, Choe went on to work in robot design, providing him with invaluable experience for his future practice.

The commission for MADE UP, Opertus Lunula Umbra (Hidden Shadow of the Moon), was inspired by moonlight energy, and folded and unfolded its mechanical wings with a breath-like undulation. Its story explored medieval fantasy, the seductive appearance of reflected sunlight on the moon, mysterious energy sources and a lunatic’s gaze into waters at night.

‘U.R.A.M., aka United Research of Anima Machine, discovered this life-form made of mechanical structures from sunken boats of the past, and modern nautical devices. This new species was defined as Anima machine and a simulated setting was created to observe its behaviour. One of the outcomes from these efforts was the mega-sized model of Opertus Lunula Umbra that was displayed in FACT, Liverpool. This model was based on the exact creature found in the Albert Dock, so far known as the largest and the most evolved example of the species.’

U-Ram Choe, Opertus Lunula Umbra, 2008. Installation view at FACT.

U-Ram Choe, Opertus Lunula Umbra, 2008. Installation view at FACT.

Commissioned by Liverpool Biennial 2008 and FAC

Supported by The Henry Moore Foundation.