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Vexing Vexillology – South Dakota

You may or may not know I enjoy maps. I also enjoy flags. Often these are not expressed that often and I tend to concentrate on other things, though you may have noticed a previous post on changing flags during the failed Scottish referendum to depart the United Kingdom. Well, a TED talk on Vexillology excited me on the topic once again:

This got me to thinking, how could I redesign my adopted home state of South Dakota?

South Dakota Flag

Just in case you didn’t know Mount Rushmore was in South Dakota, the flag reminds you. Also it has the motto. And the date it became a state. Actually, it’s not a flag, it’s a cheat sheet for a test on the state.

Why? Well, while there are always exceptions, I generally think the rules Ted Kaye put forward are pretty good:

1. Keep it simple. (Ouch. The overall design is simple, but the inclusion of the great seal really makes it needlessly complex.)

2. Use Meaningful Symbolism (Okay, the blue for the open blue sky and endless possibilities, the sun for… the sun and the previous state nickname, the sunshine state.)

3. Use 2-3 basic colors (Great! Color-wise this flag is set!)

4. No lettering or Seals (Double ouch. South Dakota uses both lettering and a seal. Worse, the seal has lettering on it as well, both the motto and the name of the state. The state is named twice! I feel like the flag comity was really worried that people wouldn’t know the name of their state)

5. Be distinctive or Be related (Okay I think. It feels fairly distinctive and other flags that use the broad blue backdrop also are wide-expanse states, such as Alaska.)

So here are a handful of my initial ideas on a theme:


First idea was to keep the sky blue expanse, but take another symbol, the Bison, which is both a symbol of the hearty nature of the people of South Dakota, and also harkens to the native tribal populations, as the bison was an important part of their culture. The white buffalo could be construed as a symbol of hope. The bison is small in the corner to remind us that we are small compared to the vastness of the state we are caretakers of.


Here, I take the new element and incorporate an old element of the sun from the original flag. Sans the great seal of course. Though to be fair, the original South Dakota flag did not have it either:


The South Dakota flag from 1909 to 1963. I think they changed it because it didn’t say South Dakota enough.

One more for today:


Here the nine red stars represent the nine native tribes of the Sioux Nation that reside in South Dakota. The red represents the struggles and broken promises made to those people. This makes the white bison hopefully a stronger symbol of hope. Hope that we can all work together and build a stronger state together. Or something like that.

The biggest problem I have right now is that the bison might be too complex. Future iterations might have a simplified or stylised bison.

Do you have any suggestions or designs for South Dakota you’d like to share? I’d love to hear!

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our MONSTER and the preposterous Ides of Archaioposterii!

Saturdays. I hate working Saturdays, but the people are good, so it’s tolerable. I clock out at five and get home about an hour later. I get some house work done, start to get ready for a nice relaxing evening when I check up on Facebook.

Archaioposterii: The Ides

Event: Archaiposterii: The Ides

Time: 7pm

Location: our MONSTER, Mullae

Riiiiiiiiight. Better shift gears and head out.

While my first trip to our MONSTER was a comedy of errors in the finding, my gut memory lead me quickly to my destination this time around. But had I not known where I was going, well, our MONSTER still isn’t well signed. Actually worse than last time.

Dark stairwells give way to mysterious doors.

Dark stairwells give way to mysterious doors.

But find the darkened entrance I did, and I climbed the stairs. Dark stairwells give way to mysterious doors. I enter the cave of the soothsayer.


Cara Friedman


Are these faint memories of some unspeakable horror, or omens of horrors to come?

Ghostly images hang in the middle of the room. Are these faint memories of some unspeakable horror, or omens of horrors to come? Perhaps both. Reflection is a series of prints on muslin cloth of a performance piece involving copious amounts of gum, claustrophobia and confrontation of the fear of the loss of memory and identity.

Use As Directed: Raw

Gina Dargan

Flanking the funeral shrouds along the west wall, strips of cardboard lean against the wall, lonely and waiting.

Use As Directed: Raw

I’m not sure wether to call the piece an ‘it’ or ‘they’ collective. Devoid of purpose raw material seems dejected, finding joy only in that moment when some builder picks them and tells them ‘you are needed’. But raw materials left out too long go bad. A short wait turns into a long wait, turns into desperation. Materials once for construction become landfill filler.

On the opposite wall, we take a different perspective.

Journey I, II, III and a Ghost Goose

Jenny Lee Robinson

Ghost Goose

Ghost Goose

I am an unabashed lover of maps. So these pieces hit a major zone of happiness and wonder for me.

Journey Series

Journey Series

The topographical layering of clay lends a sense of emptiness in the world. In Ghost Goose, a migrating bird leaves only its skeleton and hopes of journeys never completed. Perhaps an apocalyptic view of the end of all things.

The Journey triptych on the other hand leaves some sense of hope. We move on in hopes of finding a home. It’s up to the viewer to imagine if that hope is warranted, or they’ll become ghosts forever searching for a utopia. Existential fears! That’s another one of my happiness zones these pieces scratch.

Now, deeper into the cave we go, promising either oracles or shadows of the real world dancing for a captive audience. At the entrance of the inner cave is a reminder that some things are better left sleeping…

Cthulhu Loves the Little Children

With a little salt. 


Albert Che


Like much of Albert’s work, the twisted shapes of ancient horrors beckon to deeper unnamed fears of the loss of control over our own destinies and thoughts. Here it is accentuated by the vicious attack on a machine designed to give us freedom of movement. Whatever freedom we create for ourselves can be taken away in a moment. Perhaps this icon of the son of Yuggoth is meant to scare off lesser evils in the inner lair. 


Body Series: Ben

Megan Ratliff


Ben is a fine name, but the abstractions of the body in this space makes it a divination. These scrolls were created with thermal paper, catching parts of a naked human. A closer inspection reveals thousands of individual hairs, each captured with stunning clarity. Forget reading tea leaves or the guts of birds. Reading the movement of hair on a print of a naked body is where the real divination is at! Now what would we call that?

Use As Directed: Packaged

Gina Dargan


The cross section of cardboard boxed up. The waiting of Raw is replaced with the anticipation of moving. Is it more waiting or is it the light at the end of the tunnel hazy from the mundane realities of our working life?

As if to protect the room from evil…


Hallie Bradley


Weaving is positioned across from the images of Cthulhu and Divination. Put in this dark room we hope to keep ill fortune at bay. We might need it as we dig up the remains of

The Archeologist

Tony Clavelli and Amy Smith

The Archeologist

Taste the rainbow! The specimens are laid out in front of us, perplexing combinations of the same bone, yet from the same individual. The femurs are actually cast from real animals, orangutan (left) and wolf (right), but the skulls and vertebrae are the fiction. These pieces make the room itself feel like perhaps it is the inside of the monolith from 2001: A Space Odyssey – and rebirth awaits us after we toss these bones to guess at the future.

The Archeologist



Seeing the Show

If you want to see the exhibit, it will be up through May 22 2015, but make sure you set an appointment with – otherwise you may arrive at locked doors.

If you want to get to our MONSTER, here’s a handy graphic:

Directions to our MONSTER

The Tour

However, if you miss it, fear not! Crazy Multiply has provided a video tour. It’s good, but trust me, the immersion experience is tenfold with your own eyes.

All images and video are courtesy of Crazy Multiply Art Collective

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Happy Mother’s Day


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Myopia – An Exhibit Review


Down the alleys of the quickly gentrifying neighborhood west of Gueongbokgung Palace are art museums and art spaces. One such is Sarubiadabang (사루비아다방), located in a cool subterranean location.

The steps going down are steep. Halfway down we are greeted by a single wooden creature, gazing at us with a large solitary lense atop a long spindly neck. It invites us to descend further into the encroaching darkness into Myopia, Jürgen Dünhofen’s latest project.

The darkness covers everything. Your eyes need to adjust a bit, but lights are used for ambiance and highlighting. The space is not a void, but a kind of womb for an experience. Overhead you notice a light source is also backlighting for a pen drawing. They call you to come play.

But just before we can see the art space, a wall of words greet us. Not the words of the artist (though those are present as well), but of others who have visit before you. Questions and comments on a chalk board.

Walls properly placed help create anticipation. I was not disappointed.

The basement gave way to a dreamscape of grass populated by wooden creatures akin to the one that greeted us on the descent. My initial impression was that of a playground filled with children playing gathering and seeing. While there are common themes with the creatures, each one has its own unique take. Most have a single round lense like an eye, but a few have multiple lenses or different shaped lenses. This is fun for the observer as it invites us to try to look through their eyes.

Again, most are three legged, save for the ‘overseer’, the tallest piece with a large lense and a good view of the whole premises.

But for me the focus was the center where the only direct light was pointing. Three friends (because how can I resist using human relationship terms when they feel so human) are surrounding this central location.

But then a realization came to me. Which way are these friends looking? Which way are any of these pieces looking? Initially I assumed they looked inward. It seemed natural for us to look in and down as if investigating and sharing our gazes.

But just as plausible, these creatures could be looking away or up. Seeing beyond the walls of the basement or into the inky blackness of their skies, wondering when this perpetual eclipse will end.

The lenses present another idea to me in relation to the title of the exhibit. Each creature has its own focus, its own thing it cares about. These become their lives and loves. They exist in frozen myopi, incapable of seeing the broader picture.

The overseer, focused on the little creatures in the spot light, will not notice what is around the corner.

Peeking around the corner in an abandoned stairwell are two more creatures. They are hidden from view, content to observe with craned neck. Observe or keep lookout? Maybe both.

After sitting and contemplating I returned to the board that separates the mystic world of the three legged cyclops and wrote my own thoughts.  

The resulting dialogue can been seen here:

If you wish to see this space for yourself, you’d better run. The experience ends April 30th.

Project Space Sarubiadabang

서울 종로구 자하문로 16길 4 지하 (창성동)

The basement of 4 Jahamun-ro 16 gil, Jongno-gu, Seoul


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After Death A Tiger’s Skin Remains; A Man Leaves Only His Skin – Exhibit Review



Gallery i 

2015.4.8 ~ 4.21

On April 16, 2014, the MV Sewol capsized and sank, trapping and drowning 304 victims, most of which were high school students of Danwon High who were on a school trip. While much discussion has occurred about the political ramifications, many forget the people involved. Both those culpable due to neglect, but also those heroes and victims who leave behind only their name.

To remind us of the actual people involved and to show solidarity to the surviving parents, Martyn Thompson has dedicated his 5th solo show to re-present the heroes and villains of that incident.

the ribbon

The Ribbon – One stamp for each of the victims



The Concept

After death, a tiger’s skin remains; a man leaves only his name is a collection of work created with custom made stamps (dojang), printing ink (inju) and paper. This method was chosen, in part, because official dojangs are often presented as a present to a child as he comes of age. Each painting uses a stamp either with a Korean word spelled in hangeul or hanja, or with some other symbol. None of the pieces, save the artist’s self portrait, use the name of the hero or victim. They are all remembered by the public impressions of their actions even as the public at large forgets their names and faces.

While the core process is consistent, the execution varies considerably. Here I will take a quick look at two pieces.

The Captain

the captain

The Captain – 蟲 (bug)


Captain Lee Joon-Seok was the first off the floundering ship, leaving an unexperienced crew to deal with the disaster. The Hanja used for the captain’s stamp is 蟲 (벌레 충) or ‘bug’. The face is red, from running for his life in the cold or out of embarrassment? The black hood is reminiscent of the ‘bringer of death’, yet this death is not the kind that seeks you out. It is a flat, shallow death that kills not out of duty, but out of indifference to others. The yellow in the background is a reminder both of his cowardice, but in this case it can also be a reminder of the victims who press upon and surround the man. The cloak then becomes shelter from their judgement. Needless to say Captain Lee quickly became the go-to scape goat for the country.

However, it might be worth noting that the captain’s face is also one of the more nuanced of the show. I see this in one of two ways. One the one hand the scandal revolving around his shocking flight and criminal neglect means he received much more media attention, thus we have a more detailed picture of the man. On the other hand it might be more detailed because the viewer might see themselves in that picture. The cowardice of Captain Lee becomes our own.

The Student

the student

The Student – 용기 (courage)

But while the country had many fingers to point, there were also people who sacrificed to help others. One of these heroes was Jung Cha-Woong. In contrast to the captain, Cha-Woong’s portrait is pixilated with intense colors. The green is the dark green of pines, potentially reflecting the spirit of undying courage. The memories of the boy are now vague as the stories of his bravery represent him to all but close friends and family.

I like that the word bravery was written in the vernacular script (hangeul) rather than in the borrowed Chinese characters (Hanja). This suggests that perhaps the deepest courage, the courage born not of duty but of caring for others, is honest and and never pretentiousness. 

The Others

There are plenty of other pieces to observe and reflect on, so go check out the exhibit yourself! If you don’t live nearby or the exhibit has expired, you can also find the artwork and artist statements in the brochure

After Death, a Tiger’s Skin Remains; a Man Leaves Only His Name 

The exhibit is up through April 21st, 2015 at

Gallery i 

서울시 종로구 낙원동 283-13


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Some Thoughts on ‘Reception’ by Maiko


I melted into the dream as if I had always been there. I knew where I had come from; I knew where I was going.
-Chelsie Shakespeare

Reception is a small, unassuming work. I might have missed it had the gallery director not pointed it out. This was before the titles had be put up mind you, and she asked me what I saw. 

Ah, well, it appears to be a wedding procession. Or children playing at it. But each child has a different gaze. 

These gazes were what made the painting to me. 

But before going into details on the gazes, another oddity struck me. This procession wraps around – the bride holds her own dress as she marches forward. This struck me as a cyclical view of life. If not presenting a variation of reincarnation, where we forget our previous goes and must relearn our roles as children, then as us walking in the footsteps of those who came before us, doomed to reliving their mistakes. 


And this is where the gazes might become a narrative of sorts. The girl at the head of the procession looks forward, meloncholy writ large on her face. She is at the edge. Is she sad because the end is near, tired because of the long journey, or is she weary of the impending restart she knows is coming. Perhaps she is a mix of Cassandra and Sysiphus, doomed to see the repetition of life yet never be believed. While she appears to be leading the party, she knows that she is actually following them. 


Just behind her is a boy with purpose and goal in his eyes. He is looking forward to the reception and he intends to get everyone there. The white carnation is a sign of this passion. While he might be the bride-groom, I feel he is with Cassaandra. They both look forward, but also there is something special about the bride. I’ll get to that last. 


Taking up the rear of the procession is another couple. The girl looks down, perhaps burdened with the worries of the here and now. Each step occupies the entirety of the world to her. She is the polar opposite of Cassandra in the lead. Likewise, the boy taking the rear is the opposite of the boy in the lead. This boy is both a day-dreaming laggard and the visionary ahead of his time. His sites are not on the tedious road ahead but in the realm of fantasy and hopeful beginnings. The lilies he peers behind are a symbol of beginnings and rebirth. Are they a sign of hope, or a sign of forgetfulness?


The bride is dressed in blue. This has strong allusions to the Virgin Mary. She holds her own dress train and seems to be the the most understanding of the group. But most importantly, she is gazing at the viewer directly. It’s as if she is telling us that we too are marching in circles toward goals we will never achieve, but this is just the nature of things. 

The painting as a whole is both fanciful and world weary. Which of the wedding party are you?


Reception (34.5cm x 34.7cm)


Maiko, 2008

Cha, Eun-Young collection

2,000,000 won

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