Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries & Punk Aesthetics

Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries (YHCHI) is the duo of American Marc Voge and South Korean Young-hae Chang, operating in Seoul, South Korea. Most of their works can be considered kinetic poetry or digital poetry. All of their works I have viewed use flash animation to create the movement of words in the web browser and use the Monaco font. They also utilize a limited color palette, black, white, and red. As far as I understand, all of their browser-based work fits this form, which we saw in class with DAK0TA. The simplicity of this form allows Voge & Chang to convey direct, immediate, and critical political and social commentary. The aesthetic choices made by YHCHI bear many similarities to American punk visual aesthetics originating in late 70s and early 80s.

So, how do I define punk visual aesthetics? Simplicity, immediacy, and directness hallmarks of punk visual aesthetics. These qualities stem from the DIY (Do It Yourself) movement within punk, which stresses working outside traditional, hierarchical systems of releasing music and art and creating one’s own system for creating art and dealing with the audience directly. The DIY movement frees artists to pursue their creativity unhindered by corporate interests and challenges them to work with limited resources. The limitations of creating record covers, flyers, and other works with one’s own financial resources led to artists making statements simply and directly with striking immediacy. The goal is usually instant recognition with the smallest amount of visual data. The visual aesthetic is generally secondary to the content (in punk’s case the music). Here are some examples:

The Black Flag logo


The Misfits logo

This style has been influential on popular culture for decades for example, shudder, Green Day’s American Idiot album cover:

Please forgive me for this oh gods of punk

YHCHI’s works are also simple, direct, and immediate because they strip down form to very basic elements and barrage the reader with socio-politically conscious messages. Like punks, YHCHI eschew a complex form to focus on the content of their work. Also similar to punk the presentation of the content is often abrasive and unsettling. Punk achieved this through distorted guitars, fast tempos, and screaming. YHCHI achieves this through fast-flashing text capable of inducing seizures.

One YHCHI work particularly reminiscent of punk aesthetics is “CUNNILINGUS IN N0RTH K0REA“. “CUNNILINGUS IN N0RTH K0REA” is a poem satirically championing communism and sexual equality and the resulting increase of sexual pleasure in North Korea. Mostly black and white text are utilized, although red pops up to emphasize certain sections. The poem reads like a piece of propaganda produced by the North Korean government (mimicking propaganda is a common trope in punk aesthetics) declaring how North Korean men are sexually superior to South Korean men in pleasuring women.  “CUNNILINGUS IN N0RTH K0REA” uses satire to show how oppression in North Korea is often disguised as liberation and freedom. Similarly, punk is often critical of systems of power and how they perpetuate oppression and hinder freedom.

  4 comments for “Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries & Punk Aesthetics

  1. February 8, 2012 at 3:42 pm

    I love these connections you’re making. I’m interested particularly in the significance of black within these compositions. That Black Flag logo, for example, I remember reading once how it was inspired by the Neoplastic style (or De Stijl) where the goal was to reduce representational work to its absolute minimum conditions. So the fact that those bars reference just barely a flag in motion is right at the boundary between abstraction and representation. If there’s a politics to that kind of alignment, it makes sense to associate it with the punk movement as a countercultural outlier.

    So, since YHCHI do already have a specific musical component to their work, how do you think jazz fits into this association you’re arguing for?

  2. pkeily
    February 8, 2012 at 5:03 pm

    The use of jazz reminds me more of sampling in hip-hop, an aesthetic movement originating around the same time as punk and with similar goals. In hip-hop the poetry is verbal, but in YHCHI’s work the poetry is visual.
    But in the context of punk aesthetic, I’d say the sampling of jazz songs has to do with the practice of DIY. Sampling is something anyone can do fairly easily, YHCHI sample entire jazz recordings which doesn’t involve the tedious process of cutting up tracks, so they are just utilizing the means they have to create something fitting their vision. Also, the jazz recordings they use seem to be mostly centered around drums (not sure if it that’s just the original recordings or if they digitally alter the drums to be louder) which adds to the “in your face” or abrasive nature of their work.

Leave a Reply to pkeily Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *