Youngmin Choe - Associate Professor, Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures, University of Southern California
States of compression and acceleration are often used conceptually to refer to the rapid modernization of some Asian nations. South Korea’s “compressed modernity” and China’s “globalization on speed” capture the fast pace of industrial change, inferring not only an economic condition but also a “civilizational” one of intense social and cultural pressure on the human body to conform to the demands of the labor market. The history of “compressed modernity” in South Korea is generally conceived in socio-economic terms, continuing into a “post-compressed modernity.” These states of compression and acceleration tend to be conceptualized in terms of time and space. But compression also refers to a material process and condition that when exerted hits a maximal yield or stress point, and surprisingly, this has not been a part of the discourse of compressed modernity. This talk will explore decompression as a critical act and counter-discourse to compressed modernity, focusing on porosity and viscous matter. Beginning at the surface with cutaneous membranes and skin as interface, it discusses media art’s engagement with skin technologies, and skincare as a kind of technological medium. On a deeper level, it will examine the extraction of viscous matter from bodies with a focus on the Netflix series, The School Nurse Files (2020) written and directed by the film director Yi Kyoungmi, based on the science fiction writer Chung Serang’s novel.