text. Eunji Park
translation. Yes More Translation
:DDDD: You are the system administrator of Min Guhong Manufacturing (Min Guhong Mfg.) but also have various roles including editor, designer, writer, translator, webprogram developer, and educator. Like boo-ke – 부캐: abbreviation of ‘boo-character,’ meaning ‘multi-persona’ and a new term recently became popular in Korea – is Min Guhong Mfg. a platform which enables its system administrator to play various roles apart from the main role of editing? How do you differentiate your personal work from the company’s business?
:Min Guhong Mfg.: Somebody has said: “Min Guhong Mfg. might be an output of what Min Guhong – who has many jobs as well as editing – edited himself, only focusing on his own happiness or editor’s guidelines to get the output.” In the publishing industry, ‘editing’ tends to have a narrow definition. But I regard it as activities including creation, or maybe in a slightly different dimension than creation, and I believe it is. It was a while ago when I first became conscious about the act of editing. It was when I first used a computer and indulged in playing computer games, and I found ‘Game Editor’ software that allowed me to change the skills and abilities of characters and even the program itself by manipulating the database of the computer game. It was not a common route, but the ‘editing’ I first learned was an act of control, governing a solid framework from in and out. My understanding is not so different now than it was then. Of course, I also agree with the point that editing can be a violent activity in a way.
To tell you about myself, I am an introvert. I spend most weekends at home. To such a person, it was quite embarrassing in many ways to decide to show my work with my name on it. Min Guhong Mfg. is intended to keep me as far away from embarrassment as possible. It may just have only ‘manufacturing’ after my name, but that means a lot. It is the reason why it aims to represent a company rather than a small studio, even though the employee is only myself. Yet, however I try to edit the relationship of the two – myself and the company – the boundary becomes blurred outside the concept. The work of Min Guhong Mfg. sometimes becomes the work of workroom press, which this company is parasitic to. Even at this very moment, the switch to transfer between Min Guhong and Min Guhong Mfg. operates a number of times. However, the imperfectness that it is impossible to edit everything perfectly neatly makes the act of editing more valuable.
:DDDD: Why does Min Guhoung Mfg. have ‘introducing the company in various ways’ as its main job?
:Min Guhong Mfg.: Regardless of the field, in the core of every productive activity there is a beautiful precious desire for someone to introduce themselves, the subject of the production. In this regard, there is not much difference between Ufan Lee, Virgil Abloh, and an artist who had a solo show at the Mapo Lifelong Learning Center. DDDD might be the same, I guess... Min Guhong Mfg. tries to be true to the desire, even if it is seen as naive. Just as a company, it tries to be conscious of it and reveals it through stylization.
:DDDD: Min Guhong Mfg. puts efforts into wording above all; the name of company has ‘manufacturing’ and that the company is ‘parasitic’ to workroom press. You call what you create ‘products’ instead of ‘works of art’. I found it interesting. Especially since you have addressed the negative connotations of the word ‘product’ related to the market economy. Could you tell me more about that?
:Min Guhong Mfg.: “Is tomato a fruit?’ – this is a question asked by Laurel Schwulst about source codes of _Mysterious Fruit_, one of my previous products. I answered: “Some people say tomato is fruit, others say it is not. Some people say both. Whatever the truth is, when I believe that tomato is fruit, it becomes fruit for me.” The fantasy that language reflects things in reality as they are has been broken. What is important is how the subject sees and defines things; and a step forward, how to edit them. I think the word ‘work of art’ does not reflect the reality in which customers of the product exist, instead blurring the reality and even adding a layer of fantasy. Also, because Min Guhong Mfg. is a ‘company’ I thought it was natural to use the word ‘products’ to refer to everything produced by the company. Maybe I labelled it as a company because I wanted to call what is created ‘products.’
:DDDD: Many of your products are based on web technologies. Unlike the usual way of pricing products, people are encouraged to donate as much as they want for your products, which means they could be distributed for free. Is this to do with collaboration culture? Or an open source spirit that is common for program developers? Or is it to do with your operation method (parasitism), marketing strategy, or technological limitations?
:Min Guhong Mfg.: The web is one of various media to be utilized to introduce the company. So sometimes people think of it as a web design agency. The reasons why Min Guhong Mfg. mainly uses the web is because it is easy to use, has great ripple effect, and – most of all – is very likely what most people see before going to bed. Although we are now observing initiatives to decentralize the web, focusing on the philosophy of ‘sharing’ such as Beaker Browser, the usual practice online is to rent a specific server, which echoes our survival strategy, ‘parasitism’. But the platform is not very important as long as I achieve my goal to introduce the company. If there is the opportunity, I would like to make use of traditional media such as newspapers, magazines, TV or billboards. I don’t mind introducing my company in museums or galleries too.
:DDDD: Your products are presented and for sale on left gallery and DDDD. Is there a reason why you work with these alternative online platforms? In particular, left gallery uses blockchain, not only allowing people to purchase works with cryptographic currency but also recording the reproduction, dissemination and transaction of digital works. Has Min Guhong Mfg. – which mainly produces, displays, and sells web-based or digital files – ever had difficulties in distributing or protecting copyright or felt the need for new technology for it?
:Min Guhong Mfg.: A definition of ‘manufacturing’ is "an industry in which products are produced in large quantities with raw materials processed through human resources or mechanical power." Focusing on mass production, Min Guohong's Mfg. products can be reproduced with HTML a tag and distributed anywhere. Even if a product is modified, customers can experience the latest version just by clicking the 'refresh' button on their web browser. Even if the product will fade in memory, each version can be viewed. Thanks to hyperlinks, the biggest feature that distinguishes the web from other media, the most complete mass production and distribution commerce system has been enabled. The inherent limitation that they cannot exist without a web browser is not a problem today when computers and web browsers are even on refrigerators. Another limitation is that the copyright issue is left to the ethics of customers, given that all the source code of the product is disclosed only at the front end. I want to emulate Amazon's bold spirit, which is generous at least to its customers. Miltos Manetas, a Greek-born artist, says this in his work Manetas Dogma of Painting submitted for the 50th Venice Biennale: “Make copies of your most important paintings and permit others to copy them. All important painters of the past were making copies and that's why their work has survived today.”
:DDDD: Virus Simulator (2020) is now on view on DDDD. This product is themed on Covid-19 whereas your previous products mainly focus on introducing the company. Have you experienced changes since the outbreak of Covid-19?
:Min Guhong Mfg.: In the works of Min Guhong Mfg., self-promotion is conducted in various ways. Sometimes naturally, in another time explicitly, unexpectedly; sometimes in the way of depending on the reputation of others. This product does other things but also introduces the company, just the way in which Min Guhong Mfg. sits among flowers, trees, stones, humans, and cherries in the world of the product. Since the outbreak of Covid-19, I have received more inquiries about products and technical support from museums and galleries, especially with their offline exhibitions cancelled. Although it takes a while to respond because it is a one-person company, I am trying my best to get back to them according to ‘Min Guhong Mfg. guidelines for inquiries management.’ A Korean intern who was working remotely in Arnhem, the Netherlands, where they studied, returned to Korea and stayed in the company's host workroom office for a month. They are on a business trip to Jeju island now.
:DDDD: You explained the product with an old Chinese saying: “If you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles (知彼知己 百戰不殆).” What made you think of the scenario?
:Min Guhong Mfg.: “You are a virus.” It is the first sentence you will see in Virus Simulator. In the program, a user is a virus and should find the weak and infect all of them for the peace of the world. When infecting weak people, the user gets encouraged with the message “good,” and when meeting healthy people, the user loses limited chances and gets a message saying: “Stay healthy!” But the user who receives the message is in fact a human who either has been infected or hasn’t been infected yet. Rather than revealing the biological fact that humans are another virus on planet earth, Virus Simulator is an attempt to understand humans from the perspective of viruses. Somebody’s misfortune can sometimes be everyone else’s happiness. Such impudent optimism that somebody would find peace in the end. And I thought this way might be more useful than countless newly launched Covid-19 data websites to some people. It is also our own way to ask after customers.
:DDDD: It was also interesting that users can print out the peaceful world on the screen when infecting all the weak and finally save the world. It felt like getting a certificate for life-and-death training. Although it is simple, it gives us a small feeling of satisfaction to remember the result afterwards. Was there a reason for the ending of the product?
:Min Guhong Mfg.: Whether it is for a virus or a human, I wish saving the world was as easy and simple as printing the world in the program.
:DDDD: Min Guhong Mfg. displayed its products at various spaces including Archive Bomm, Art Sonje Center, and Seoul Museum of Art, and is going to participate in DDDD’s upcoming exhibition in September. Exhibitions in the real world are obviously different from online exhibitions in terms of media, installation process, display, and viewing; what does showing three-dimensional output mean to you?
:Min Guhong Mfg.: I’m thankful to be able to work on other media using the tax I’ve been paying to the Seoul City Government. Other than that, there is no difference to our main job of introducing the company, Min Guhong Mfg., to the audience.
:DDDD: Is there a possibility that Min Guhong Mfg. will be independent from the host in the future?
:Min Guhong Mfg.: I’m afraid not. Min Guhong Mfg. is destined to go out of business as soon as it leaves the host. That is the reason why I have not registered as a business in spite of many requests. It is the Maginot Line for the company’s survival in the time of Covid-19 when many industries have been facing fundamental crisis.
:DDDD: The layout of the Min Guhong Manufacturing website hasn’t changed for the last five years. Any reason why?
:Min Guhong Mfg.: It’s the same reason why the first-ever website has kept the same layout for 30 years.
:DDDD: Could you share your plan for the future of Min Guhong Mfg?
:Min Guhong Mfg.: I will keep not doing the 37 things listed on ‘About the Company (What We Don’t Do’ target: _blank) announced when the company was founded in 2015 – that’s the plan.