Jean Shin, TEXTile, 2006 (detail). Computer keycaps, fabric, and projection. 36 x 46 x 276 inches.
Jean Shin, TEXTile, 2006 (detail). Computer keycaps, fabric, and projection. 36 x 46 x 276 inches.

Jean Shin:


October 7, 2006–November 18, 2006

Opening Reception:
Friday, 6 October 2006, 6:00 – 8:00 p.m.

The Fabric Workshop and Museum (FWM) is pleased to present TEXTile, a new project by Jean Shin. Shin, an Artist-in-Residence at The Fabric Workshop and Museum for the past three years, has collaborated with FWM to create an interactive textile and projected video installation which examines digital communication and contemporary life. The exhibition opens with a reception on Friday, 6 October 2006 at 6 p.m. and is on view through 18 November 2006.

Shin is known for transforming the mundane into poetic meditations on materiality. Discarded objects from everyday life-used clothes, broken umbrellas, worn-out shoes, old eyeglasses—are amassed, deconstructed, and reassembled by Shin through a labor-intensive process that hints to the objects' former function. What remains is a visually compelling and psychologically powerful transformation of life's leftovers.

For her project at FWM, Shin has developed an interactive "fabric" using thousands of discarded computer keyboard keys embedded in a continuous textile approximately 25 feet in length. The embedded key text, reads left to right, is a line-by-line transcript of the e-mail correspondence between Shin and the FWM project staff, Coordinator Abigail Lutz and Construction Technician/Studio Assistant Andrea Landau. In this way, the custom made keyboard documents the process of its own creation during the artistÕs residency.

In making the piece FWM and the artist worked with Moey inc., a renowned interactive technology research and development company to make the first three rows of the textile "active." Viewers are invited to participate in the installation by typing on these active keys. Their text instantaneously appears on the projection at the end of the cloth, creating a virtual continuation of the conversation within the key-embedded cloth.

Whether it's eyeglasses, umbrellas or computer keys, by repeating a single, mass-produced object hundreds or even thousands of times, Shin creates homogeneous, monumental structures that paradoxically emphasize the individuality and variation of the materials used. Through the laborious process of deconstruction and accumulation, Shin's objects also reveal new meanings and associations. TEXTile calls attention to the tactility of what is now a daily act for many—e-mailing. Undeniably, advances in technology in the past twenty years have made e-mail today's most prevalent mode of communication, one that has had vast repercussions on contemporary life. Shin distills the object that allows us to communicate globally down and reconfigures it in a way that calls attention to the physicality of the act of typing, emphasizing the relationship of the body to language.

In addition to the room-sized interactive sculpture, the exhibition includes a site-specific installation of command keys along the walls of the gallery, as well as a dual video projection in which two keyboards appear to play a duet of virtual correspondence like the keys on a player piano, endlessly rising and falling in a video loop like pistons.

According to FWM Director Lorie Mertes, "In the project that Jean Shin has created in collaboration with FWM, computer keys—ordinary objects that most of us touch every day as a means of communication between co-workers, friends, family around the corner or across the globe—are transformed and re-contextualized by the act of amassing and isolating them from their original function. Shin's visually stunning interactive textile encourages us to contemplate the tactile aspects of an everyday act, the pervasiveness of technology, and the role it plays in shaping contemporary society."

Born 1971, Seoul, South Korea. Lives and works in Brooklyn, New York.
Jean Shin received a BFA in Painting and an MS in Theory, Criticism and History of Art, Design and Architecture from Pratt Institute, New York. She recently participated in the Projects series at the Museum of Modern Art, New York (2004); and has had solo exhibitions at Galerie Eric Dupont, Paris (2005); Frederieke Taylor Gallery in New York (2004); and Socrates Sculpture Park, Long Island City (2003). She received a Fellowship Award in Sculpture from the New York Foundation of the Arts in 2003 and The Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Biennial Art Award in 2001. Her work is featured this fall at Museum of Glass in Tacoma, Washington, and PKM Gallery in Beijing as well as in the exhibition One Way or Another: Asian American Art Now at the Asia Society and Museum in New York, on view through December.