Joan Kee is Associate Professor in the History of Art at the University of Michigan. The author of Contemporary Korean Art: Tansaekhwa and the Urgency of Method (2013) and Models of Integrity: Art and Law in Post-Sixties America (2019), she co-edited To Scale (2015) and has published widely on various aspects of modern Asian art. Kee is a member of the international advisory boards of Art History and the Oxford Art Journal. Her current research focuses on abstract ink painting, portraiture by and of women in mid-century Korea and early 20th century Korean graphic design.
A young woman sits in the center of a room crammed with laboratory equipment (fig. 1). Behind her are glass flasks filled with unknown liquids and neatly arranged in rows. A large table juts from the painting’s right edge. It groans under the accumulated weight of numerous implements all intended to measure, gauge, and subsequently coax into orderly submission the unruly world of the living. Next to the woman is a kymograph, used for measuring physiological response in animals. Battery powered, it records responses transmitted through electrodes attached to the subjects and is frequently used in pharmacological experiments monitoring the effects of drugs. Two white rabbits housed in round wire-mesh cages below the table await their fate. Particularly conspicuous against the general pallor of the laboratory space is a black microscope placed on one corner of the table. It is positioned to the right of the young woman, who wears a laboratory coat of such dazzling whiteness that it seems to thrust her body toward the painting’s surface.