Jean Shin

Jean Shin, "TEXTile" Detail, 2006
Jean Shin, in collaboration with The Fabric Workshop and Museum, Philadelphia, TEXTtile (exhibition view), 2006. Computer keycaps, fabric, and projection. 36 x 46 x 276 inches.

Digital communication and modern life were the subjects of Jean Shin’s FWM project, TEXTile. Shin developed an interactive “fabric” using thousands of computer keyboard keys embedded in a continuous textile measuring approximately twenty-five feet long by forty-six inches wide. The embedded keys spell out the email correspondence between Shin and FWM’s studio staff. An armature supports the key-embedded cloth, holding the front of the cloth in a desk-like position. The first three rows of embedded keys were wired to operate as a working computer keyboard. FWM created these “active” keys in collaboration with Moey Inc., an interactive research and development company known for creating innovative and dynamic technology-based exhibits. Viewers participated in the installation by typing on the “active keys” at the beginning of the cloth. TEXTile projected their text instantaneously onto the upright end of the cloth in a font that mimicked the appearance of computer keys. Thus the viewer’s text became a virtual continuation of the key-embedded cloth, providing a seamless progression from the actual to the virtual keyed cloth.

During her residency at FWM, Shin also developed two other works. Key Promises was an installation consisting of hundreds of deconstructed computer command keys that Shin placed on the wall at eye level in a continuous line that wrapped around the gallery. The keys formed a concrete poem, metaphorically following the viewer’s path through space from the entrance to the exit: “pause/break” to “Space” to “Return” and “Home.”

Duet was a two-channel video installation in which two keyboards appeared to play a duet of virtual correspondence to the rhythm of fingers tapping on a keyboard. The keys were played like the keys on a player piano, endlessly rising and falling in a video loop.

Artist Bio

Born in 1971, Seoul, Korea. Based in Brooklyn, New York. 
Jean Shin creates large-scaleoften site-specificinstallations and sculptures. Known for her work using accumulated multiples of discarded everyday items, Shin’s intricate environments explore abstraction through multiplicity, expanding the potential of objects to take on new forms and meanings. Through extensive research, material collection, engagement with communities, and investigation of identities, her work thoughtfully and meticulously weaves social and environmental concernsembracing their interconnectedness. Shin received a BFA in Painting as well as an MS in Art History and Criticism from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, NY. She also attended the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in Skowhegan, ME, and holds an honorary doctorate from New York Academy of Art, New York, NY. She has received various prestigious awardsmost recently, the Frederic Church Award. Her work has been extensively exhibited and collected in the U.S., including solo exhibitions at Asian Art Museum, San Francisco, CA; Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY; and Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C.  
Shin has a significant and ongoing relationship with the City of Philadelphia. In her 2006 residency and exhibition at The Fabric Workshop and Museum, she created the piece TEXTile, an interactive length of “fabric” made with computer keyboard keys. In 2018, the Philadelphia Museum of Art presented a solo exhibition of Shin’s work, entitled Collections, which included a new work that explored personal relationships and connections within the city’s Asian American art community. In 2022, Philadelphia Contemporary commissioned Freshwater, a new body of work dedicated to the ecological importance of freshwater mussels along the Delaware River.