Bodhi Obfuscatus (Allegiance)

Public Art

Bodhi Obfuscatus (Allegiance)

A video helmet, devised by the artist and equipped with forty-eight live surveillance cameras, examined every detail of New York teenagers’ faces as they told stories about their lives and attempted to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. The resulting multimedia installation presented the close-up portraits as a dense matrix of recorded projection, reflected video imagery, and mirrors, examining the relationship of science, technology, and politics within institutional spaces.
Michael Joo



The Project Room for New Media at Chelsea Art Museum

Michael Joo, Bodhi Obfuscatus (Allegiance) , The Project Room for New Media at Chelsea Art Museum, 2007.
  • Project description
  • About the artist

Bodhi Obfuscatus (Allegiance) was a multi-media installation with video projection, mirrors and sound. A video helmet, devised by the artist as the equivalent of 48 live surveillance cameras, examined every detail of New York teenagers’ faces as they told stories about their lives and attempted to recite the “Pledge of Allegiance.” In the video installation, the close-up portraits, at once representational and abstract, were presented as a dense matrix of recorded projection and reflected video imagery.

Joo’s video helmet was part of an ongoing project that has been used to record sculptures in examining the relationship of science, technology and religion within institutional spaces. In this new work, the static icon was replaced by living beings, themselves representative of adolescence, for a meditation on the uneasy balance between uncertainty and conviction that signals change.


This project was produced as part of Art Creates Communities, one of More Art’s founding projects. Artists showing in the Chelsea galleries were connected via More Art to the local community, encouraging a dialogue, and seeking to create a strong link with the young people who live in the neighborhood and attend the local public schools. The goal of Art Creates Communities, which was in its third edition in 2007, was for everybody to partake of the creative energy galvanizing the Chelsea neighborhood. The strategy was to show the younger generation how to tap its own budding creativity and convey the message that in life they should never be passive spectators but actively grasp challenges and changes.

Artists were invited to collaborate with teenagers from the Clinton Middle School for Writers and Artists (MS260), engaging them in the different media of modern artistic expression, including photography, video, painting, and performance art. The final projects were important works in their own right.

The artists included Slater Bradley, Jay Davis, Nancy Drew, Michael Joo, Michael Rakowitz, Saya Woolfalk. Artist-educator Tim Rollins  acted as an advisor, contributing his two decade-long experience working with kids in the Bronx to this project.


Michael Joo

Michael Joo is a conceptual artist whose work is rooted in an examination of perception. He is more interested in the way we perceive than what it is we are looking at.

Joo’s multi-disciplinary studio practice mobilizes intense scientific research, ontology, epistemology, and entropy, creating a cross-disciplinary and multidimensional dialogue that results in aesthetic phenomena that document the process of their creation. The hybrid aspect of Joo’s aesthetic language reflects his own history. Born to Korean parents in the United States, Joo was raised in a multicultural environment that was influenced by a range of interests including science, academia, and artistry.

By juxtaposing humanity’s various pools of knowledge and culture, Joo addresses the fluid nature of identity, mirroring the complexity and richness of his individual identity and of the collective identity of contemporary society.

By combining a range of techniques associated with sculpture, painting, photography, and printmaking, the work continually blurs the boundaries between art and science. Joo’s intention as an artist is to achieve the unachievable: to make us see an object in real life that is barely conceivable as thought alone.

Major exhibitions of Joo's work include Perspectives: Michael Joo, Smithsonian Freer | Sackler Museum, Washington, DC, USA; 49th Venice Biennale, Korean Pavilion, Italy; Sensory Meridian, Kavi Gupta, Chicago, IL, USA; Michael Joo, Conserving Momentum (Egg/Gyro/Laundry Room), White Cube London, UK; Michael Joo: Drift, The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, Ridgefield, CT, USA; Michael Joo: Drift (Bronx), The Bronx Museum of Arts, New York, NY, USA; Michael Joo, Doppelganger, Cass Sculpture Foundation, Sussex, UK; and Michael Joo Retrospective, Palm Beach Institute of Contemporary Art, Palm Beach, CA, USA. Joo is a Senior Critic in Sculpture at Yale University and teaches in the Columbia University MFA program. His work is in the permanent collections of the Guggenheim Museum, MoMA, and Whitney Museum of American Art in New York; Denver Art Museum; Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; and Moderna Museet, Stockholm, Sweden, among others.