Modern Societies
Texas State Galleries (Jan. 19–April 11, 2021)
Single-channel video installation

Modern Societies, 2021
Single-channel digital video, color, sound, 7 min., 26 sec.

Link to exhibition.

Modern Societies

Accompanied by Burial's track "Nightmarket" (2016), Modern Societies consists of photographs composed into a seven minute atmospheric landscape—a play on the genre of still life or nature morte.

The otherworldly terrain depicted in Modern Societies is made from salt dough (water, salt, and enriched wheat)—one of the earliest materials used for modeling, while representative of the now industrialized staff of life. Photographed in arrangements that elicit associations to the geological, animal, and botanical, the montage is a meditation that explores estrangement as a distinguishing characteristic of modernity's industrialization and instrumentalization of nature.

Choi's photographs were inspired by bodegón, a kind of 17th-century Spanish genre painting, wherein everyday domestic objects were combined with elements of nature such as flowers, fruit, vegetables, and dead animals in dramatically lit tableaus. The sequencing and pacing of these images is intended to conjure a sensory and cinematic awareness of the act of looking—a reminder that this environment is a construction informed by a history of pictures that have "naturalized" nature's domestication.

Due to rights restrictions, this video cannot be viewed in its entirety with audio online. Please contact for a link to view the entire work with sound.


Modern Societies I at Texas State Galleries. Curated by Margo Handwerker.


Audio composition: Burial (2016)

Installation photography: Anthony Cross