Critic's Guide: Seoul

Highlights of the exhibitions taking place during Gallery Weekend Korea

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Krzysztof Wodiczko, Homeless Vehicle, 1988-89. Courtesy: the artist and National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea

Krzysztof Wodiczko, ‘Instruments, Monuments, Projections’
MMCA Seoul
5 July – 9 October 2017

This huge retrospective of Krzysztof Wodiczko’s work presents everything from his early objects concerning censorship under a Polish socialist government to his ‘cultural prosthetics’ for the homeless and immigrants to his projections on monuments and civic buildings. The artist’s lifetime interest in the interventions in public spaces by minority social groupings takes on even more resonance, given the rise of ‘plaza politics’ in Korea – the term given to the series of protests numbering tens of millions of people which finally led to the impeachment of the former president in March. His new work, My Wish (2017) is a replica of the statue of Kim Gu, the Korean nationalist politician and leader of the Korean independence movement against Japanese occupation, which becomes a screen for a video projection featuring various Korean citizens. From a mother of a victim of the Sewol Ferry Disaster in 2014, to a member of a labour union, to a participant in a patriotic rally supporting the former president, the artist allows them tell their own stories. The work was produced in collaboration with artists, scenographers, and film directors in Korea.

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Siren Eun Young Jung, Directing for Gender,  2010, video still. Courtesy: the artist and Seoul Museum of Art 

‘Asian Diva: The Muse and The Monster’
Seoul Museum of Art, Buk Seoul Branch
14 July – 9 October 2017

Drawing upon Korean, Japanese and Southeast Asian pop cultures from the 1960s and ’70s, this exhibition reconsiders the formation of Asian modernity during this period – focusing specifically on the female voice. Korean pop icon Kim Chooja stars with a display of her records, concert posters and stage costumes, while elsewhere a medley of songs by Indonesian divas can be heard. The show seems to argue for feminist solidarity and that themes shared by ‘hippie modernist’ female singers can be seen as a driver in the overcoming of sexual objectification. Documentation from the archives of Japanese artist Yoshiko Shimada from when she was a member of a hippie group, and Rho Jae Oon’s mixed video footage taken from East Asian horror movies, are included as further evidence for the show’s thesis, as well as for their psychedelic visual effect. The patterns found in the abstract paintings of Ha Chonghyun’s Urban Planning Whitepaper (1970) and Han Mook’s Lightning Tower (1973) further underline the era’s dominant psychedelic mood.

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Yangachi, ‘When Two Galaxies Merge’, 2017, installation view, Atelier Hermes, Seoul. Courtesy: the artist and Atelier Hermes, Seoul

Yangachi, ‘When Two Galaxies Merge’
Atelier Hermes
8 September – 22 November 2017

Yangachi believes that digital art is a psychic medium allowing for communication with beings from other universes. The title of his solo show, ‘When Two Galaxies Merge’, signifies that moment of encounter. Working in audio as well as sculptural and video installations, here flapping canaries twitter in cages hung from the ceiling, while several famous scenes from Wong Kar Wai films from the 1990s play out from speakers. Accompanying are different sound wave frequencies, some inaudible to humans. In contrast, two keyboards and a set of cymbals stay silent as if signalling their latent potential. The show is linked to a previous work by the artist, That's the Origin of Love (2016), a performance involving a viewer getting into a car outside an art museum only for the driver (the performer) to leads them to a drive-thru cinema where Yangachi 's video When Two Galaxies Merge would be playing.

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Koo Jeong A, MYSTERIOUSSS and CURIOUSSSA, both 2017, installation view, Art Sonje Center, Seoul. Courtesy: the artist and Pilar Corrias, London

Koo Jeong A ‘ajeongkoo’
Art Sonje Center
26 August – 22 November 2017

Though she states that she lives and works ‘everywhere’, Koo Jeong A has built a strong career predominantly around Europe, including her recent solo projects in London and Marseille last year. Since 2014, though, she has enjoyed a stronger presence in Asia. After the showcase in Yuz Museum in Shanghai last year, she finally has her first solo exhibition in her home country. ‘ajeongkoo’, is an inversion of her name, and a virtual space she coined for this exhibition. The show includes Dr. Vogt (2010), an installation of 60 pen drawings hung along the wall under fluorescence pink lighting, and two new 3D film animations MYSTERIOUSSS and CURIOUSSSA (both 2017). In each, a character resembling a fetus takes a spacewalk on a huge LED panel. The two animations are linked by a key theme for the artist, ‘Ousss’ – a term denoting a prefix, a person or a place (here the name of a virtual world) which she has been developing since 1998. The artist will have another solo project at the MMCA Gwacheon in November.

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Kim Yunchul, ‘GYRE’, 2017, installation view, Gallery Baton, Seoul. Courtesy: Gallery Baton, Seoul

Kim Yunchul, ‘GYRE’, 2017, installation view, Gallery Baton, Seoul. Courtesy: Gallery Baton, Seoul

Kim Yunchul, ‘GYRE’
Gallery Baton
30 August – 30 September 2017

A member of a cross-disciplinary research programme at the Korean Institute of Advanced Study and a winner of the 2016 COLLIDE Award hosted by the European Council for Nuclear Research, Kim Yunchul insists that you don’t need to hold a Masters in Science to understand his kinetic installations. Like the exhibition title, this solo show features various performances of swirling golden or silvery liquid suspensions, cased in various devices of his own invention. Using theories of hydro dynamics and combinations of various materials, what results is the creation of beautiful visual effects. An extensive drawing hung on the front wall becomes a blueprint for the exhibition. The artist sketched jiggling curves and geometric figures over a period of two years to actualize the perfect shape of gyration he had inside his mind.

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Lin + Lam, Tomorrow I leave, 2015, video still. Courtesy: the artist and KF Gallery, Seoul

‘Salt of the Jungle’
KF Gallery
17 August – 18 October 2017

This year Korea and Vietnam are enjoying a period of cultural harmony while fine-tuning their emotional distance. A range of conferences and exhibitions held in Seoul this year highlighted the importance of Vienamese art, not particularly well known in Korea until recently. The exhibition title, ‘Salt of the Jungle’, is borrowed from a Vietnamese novel. it refers to a rare white flower signifying peace and prosperity – hence to a thing both hard to find and achieve. The exhibition focuses on the two countries’ similar modern histories such as their democratization in the 1980s and their subsequent rapid economic development. While visualized differently, both portent and impact of change is reflected in the young Vietnamese and Korean artists’ works on view.

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Michael Craig-Martin, Commonplace (with mouse), 2017, acrylic on aluminium, 2 x 2.5 m. Courtesy: the artist and Gagosian © Michael Craig-Martin. photograph: Mike Bruce

Michael Craig-Martin, Commonplace (with mouse), 2017, acrylic on aluminium, 2 x 2.5 m. Courtesy: the artist and Gagosian © Michael Craig-Martin. photograph: Mike Bruce

Michael Craig-Martin, ‘All in All’
Gallery Hyundai
21 September – 5 November 2017

Michael Craig-Martin opens his largest solo show since his Serpentine Gallery exhibition in 2015. For his second solo exhibition in Korea in five years (both at Hyundai) 30 new acrylic paintings on aluminium will be displayed. Craig-Martin continues to depict a series of ordinary digital devices such as an iPhone, a memory stick and a laptop reflecting today’s ever-changing consumer culture in his typically pop colour palette. A new series created especially for this exhibition show extreme close-ups of the everyday objects such as an umbrella and a wine opener in elongated screens. Combining black bold outlines and vivid colours, his style has become increasingly minimal.

Gallery Weekend Korea runs 21 – 24 September 2017.

Main image: Rho Jae Oon, Universal Cinema, 2017, video still. Courtesy: © Rho Jae Oon


Tiffany Yeon Chae is a writer and editor based in Seoul.

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