What a busy and exciting day it was today. We were suppose to go to Kookmin University today, but I believed that I wasn’t going to do as much as I wanted as the exhibition was still up, so instead I decided to go with Jess around some museum in Seoul and getting to know some more about South Korea’s history and culture.
We began our day by exploring the National Museum of Korean Contemporary History. The Museums is Korea’s first museum recording the nation’s comprehensive history from the late nineteenth century to current time.
After the immersive experience into Korea’s history we went to the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art and what an inspiration.The Korea Artist Prize is recognised not only as the flagship of the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, but certainly as the most prestigious art award in Korea. Intended to support the most capable and creative artists in Korea, the Korea Artist Prize always draws tremendous interest from the art field and general public alike.
We began by going to Gallery 1 which had an exhibition on Kim Eull. He constructed a life-size two-story building that people could enter and explore. Blurring the boundary between the real and virtual, the interior of the building included a replica of the artist’s studio, allowing visitors to observe firsthand the process of artistic creation. Hence, the world of the artists collides with our own world in an explosion of thoughts and ideas, perhaps represented by the 1450 glittering stars that are drawn in the gallery, forming a small galaxy.
Installed in the open space of Gallery 2 was the works of Back Seung Woo, showing his diverse attempts to shatter the formal limitations and rigid interpretative frames of the medium of photography. By altering the brightness and colour of certain parts of his photos from various ways, or rearranging the photos from their original order, Back recalibrate the audience’s reception of the works, inspiring a wealth of new meanings and possibilities.
Gallery 2 also featured the works of Ham Kyungah and Mixrice(Yang Chul-mo, Cho Ji-eun), all of which deal with various forms of immigration, from the movement of people for their own survival to the differences between political, economic, social, and cultural systems. Famous for her embroidery works made by North Korean craftspeople, Ham Kyungah presents sculpture, installation, and performance on the themes of defecting and settling. Meanwhile, Mixrice addresses the social phenomena of incessant movement, where people, especially migrant workers, who are invisible to Korean society, are forced to continually move because of their inability to secure a steady job, education, or income. To examine these issues, Mixrice directly collaborated with different groups of immigrant workers to produce a variety of works such as installations, murals and videos.
Within the Museum we moved to perhaps my favourite exhibition, Craft Narrative: Place, Process, Perspective which was both a site through which the human hands imbue new meanings to heatless objects, and a craft workshop which demonstrates the history and labor of specific craft artists. The exhibition focused not only on the material, skills and technology required for the birth of craft in the site of life, it also sheds light on the attitude and worldview of becoming a craft artist, reproducing the narratives of space and time.
Based on understanding, respect and timeless experience in life, creating objects through the ‘gestures of hand’ comes with thousands of repeated hammering in order to overcome the limitations of the material. Craft artists stand face-to-face with the speed of machines today, engaging in a lovely but firm struggle with slower, the process in the creation of a work of craft, and the sense of manual labor in it can propose meaningful alternatives to the infinite consumption of mechanically produced products and resulting worldview.
‘Craft’ demands that objects transcend the originality and uniqueness which separates them from everyday life. Though craft, objects are invited to return to the human life where they belong, where they can provide the psychological foundation for us to realize humanity and establish bonds and exchanges with each other. Therefore, we must acknowledge the true values of craft and the hand, and focus on craft artists who work in a more humane way by applying in full their entire body, unique expertise and diverse material so that craft can be imbued in to human life. Also, we must realize that human emotions like happiness, sense of aesthetics, accomplishments, and at times despair accompany the repeated and subconscious gesture of craft which marks no beginning and end, and that new questions are being formed in the process of such series of rumination and transformations, Therefore, it’s imperative that we reread reclaim craft today, as a means to restore the intimate communication between people, reclaim and meditate upon daily life, and rediscover the lost meaning of handicraft and craftmanship.
My favourite, KiHo Kang, which I previously saw his work at Ceramic Art London 2016. His which work relies completely on the potential and possibility of clay. The technique of coiling relies absolutely on time and the senses remembered on the fingertips as the thumb and index finger press the clay for it to form into a certain thickness and to stick together. Such way of working applies minimum use of tools and machines, and completely adapts the body of the artist. The artists wedges the clay and repeats the endless cycles of questions and answers within himself. The audience of his work who can understand and appreciate such process, is able to bond with the artist, collapsing the rupture between artist and the form, and mutually exchanging sense. His white porcelain jars don’t strive to retain the original form in horizontal and vertical symmetry, rather, each line becomes a manifest through the artist’s breath, bulging out in the belly of the jar or tightening in the slender shoulders.
I tried to find the video that was shown on the Museum, however, I didnt manage to find it, but found one in which he produces a teapot using the same techniques.
Addressing issues of self and others, Kimsooja‘s work spans site-specific installation, performance, video and photo using sound, light and bed covers. With the gaze of a mirror and a needle that reveals and brings us to an awareness of self, Kimsooja investigates questions concerning the conditions of humanity, while engaging politics, environment and various issues that we are facing in this era. Kimsooja brings together a conceptual and structural investigation of performance, installation, video and photography, as well as painting, drawing and sculpture, through an exploration of materiality/immateriality, mobility/immobility, in a manner of non-making and non-doing, that inverts the notion of the artist as the predominant actor. It will also provide viewers with a forum where they reflect on life and the art of our generation through their engagement and communication.
We further went to The National Folk Museum of Korea. It is the only national museum devoted to the history of traditional life, and most of the collection is closely related to the daily routines and occupations of pre-modern Koreans. The diverse range of items includes wooden kimchi containers acquired during a folk research project in Gangwon Province mountain communities; skirts and jackets worn by newlywed brides; Joseon-era ornaments unearthed from graves; farming implements, and records of real estate transactions. The various pieces are organized and classified according to function and exhibited in our three interior exhibition halls and one open-air exhibition space.
Just by the Folk Museum there was the Gyeongbokgung Palace. Gyeongbokgung Palace, was the main royal palace of the Joseon dynasty. Built in 1395, it is located in northern Seoul. The largest of the Five Grand Palaces built by the Joseon dynasty, Gyeongbokgung served as the home of Kings of the Joseon dynasty, the Kings’ households, as well as the government of Joseon. Today, the palace is arguably regarded as being the most beautiful and grandest of all five palaces.
After such a long and immersive day we went to Hongdae, known for its urban arts and indie music culture, clubs and entertainments. Jongjin Park kindly took us to a restaurant in the student district and after to this bar in which we experienced the Korean drinking culture.
p.s. I had to backtrack the date of this blog post because clearly soju and blogging don’t mix.