Review: Simon Morley

Korea Land of the Dawn Simon Morley at ARTLINK 9.6 – 9.30

At ARTLINKin Samcheong-dong, Simon Morley’s show Korea Land of the Dawn was a mix of works including floor to ceiling length scrolls with long lists of words describing Korea—a veritable lexicon for the idea of The Land of Morning Calm; beautifully rendered watercolors ekphrasic-like stick constructions, of familiar phrases describing Korea; white on white paintings of the covers of the earliest travelogues about Korea; as well as an unremarkable video scrolling the words from the scrolls over a creek bed. The show was surprising in its frank reflection of Korea from archaic Western perspectives, not because the work was so much a reflection of Korea from a Western perspective, but because the works shown so clearly staked out that it was of and about Korea, even as it was not. Like so much about the East that is from the West, the distance created by language and spectator were obvious and uncritical. Yet Morley by whiting out the covers of the books suggested that all is not what it seems. As ethnography, in reverse perhaps, Morely’s inspection or cataloguing could easily become just another travelogue, but in his repetitions and representations he showed how words can easily become meaning, inscribed in layers over time.

reviewed by Julia Marsh

 

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Review: Sun Yuan and Peng Yu

Teenager Teenager Sun Yuan and Peng Yu at Arario 9.6 – 10.9

In September and early October on the first floor of Arario Gallery the show Teenager Teenager by Sun Yuan and Peng Yu was a startling installation of rock headed, hairy-handed Neanderthals, a wealthy and oversized family seated in an arrangement as if prepared for a tableau in a natural history museum. Flanking this mannequin grouping, a real soccer player repeatedly kicked a soccer ball into the street side plate glass window, jolting passersby out of their blasé negotiations of that narrow street in Samcheong-dong. The juxtaposition of these works might seem incongruous but, the opposition, play and fossilization, elicited the relations between distractions and authority, sport and spectacle. Even the title is a bit of a scolding or anathema. Like Sisyphus, the ball is kicked to no end, while the audience is bored to death. On the second floor there were two videos: I do not sleep tonight, is from the point of view of cops on patrol, and As long a there is a first, shows a group of people looking for something. Again these two videos set up an opposition: focus and direction, in contrast to an indiscriminate and undefined search.

reviewed by Julia Marsh

 

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Review: Tim Eitel

The Placeholders, Tim Eitel at Hakgojae Gallery 9.2 – 10.23

Earlier this fall Tim Eitel’s pictures were an unexpected sight at Hakgojae Gallery, known typically for showing touchy feely, AbExy-ish works. In contrast, Eitel’s works, an ensemble of at times hard-edged representational paintings, akin to photography, offered up stirring reflections of homelessness, hunger and abandonment. In many instances the paintings showed anonymous, unidentifiable figures in endless space, but also the occasional image of someone juxtaposed in an abstracted space, whether a cold beach, a fractured stadium or a corporate like structure. For all the figures that appear in Eitel’s canvases none look out. In fact, each is turned away or positioned with their back to the painter and therefore the audience. These elements combined to put the viewer at a distance, bringing the isolation full circle. Especially compelling was his Besitz, a dark painting of a nearly invisible homeless man pushing a shopping cart. This painting, easily passed by as a dark on dark nothing, was in fact stunning in its constructing this first appraisal, and then in giving way to such an image of despair. The question is how are Eitel’s placeholders not merely stand-ins on his canvas, canvases he profits from, as their invisibility becomes his visibility. His hope is that these works bring awareness. That hope, I fear, is unmet.

 

reviewed by Julia Marsh

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Review: Seo Hyun-suk

Originally published in Art in Culture, October 2011 (reprinted here with permission)

The Divine Prostitution of the Soul, by Seo Hyun-Suk

Rosemary Wedding Hall, September 18 and 25, 2011

 

Having experienced Seo Hyun-suk’s work Heterotopia I knew that The Divine Prostitution of the Soul would be an interactive performance, choreographed with seamless care for both his ideas and his audience. Seo, like a wizard behind the curtain, once again provided a framework of critical interventions, without needless explanations, showing his gifted skill in sited and performance practices. Without knowing if he will restage this work, I hesitate to convey too many details, because here the details are everything, and unless you experienced it, a catalog of its events will fall far short of its intelligent content, theatrical intentions and cinematic impact.

 

Even before entering the Rosemary Wedding Hall, the arc of this performance began to reveal itself in this starting point. On the threshold, participants were escorted one by one into a bride’s receiving room on the side of Rose Hall, one of the several rooms inside the Rosemary Wedding Hall. While waiting in the lobby, other guests who had already entered could be seen exiting the Rose Hall’s main entrance, walking hand in hand out onto the street, with unsmiling, willowy figures dressed in black. These somber pairs gave off the feeling of a funeral rather than a wedding, and prepared participants for the despair, and unceremonious narrative that was to follow.

 

After taking a seat inside, one of the black clad escorts soon came to sit next to me and softly tell me a story. We didn’t make eye contact, and although I could hear what she said, I already had the feeling of being dissociated from her. All the while a piano tuner loudly played the same key over and over, monotonously drumming out the fey messenger at my side. The distance created by her anonymity was later replaced by earplugs, which deafened both her voice and the sounds of the street. Regardless of how close she came, from the start she talked, but never really to me, her voice projected out onto an empty space. Later as the sun was setting, moving through the winding network of paths, I felt I was in a dream, following, then chasing, this figure who like a ghost or a butterfly, led and directed, but also changed and then disappeared.

 

Through the three stations of the performance the butterfly ghosts, however ethereal, drag the participants, isolated by earplugs, then earphones, across a grubby surface away from the comforts of that most glossy and scripted of event sites into a world predicated on luck and hard choices; cheap spaces and ugly encounters. There desires that will not and cannot be realized are replaced by the necessity and the sorrow. Her voice and your fate become a dreamed voix acousmatique [1] one that cannot be captured for even as it was recorded, it was erased and replaced by another’s, as her story was repeated over and over. Like the bachelors of Duchamp’s Large Glass the participants never reach her, even when we could hear her, we remained ignorant of her, as her words fell away.

 

Because The Divine Prostitution of the Soul can be understood as contrasts between the new and the old, the self-conscious and the unconscious, distances and imminences, the very spirit of each participant is the site of this performance, not merely the disconnection between the blind values of the modern wedding hall and the alienating life of the streets shadowed behind it. Seo’s site-specific, participatory performance in this way stretches out across the subjective experience of the collective participants. In situ, our voyeurism of these spiritual crimes is annexed making us complicit, if only for our refined ignorance, but certainly for our pretense of interest in such matters. Still, Seo does this all so quietly that these encounters seem done so with the aid of magic. Is what Seo does magic? At the very least, his works are magical, even when they expose us so.



[1] A term describing the disembodied or invisible voice coined by in Michel Chion in his book Audio-Vision: Sound on Screen (Columbia University Press, New York, 1994).

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