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