Gallery Loop 9.26-10.24.12
Lee Chang Won’s clever works on exhibit at Gallery Loop could seem a bit thin at first glance, but then the tricky nature of the work takes on more depth as you become entranced but what it can do. It is lucky that the artist chose to put his most complex apparatus on the first floor which prepare you for what is far more simple almost flatfooted in the lower gallery. Regardless of its simplicity in the lower gallery the work is just as enchanting as the cave paintings they reference. Using simple means—LED lights and mirrors with silhouettes cut out—to make his images Lee focuses our attention on the reflected shapes. However, especially in the work Parallel World_Hands Across Time (2012), akin to Plato’s cave, Lee transmits two possible messages, but we perhaps receive only one. The sillouetetes are cut from images of popular culture and appear to be chosen for their specific gestures and stances. However, clean Lee’s works appear they posses a surprising patina of antique mystery. Particularly captivating Babi’s Mirror_Apparition (2012) is comprised of a turning mirror like ballerina in a music box and the reflection of a face. Of late many artists it seems are using reflections and spotlighting in the dark to focus viewers’ attention. At this point in history work like Lee’s that utilize the metaphor of the cave seems appropriate. Are we hiding or searching, in wonder and awe, or fear and dread. Is this a metaphor or a reality? Always there is a small bit of light—something to reach for, to aspire to. But is it more than a search? Are we finding ourselves once again in a dark age of opaque leadership, even as we unearth, make transparent every aspect of our lives? Or is it even more sinister? Are we thrown back, living in the dark because there is little or no hope? However elementary these works may appear, that glimmer at the end of the tunnel may just be a Mack truck on a crash course with humanity.
Seoul Museum of Art, 9.11-11.4.12
The exhibit Media City: Spell on You housed in the Seoul Museum of Art is chock full of good work, more than good, great works of media art. However, the unbearable installation of each and nearly every work makes one ask: what where the organizers thinking? Not only can you not hear the work you are looking at you can barely hear yourself think for all the interference from all the sound spilling over and around partitions. I would have loved to sit and listen to Jung Yeondoo’s Six Points (2010), but I couldn’t hear it because the work in the next space was blaring away, and visa versa. Works housed in their own rooms were drowned out by those in the next so a work like David Claerbout’s The Algiers’ Sections of a Happy Moment (2008), which needs quiet and contemplation, was just miserably overwhelmed by all the noise from the other works. Media City is typically a good show and as it is a recurrent media exhibit one would think there would be some sensitivity to the installation of such works and a need to respect the sound thresholds of each work by not allowing any to drown out another. This is basic to media exhibition: how to find a balance between works that have competing interests? But here all that was forgotten. So a potentially amazing exhibit is shattered by the lacking skill of the preparators? The curator? The museum? Unable to really concentrate on works by artists, such as Seiko Mikami, Koo Donghee and Dennis Feser I left the exhibit quickly. In the end the worst part is how the artists are hurt here, how their ideas and efforts are buried under the weight of bad curating and exhibition design. What a travesty!
Yangachi and Kim Jung-heun
This two person show was premised on the1972 “self-coup” of Park Chung-hee. Part of this overthrow included the disappearance and supposedly accidental death of an opposition candidate for the office of the president. The work in the show is interesting, if only for what it metaphorically expresses. As well, the forms may be familiar, but A Night of Burning Bone and Skin, an engaging flashlight lit video by Yangachi. Certainly the video is a forward-moving-search and a rewinding-back-tracking retracing of the steps of the dead man, but is it more? A search for a way forward? The way back? A history that makes the present more sensible? The projection screen seemingly made of recycled wood gives the video the feeling of a search a more palpable presence in that it feels like a door or a fence, a blockage, not just something to overcome, but representative of an impasse. Still the relationship between the works is one of distance and respect rather than dialog. While there are problems with the exhibition, especially in the other works included by Yangachi, the exhibit has a neat sense of continuity between works. At least three of Kim Jung-heun’s paintings make clear the context in which Yangachi conducts his investigation. However, what was obvious and poetic in the video become superfluous in the flag and photograph of the flag. Moreover the hanging of Jung’s work felt tricky—in a bad way—affect used for the sole purpose of creating interest where there is no need for more. Kim’s paintings made between 2001 and 2004 are skilled and simple, directly reflecting the place from which the show wishes to speak. This critique of that era, the military junta of Park Chung-hee is timely, in that his daughter also seeks the power of the presidency. However the question is: are these investigations’ revelations audible?
The word on the street was that this year’s installment of the Gwangju Biennale wasn’t very good. Viewing the co-directed Roundtable with already low expectations, the most obvious flaw of this biennale is that it is not well organized, which despite stating that this its premise is the organization of an open and non-hierarchical endeavor. For even the most egalitarian of exhibits can have a sense of unity or even design. So it is all well and good to intend this and also stand in opposition to the last Gwangju Biennale in order to mess with order. But the last biennale was in comparison a far more comprehensive and coherent statement of its guiding thesis. Roundtable, on the other hand, is plagued by confusing, vague and has an overwhelming amount of signage that often has typos and omits key information like video duration. One area that did excel was the off-site exhibit at Mugaksa, a Buddhist temple. The works shown there were both engaging and enjoyable. Conversely, the works shown in the Daein Market felt haphazard, in a bad way, but not because it was in a market, but because the market is dirty and gross, not inviting in any way. The lack of attention to this area by the organizers or the city was an obvious misstep of the organizers. More importantly what that site added to these works I do not know. For if the site was supposed to inform the works I could see no connection as to why good works by like Kim Beom and Chosil Kil had to be stuffed there and suffer from crap accommodations. In the main halls the show went on too long, meaning the first gallery had a lot of work of interest, even if some felt derivative or familiar, but as one moved through the spaces it became a chore to keep up with the amount of listening and video and reading that had to been done to take in the whole thing. By the last floor in the second building fatigue had set in caused by unevenly juxtaposed works demanding unwarranted attention.