When I first arrived in Seoul, over five years ago, of course, I had to make acquaintances within the art world, as one would do so anywhere. What I discovered was that the art world here was pretty stodgie on the surface, and in a lot of ways simply mainstream. Since those early days, I sometimes think the boundaries have changed, or is it that I’ve just been here long enough to ignore them. Nevertheless, the fact remains there there are boundaries here, whether linguistic or cultural. Not being Korean means entry or inclusion is often limited to novelty and in the service of global appearances and not substantative or sustaining. This reflection should be in no way taken as criticism now, as it may have been early on, nor is it an admission of failure on my part. Instead, it is an acknowledgement of the need to redouble my efforts. To comment, critique and describe art that is being made here, and elsewhere, as well as the slow mix of cultures that I see bubbling below the surface, which for me, is the most fascinating phenomenon to observe.
As those who went abroad come home and those who claim this place as their home, like me, the tides mix our methods and perspectives. Seeing the openness of some of the younger artists standing in contrast to the more rigidly hierarchical structure of the establishment on this social tangle is encouraging. In their efforts, I recognize a determination to make something of their own that is not an import, but rather an expression of the complexity of this peninsula’s context and conditions. As well, I see the pressure to be global and be party to the means and ways of western style festivalism. As we all know that doesn’t always work even in the best of circumstances, yet there it is. Over these five years I’ve watched and noted how the more I talk to people the more I learn about the way Koreans want to maintain and protect their ways of being as much as they know it is a necessity to engage the outside world. It wasn’t called the hermit kingdom for nothing. Although there is good work being made and more risks are being taken in general by artists who are no longer comfortable with a gallery system that is only interested in monetary value ,there remains in my estimation a need for dialog and action that spans these differences without eradicating them.
This fall edition is my sixth for sitecited, and it excitingly includes several pieces from guest contributors. Over the summer you know if you are following along on Facebook I toured dOCUMENTA(13), included in this edition is a review of the exhibit along with five short reviews of individual works. As well as three long overdue reviews of Hein-Kuhn Oh Middlemen at Art Sonje, Joongho Yum The Taste of Others at One and J. Gallery and Dongchun Yoon from the 2012 Henkle InnoArt Project “Bond the Moment.” I am also please to finally publish, in Korean and English, two interviews with Korean curators—Kim Heejin and Shin HyunJin—the first two of several interviews to be release over the next four months. I am so grateful to both of them for agreeing to meet with me and for their thoughtful and illuminating answers to my questions. I would also like to thank Lee KyungMin for translating and Kim KwangSoon for editing the translations and Kim YoonSeo copyediting the Korean texts of these interviews. Additionally, I am happy to include the contribution of Kim YoonSeo, whose interesting investigation into Michael Asher’s work in Korea shows that although there are limits and boundaries, there are also forays and openings. I would also like to thank Lee KyungMin and Kim KwangSoon for their help and dedication in translating their interviews.