Mapping without Mapping, Psychological Occupation Verses Real Estate

This is the first installment of this essay introduces one part of five areas of inquiry related to the process of evaluation and ideas for my new project.

This essay is an attempt at picturing the development of an idea for a work in progress I am calling: Mapping without Mapping, Psychological Occupation Verses Real Estate. The project started with an interest in investigating into the geographical history of the American presence (official and unofficial), and includes addressing more contemporary issues related to being non-Korean, in Korea. However as time has passed it has become more broadly a study into the concepts of place, in the sense of both belonging and creating. At this point this project is highly theoretical, and this essay is one part of an effort to respond to my previous works, in an attempt to understand, and address my prior intentions and to some degree alter my methodology. This text is broken into five parts that lace together inquiries and objects from different sources, existing in works completed or ideas left hanging. Here I hope to more cogently interrogate ideas of space and site for this future work; outline the project’s parameters to date, such as notes, image ideas; express some ideas on mapping; define space and place as related to this project, while making an inquiry into the theoretical differences between place and space.

  • An Investigative Search of Previously Used Space and Sites

In relation to a presence like the United States in Korea three terms came to mind as I thought through my subject: stains – starting points – soil. These words reflect critical and visceral ways of thinking; and also how the waters get muddy. We don’t hear it much anymore, but driving much of American exceptionalism is the idea of manifest destiny. In general nationalism is driven by the idea that there is something distinct held within borders drawn. So I am seeking a sensitive address to such issues—ways to look at this idea of entering space metaphorically, psychologically and materially. These distinctions are crucial, especially when considering how one culture rests in, resists or rejects another.

Recall, this is a work in progress and this essay is a part of the progress of realizing the work. So I’ve often thought this effort here is a little like the work of performance artist/monologist/actor Spalding Gray, in that I am setting out to tell you something but that while I am telling you I will never get there: to my point, and instead I will make another point, perhaps equal to my intended, but perhaps not, but that it will all lead to an anxious attempt at coherence. That I suppose is the nature of defining something.

Crucial to this and all my work, I have been concerned with site specificity since I was an undergraduate in the 1980s when I was asked to make an architectural model and place in a context—in Central Park. The directions: seek scale and moorings that could hold your model so as to not look artificial or outsized led initially to an indirect search for the place in which art happens. Then one more directly about place formed of space. There have been, including this first, at least nine moments, some of which are no longer available or merit description; however it was in the text that site really took hold. In book arts, I realized a space that was portable and specific. Later an exhibition Outside (1990) in the woods allowed the idea of sighting to arise. Meaning that rather than announcing itself as art, the value of the random person seeing the work outside of the institution began to form. This inclination towards the discreet gesture, a thing present, but only accounted for by those who found it, drove my projects EveryDaySky (2000-2002) and Occurrence 

Occurrence: view from east along sidewalk (2000)

Occurrence: view from east along sidewalk (2000)

(2000). Both of these projects are defined by how site and sighting interacted. Of course it can be said of any work, but when these works were activated/realized by seeing them, it was in the context of the passage way the sidewalk or the street, not places where one then expected to find art. Therefore recognition and access are defining characteristics of both works. EveryDaySky was also concerned with memory of non-events. Using

Occurrence: view from south across sidewalk (2000)

Occurrence: view from south across sidewalk (2000)

a camera to photograph the sky everyday for a year, and then a year later upload that image to the web, I was commenting on the transfer and slippage of memory related to days and time, and its mediation through the apparatus. My last sited project, re:location (2004-2005), directly utilized sight and the apparatus to document a space. Rather than take photographs I scanned Dogmatic, like eyes brushing across much of its surfaces, with a flatbed scanner. The importance of re:location was in its making. It was perhaps a failure in its later incarnation as an installation of printed images. Still, the transfer of space into information, as a map is important to my next work.

Julia Marsh, re:location: composite West Basement Wall 150 scanned images actual size 85 x 210” (2004)

Julia Marsh, re:location: composite West Basement Wall 150 scanned images actual size 85 x 210” (2004)

These projects are now diagrams for siting and the sighting of work, and most, if not all, were denials of the institution. My reasoning then centered on capitalism’s grip, and my want to make works that functionally were only gifts, exchange without currency. I’m still interested in this as a strategy of resistance, yet I feel this work needs to be as immaterial as possible for many reasons. So, as I’ve gathered information for this new project I have found myself asking: how to make a map without making a map. Clearly these earlier works are maps that are not maps, but they come with copious amounts of materials. As well, this work, that I am prefiguring, is very much about institutional power, power great enough to deny its own existence. So here the intersection of mapping and the denial by the institution is much like a double negative, or rather a Mobius strip, folding back onto itself without end.

To be continued …

Julia Marsh, Editor, sitecited



Julia Marsh: 당신의 스페이스99에서의 근무 경험은 아주 정치적이고 제대로 대접받지 못하거나 간과된 사회 문제들에 초점이 맞춰져 있었다. 어떻게 동양의 화조화를 공부하던 미술사 전공자가 그러한 진흙탕 속 현실로 뛰어들게 되었는지 말해줄 수 있는가?

신성란 photo: J. Marsh

신성란 photo: sitecited

신성란: 석사 논문으로 조선시대 화조화를 주로 그린 작가를 연구했으면서 정치적이고 사회적인 이슈를 다루는 전시 공간인 space99에서 일했다는 점은 많은 사람들이 의아해 합니다.

서구 근대화 이후 현대 한국 미술은 경제 개발 계획처럼 ‘국제적인 수준에 걸맞는’ 이라는 명제 아래에 형식과 내용뿐만 아니라 예술 정신 또한 서구 예술 경향을 쫒아 변화해 왔습니다. 이는 예술 이외에 한국 사회 전반에 나타나는 문제로 아시아 전체에서 보여 지는 현상이기도 합니다. 저는 한국 고유 문화의 역동성과 생명력이 무엇인지 찾아 가는 과정을 우리가 처한 문화 사대주의에서 벗어나는 중요한 통로로 파악했습니다. 이를 위해 일반적으로 한국 고유미의 기준이 되는 근대화 이전의 조선시대 미술을 대학원에서 연구했습니다. 조선시대에서도 전통에서 근대로 변화하는 19세기라는 변혁의 시대를 선정하고, 그 시대의 대표 화목인 화조화를 통해 미적 감상의 영역보다 이를 통해 나타나는 전통 시대의 문화 수용 방식을 이해하려 했습니다. 동시대 미술 전시 공간에서 일하면서도 동양의 옛 고전과 사상 문화에 대한 세미나는 지속해 왔습니다.

연구와는 달리 업무들은 동시대 미술의 변화와 본질을 알기 위해 국립현대미술관 인턴으로 시작했습니다. 이후 갤러리나 국공립 미술관이 지닌 시장성과 관제성이 없으면서 사회와 예술의 관계를 추구하는 공간으로서 space99를 선택하였지요. 반면에 저예산과 더불어 예술 작품을 대상으로 하면서도 사회 운동 단체의 홍보 공간이기도 한 복잡한 정체성이라는 두 가지 난제를 직면했었습니다. 그러나 기획을 중시하는 공간으로 비주류를 위한 사회 정치 미술의 다양한 실험과 연대 모색이 가능했다는 점은 이 공간에서만 취할 수 있었던 큰 성과입니다. 저는 아직 한국 전통 문화에 대한 관심과 국립현대미술관 인턴, space99의 경력을 직접적으로 연관시키기는 어렵습니다. 하지만 이런 모색들은 언젠 가는 큐레이터로서의 저의 정체성을 이루는 토대가 될 것이라 생각합니다.

JM: 이러한 정치적 맥락이 강한 곳에서 일한 경험이 예술을 좀 더 추상적인 사회적 압력들로부터 별개로 분리하여 생각하려는 당신의 능력을  변화시켰다고 생각하는가?

신성란: 크게 변화가 있지는 않습니다. 예술의 특정 형식에 구애되지는 않습니다. 다만 저는 삶과 사람을 소리를 담아내고 성찰하는 예술의 사회적 역할에 더욱 관심이 있습니다.

JM: 일반적인 전시공간과는 달리, 평화를 장려하고 비폭력을 주창하는 목적을 지닌 평화박물관에서 일한 경험을 바탕으로 할 때, 전시에서 그리고 나아가 사회에서 큐레이터의 역할은 무엇이라고 보는가?

신성란: space99는 전시공간이지만 평화박물관이라는 비영리 사회단체로 평화운동을 위해 복무하는 공간이었습니다. 특정 목적을 지향한다는 것은 소재주의에 빠져서 예술의 자율성을 제한할 수 있다는 어려움이 있기도 합니다. 저는 폭력적인 사회 상황을 지양하고 조화로운 사회를 바라는 평화 운동과 예술이 만날 때 예술이 큰 테제 아래에서 제한되지 않게 예술성을 확대하는 환경을 만들어 주는 것이라 가장 중요한 역할이라고 생각했습니다.

두 번째로 제가 주력한 부분은 연대입니다. 예를 들어 노동 문제를 다룰 때 작가들을 직접 그 노동 현장과 소리에 접근할 수 있게 하는 가교 역할을 했습니다.  노동 문제를 다룰 때 관념적인 접근을 피하고 노동자들이 처한 실제적인 환경을 접촉하게 하고 싶었습니다. 평화박물관은 사회적 고통을 기억하고 연대하고자 하는 단체로 이미 폭넓은 사회적 네트워크를 갖추고 있었기에 이 역할은 가능한 일이었습니다. 서로 다른 표현 방식을 가지고 있지만 예술과 사회와의 연결은 사회와 삶의 내면에 접근할 수 있는 중요한 작업이라고 생각합니다.

JM: 전에 만났을 때 당신은 지난 시대를 바탕으로 한 한국 예술가들의 정체성에 대해 언급한 적이 있었다. 한국 예술가들이 그들의 작업이나 태도 등에서 과거를 다루는 방식에 대해 좀 더 자세히 설명해줄 수 있는가?

신성란: 한국의 일부 예술가들은 과거의 전통 미술에서 쓰인 소재나 작업 방식 등을 현재적 방식으로 변화시킨 작업들을 진행하고 있습니다. 전통 미술을 현재적 고민으로 이끌어 내고 작업을 발전시키는 부분은 상당히 고무적입니다. 그러나 때로는 서구미술에서 동양 미술을 오리엔탈리즘과 같은 맥락에서 바라보는 것처럼 한국 내에서 다시 전통을 타자적인 것, 그리고 향수적인 것으로 인식하고 소재주의나 방식을 활용하는 맥락에서 그친 경우도 많은 것 같습니다. 소재나 방식을 차용하는 것을 넘어서 서구화라는 큰 물결에서 충동하고 퇴색된 한국적 사유와 삶의 방식, 그리고 예술이라는 부분이 통합되는 깊이 있는 성찰을 바탕으로 한 역작을 만나고 싶은 것이 바람입니다.

JM: 스포츠나 TV처럼 예술도 사람들의 관심을 끌 방법을 찾아야 한다고 한 적이 있다. 실현이 가능하다고 생각하는가?


신성란: 예술은 물론 다른 대중매체와는 다릅니다. 현재까지의 예술은 tv 드라마처럼 접근성이 있지도, 스포츠처럼 이해하기도 쉽지 않죠. 예술은 대부분의 사람들에게는 소수를 위한 특정 분야일 뿐입니다. 특히 예술이 가진 고가 기호 상품으로서의 상업성은 이를 향유할 수 있는 소수의 재력가와 고급 취미로 일부 계층을 위해 존재하는 사회경제적인 구조 내에 머물러 있었습니다. 최근에 미술관이 많이 생겨나면서 늘어난 향유층도 고급 문화권에 들고자 하는 계층 상승적 욕구가 반영된 부분도 부인할 수 없습니다. 일반적으로 대중에게 익숙한 예술 작품들은 이런 욕망을 소비와 결부시킨 마케팅의 산물일 뿐입니다.

예술이 과연 대중적이어야 하는지 이것은 예술에 있어서 그 근본을 고민하게 하는 큰 명제입니다. 하지만 ‘예술이 그 시대의 미학적 표상’이라는 더 큰 명제에서 고민을 하면 예술이 담은 시대는 누구를 위한 것이라는 것과 맞닿습니다. 이는 시대마다 변화하는 시대 정신과 연관이 있습니다. 현대 이후 사회를 이끌고 만들어 가는 층은 외면적으로 더 넓어지고 있는 것은 사실입니다. 그리고 우리의 미래는 더 다양하고 많은 사람들의 뜻이 담아지는 세상이 될 것이라는 것을 부정할 수 없습니다. 저는 이 부분에서 예술이 지닌 사회적 역할에 관심이 있습니다. 다양한 삶과 사람의 소리에 다가가서 더 많은 이야기와 성찰이 있는 작품들은 예술적 성취를 이룸과 동시에 예술의 존재 이유를 변화시킬 것이라 생각합니다.

그래서 저는 공공미술이나 커뮤니티 아트에 관심이 많습니다. 그리고 예술에서 소외된 사회적 약자를 다룬 사회정치적 미술에 관심이 많습니다. 계몽과 프로파간다를 넘어, 폭넓은 사람들의 가슴에 다가가서 삶을 더 생각해보고 활력을 줄 수 있는 예술가의 사유와 성찰이 담긴 예술을 바랍니다.

JM: 그리고 예술이 특화된 전문분야라는 점에서, 예술, 혹은 보다 근본적으로 생각의 교환에 있어 자본이 점유한 지배적 역할을 약화시키기 위해 예술가와 큐레이터가 할 수 있는 일은 무엇이라 보는가?

신성란: 자본은 예술에서 절대적인 영향력을 지니고 있습니다. 원로 작가 위주의 미술 시장에 젊은 작가들의 작품들이 포함 되면서 예술 전반에 나타난 상업화는 더욱 급속화 되었습니다. 이제는 자신의 고급 취미와 재력의 상징이라는 문화자본의 면모를 넘어서 예술이 판매와 투자 가능한 상품이길 원하는 구매자의 욕구들이 예술 환경에 침투한 지는 오래되었습니다. 이런 과정에서 갤러리, 비평가, 언론, 미술관 등은 중요한 역할을 해 왔다고 할 수 있습니다.

근본적으로 비평가의 호평과 유명세 그리고 작품 판매라는 순서와 방식은 작가가 생활인으로 생존하는데 중요한 역할을 합니다. 그렇지만 이것이 시장성에 치우치게 되면 작가는 자신이 고급 상품의 제작자인지 예술가인지를 고민할 수 밖에 없습니다. 저는 큐레이터로서 이 경계에 대해 고민이 많습니다. 시장에 치우치지 않고 예술가로 살아가기란 어려운 외줄타기 같은 것 같습니다. 자본주의 사회에서 시장에서 자유로운 가치를 만든다는 것은 특별한 지원이 필요합니다. 공공 영역의 정책적인 후원이 필수적이며, 갤러리 생산 구조를 탈피한 기업 연계의 순수한 후원 목적의 후원회 조성들도 중요합니다. 실제적인 상품적 가치가 아니라 돈으로 환산 될 수 없는 예술의 가치를 공유해 나가야 합니다. 이 가치는 예술이 지닌 공공성이 확대할 때 더욱 가능해 집니다. 그리고 전시에서는 각 작품들이 지닌 미술사적 가치를 높이고 홍보해서 궁극적으로 사회적 공적 자산으로 공공미술관에 소장되는 여건들을 구축해 가는 것도 중요하다고 생각합니다.

Questions Translated from English to Korean by Kim KwangSoon



Interview with Shin Sung Ran

Shin Sung Ran photo: J. Marsh

Shin Sung Ran photo: sitecited

Shin Sung Ran, independent curator and writer, wrote her Korean art history MA, A Study of the Paintings by Shin Myeongyeon (1809-1886), at Hongik University. She was formerly the lead curator at the Peace Museum’s space99. Currently she is a lecturer at the Dongduk Woman’s University and Sejong University where she teaches the history of Korean art history and oriental art history. Shin has also written for the Korean publications Monthly Art, and article, as well her thesis was published in Misulsa Yeongu (월간미술). In addition to teaching, she was recently named curator of exhibitions for the office of Nam Yun In Soon, a member of the National Assembly. When I first met Shin in the spring of 2011, she was lead curator at space99 (or space goo goo as it is known). The exhibition The Eye of the Needle was on view in the gallery. I was impressed by both political nature of the show and the quality of the work supporting its framework. Shin’s curatorial efforts, which are unapologetically political, have focused on tough issues like migrant workers, and state violence. Since, leaving space99 Shin has been occupied with teaching and working with other likeminded cultural producers in creating a dialog about the contemporary definition of Korean art.

When we sat down last winter (January 2012) our discussion focused on art making in Korea, its history, identifications, motives and zeitgeists; how art and culture diverge for the public and Shin’s desire for art to part of public culture, and in turn receive the support of the public.

The following interview questions, which where answered via email, are based on the conversation we had in January 2012.

Julia Marsh: Your experience working at space99 was very political and focused on social issues of the underserved or overlooked. Can you speak about how you went from being an art history major focusing on oriental flower painting to being involved in such murky waters?

Shin Sung Ran: Many people are curious about the fact that after studying artists who mainly painted flowers and birds during the Joseon dynasty I then worked for space99 where the exhibitions dealt with political and social issues.

After western modernization, like the economic development plan, Korean contemporary art has been changed in the way it chases western art trends, not just for form and content, but also in the spirit of this art, under the premise of “fitting in the international scene.” Outside of the art world, this assimilation is a general problem within Korean society, as well as a phenomenon appearing all over Asia. Instead, I think it is important to escape cultural subservience by finding out what are the dynamic and drives of Korean indigenous culture. For these reasons in grad school I studied the pre-modern art of the Joseon dynasty, which held as its criteria in general the native beauty of Korea. More specifically I selected nineteenth century flower and bird paintings, which were the leading genres of this era of change from traditional to modern, in order to comprehend the adaptation of culture in our history. And so while I was working at an exhibition space for contemporary art, I continue to participate in seminars on philosophy and culture in Eastern classics.

Because I started my career as an intern for the National Museum of Contemporary Art, and this being different from my research, I needed to understand the changes and the essence of contemporary art. After this initial stage, I chose to work at space99 where I could pursue investigating the relation between the society and art without having to deal with the burdens of commercial galleries and public museums, such as marketability or governmental controls. The low budget and the complicated identity of the space, on the other hand, presented difficulties for the artworks and also for publicizing social movement organizations. But great accomplishments were made, which only this space could have achieved. As a space focused on such egalitarian dynamics, it was possible to experiment with various sociopolitical art forms focused on minorities, while seeking solidarity for these groups. So even for me, it is hard to directly connect my interest in Korean traditional culture and a career started at the National Museum of Contemporary Art and space99. But I think these are leading me to find my ground as a curator.

JM: Did working in such a political context alter your ability to think of art as discrete and separate from other more abstract social pressures?


SSR: There are no major changes. I am not attached to a certain form of art. I am just more interested in the social role of art that captures and investigates the voices of the people’s life.

JM: Having worked for the Peace Museum, which is not a typical museum organization in that its mission is to promote peace and advocate for non-violence, in your estimation what is the role of the curator in exhibitions and society?


SSR: space99 is an exhibition space, but also a space that serves the peace movement as a nonprofit social organization. The concentrated pursuit of a certain cause may limit the autonomy of art. So, my most important role was to create an environment that did not overwhelm the art under any great premise, but rather aggrandized the work’s content, in a situation where art and the peace movement desire to negate violence and form a balanced society.

The second part I focused on was solidarity. For example, when I was handling an exhibition about labor issues, in order to avoid any solely ideological approaches, I created an actual bridge between the artists and the workers in the field, so the artists could become aware of the reality and circumstances of the laborers. This role was only possible because the Peace Museum, an organization that wants to remember and accord the agony in society, was already equipped with a broad social network. I think it is a very important job to connect art and society, which have different methods to express the experiences of life in society.

JM: When we met you spoke about the identification of Korean artist with past eras. Can you elaborate on how Korean artists do or do not identify or reflect the past in their attitude and/or work?

SSR: Some contemporary Korean artists are using the materials or methods that were used in traditional arts in new ways. It is very inspiring to see artists bringing traditional art into the ongoing process of making and to see such methods progressing. But just as Western culture can sometimes see Eastern art in the guise of the orientalism, many Korean artists also regard their traditions in terms of otherness and nostalgia, and only utilize its materials or methods. Beyond just taking the materials and the methods, I want to see artwork made with profound thought, which synthesizing the artistry, as well as using Korean thought and lifestyle, which are fading due to their collision with westernization.

JM: You spoke about finding a way for art to be as interesting to people as sports or TV. How do you conceive of that ever happening?

SSR: Art, for sure, is different from the other public media. Art, till now, is not as accessible or easy as TV dramas and sports. For most people, art is a very specific realm made only for a minority. Especially with its market image as a luxury item of personal preference, art has remained a marker of refined taste of the upper class within the socioeconomic structure. Recently the number of people looking at art has grown, obvious in the many newly opened galleries, but we cannot deny this interest also reflects a desire to be upwardly mobile. The artworks that are generally considered for the public are just products of marketing that combine desire and consumption.

An important question to ponder about the foundations of art is whether art should be popular. But if we look at this within the greater notion that art represents the aesthetics of each era, we must be led then to the question: who does art represent today? This idea is related to zeitgeist, which changes with every era. After the modern era, it is true that the class who led and built the society has increased in numbers. And we can’t deny that our future will be more varied and include the will of many people. Here, I am interested in what social role there is for art. I think artworks that approach the diversity of people’s lives and their voices, and create more varied stories and ideas, will accomplish an artistic achievement, and also change the definition of what is art.

So I have paid great attention to public and community-based art, as well as the socio-political art that concerns social minorities who are alienated from art. Beyond the enlightenment and the propagandistic, I long for art that has both the artist’s contemplation and introspection, which can also reach more people in order to invigorate their lives.

JM: Since art remains a specialized area of expertise, what are the ways that artist and curators alike can and undermine the hegemonic role of capital in the exchange of art or more essentially ideas?

SSR: Capital has absolute power over art. The commercialization of the general art world has spread rapidly to include the artworks of younger artists just entering the market, which has mainly been selling the works of older artists. Buyers now want art as an investment, which can be later sold as a commercial good; although it hasn’t been that long since this desire permeated the art world, more than a cultural asset, art now symbolizes highly developed taste or wealth. It can be said that galleries, critics, press and museums have played a major role in this transition.

Fundamentally speaking, the order of this process includes that first favorable review by a critic, followed by fame, and finally the sale of the artwork, and all are very essential for the artist to make a living. However, if the process leans towards commercialism, it creates a dilemma for any producer, whether an artist or a designer of stylish goods. As a curator, I have a major concern about this boundary. It is like a lonely tightrope walk for the artist to live without being swayed by the market. To make valuable contributions free from market forces there needs to be a special support in capitalist societies. It is imperative to have governmental agencies with supporting policies and to establish sponsorship associations, which are perhaps part of corporations with the sole purpose of supporting such artistic efforts. It is necessary to share the cost of artworks that do not have a price tag, nor offer any immediately recognizable practical good. The value of such work is more readily available when the public nature of art is expanded. Additionally in exhibition, I think it is important to increase the art historic value of especially excellent artworks and to promote these and to make conditions for them to be collected by the national museums as public assets.

Translated from Korean to English by Kim KwangSoon



Julia Marsh: 인천여성미술비엔날레가 생긴 지 거의 10년이 되어간다. 하지만 그것의 목적과 기능을 둘러싸고 논란이 있었던 것도 사실이다. 이 비엔날레의 미래에 대해 어떻게 전망하는가?

Yang Eunhee   photo: sitecited

Yang Eunhee   photo: sitecited

양은희: 비엔날레는 인천지역의 여성작가들이 모여서 발전시킨 전시제도이다. 따라서 미래는 여성작가들이 어떤 의지를 가지고 앞으로 제도를 이끌어가냐에 달린 문제이다. 인천여성미술비엔날레는 지난 8년간 성공적인 제도로 자리잡았고 국내외에 후원하는 분들이 많아졌다. 현재는 정치적 환경 때문에 일시적으로 어려워진 상황이기 때문에 아마도 정치적으로 해결될지도 모른다는 희망을 가지고 있다. 잠시 상황이 어렵다고 비엔날레가 완전히 사라질 수도 없고 조직위원회가 그렇게 놓아두지도 않을 것이다. 보다 축소된 형식으로라도 계속될 것이다.

JM: 비록 인천여성미술비엔날레가 국제 전시이긴 하지만, 그 뿌리는 일군의 지역 미술가들에게 두고 있다. 이러한 바탕이 전시의 발전에 도움이 된다고 보는가 아니면 국제 미술계의 눈에 적합해 보이지 않는 방해물이 된다고 보는가?

양은희: 나는 글로벌 미술이 로컬 미술 위에 군림한다고 보지 않는다. 로컬미술이 없다면 글로벌 미술도 존재하지 않는다고 본다. 예술가에게 ‘location’ 작업의 근간에 영향을 미치며 존재이유를 확실하게 만들어 준다고 본다.

IWAB 인천지역의 여성작가가 만들었기 때문에 여러 나라의 여성작가에게 어필할 있는 힘을 가지고 있고, 실제로 지난 IWAB 역사는 이런 출발이 강력한 힘을 가진다는 것을 확인시켜주었다. 그리스, 이란, 인도네시아, 태국 등의 여성작가들은 비엔날레가 어떤 의미를 갖는지 금방 공감하고 참여했다. 비주류에 속하는 나라 출신의 여성작가들에게 전시기회가 많지 않기 때문이다

JM: 한국의 작가에게, 그리고 세계의 관객에게 있어 인천여성미술비엔날레의 가치는 무엇인가?

양은희: 여러 비엔날레에서 보이는 국가간 경쟁구도, 미술의 상업화와 병행되는 체계는 가장 단점이다. IWAB 그러한 대립구도 속에서 혜택을 받지 못하는 여성작가를 위해 만들어진 제도이다. 물론 여성/남성이라는 다른 대립구도를 상정하고 있지만 비엔날레가 완벽한 유토피아가 아니기 때문에 기존의 비엔날레가 수행할 없는 영역을 돌보고 있다는 것이 가장 가치가 아닐까 생각한다.

JM: 일반적인 한국의 여성이 처한 현실, 그리 예술관련 직종에 종사하는 여성들의 상황에 대해 평등, 처우 그리고 존중이라는 면에서 평가해줄 수 있는가?

양은희: 한국여성의 현재에 대한 여러 가지 통계들이 나와 있다. 여성의 대학진학율은 80.5% (2010 현재), 사법고시, 행정고시, 외무고시 국가에서 평등을 보장하는 시험에 여성합격율(2010 현재) 각각 42%, 44.7%, 60%이다. 그러나 일반적인 취업에서는 여성의 경제활동참가율은 50% 미만이며, 같은 연령대의 남성과 비슷한 시간동안 일을 했다고 했을 여성의 임금은 66.9% 불과하다. 또한 통계는 정규직보다 비정규직에 여성이 많이 분포하고 있다는 말하고 있다. 전반적으로 여성이 적절한 대우를 받지 못하고 있다고 봐야 한다.

물론 예외도 있다. 작년까지 여성국회의원은 13.7%였지만 올해 들어서는 15.7% 증가했다. 비례대표라는 자리 때문에 정당에서 정치적으로 배려한 덕분이다. 하지만 이런 배려가 없었다면 여전히 힘든 상황이었을 것이다.

미술계는 여성인력이 대다수를 차지하고 있다. 고학력의 여성들이 많이 늘고 있는데 대부분이 비정규직이다. 소규모의 정규직을 놓고 남성과 여성이 경쟁하는 구도인데 여성이 다수이기 때문에 유리할 같지만 남성이 소수여서 오히려 보호받는 것처럼 보인다. 최근에 주요 미술관과 박물관 관장에 여성이 임명되었는데, 1회성 변화가 아니라 지속적인 변화의 시작이기를 바란다.

JM: 나아가, 한국에서 양성평등을 이루는 데 장애가 되는 것들은 무엇인가?

양은희: 완전한 평등은 유토피아라고 생각한다. 그러나 지금보다는 조금 여성에게 우호적인 환경이 만들어져야 한다. 그리고 우호적인 환경을 만들기 위해서는 무엇보다 여성이 앞장서서 노력해야 한다는 생각이 중요하다. 그런데 젊은 여성들에게서 그런 사고를 찾기가 어렵다. 왜냐하면 이미 주어진 제도에서 요구하는 요건을 갖추느라 자신의 여건을 통제하는 것들에 대한 성찰을 여유가 없기 때문이다. 그렇다면 젊은 여성을 수동적인 노동력으로 만들어버리고 안에서 개인의 능력이 부족하여 실패했다고 좌절하게 만들어버리는 제도의 권력이 가장 방해물이다.

최근에 한국에서 공정한 사회’, ‘정의로운 사회라는 주제가 화두이다. 그런데 이런 화두를 가지고 논의하는 과정에 사회적 계급의 문제가 대두될 , 여성의 지위에 대한 논의는 거의 들리지 않는다. 그만큼 페미니스트들의 목소리는 어딘가에서 묻혀져 버리고 있고 언론의 보도 대상이 되지 못하고 있다. 특히 최근에 낮은 출산율이 문제가 되면서 여성에게 나은 환경을 만드는 것보다 어린아이를 양육할 있는 환경개선, 어머니를 위한 정책이 부각을 받고 있다. 이런 와중에 총체적인 여성의 문제는 묻히고 있는 현실이다.

JM: 당신은 최근에 한국의 가정 생활에 존재하는 압력에 초점을 맞춘 이미지들을 조명하는 온라인 사진전 “Uneasy Fever: 4 Korean Women Photographers”를 기획했다. 여기에 참여했던 경험과 당신의 역할에 대해 설명해 줄 수 있는가? 또, 무언가 순간적인 것을 가지고 일을 해 본 것인데, 이런 종류의 전시가 실제의 전시가 갖는 만큼의 영향력을 가지게 될 거라는 느낌을 받지는 않았는가?

양은희 전시는 Trans-Asia Photography Review에서 의뢰를 받아서 기획한 전시이다. 2012 4월에 오픈되었다. 잡지사의 의뢰를 받고 리서치를 하면서 한국 여성 사진작가의 작업에 변화하는 한국여성의 모습이 고스란히 담겨있는 것을 발견하게 되었다. 백지순, 김옥선 작가는 이미 아는 작가였지만 이선민, 신은경 작가는 주제를 위해 발굴한 작가이다. 작가들이 찍은 사진에는 사라져가는 종부문화, 신도시의 중산층 엄마와 , 외국인과 결혼한 한국여성, 독신여성과 결혼문화 등이 담겨 있는데 모두 한국사회의 단면을 보여주면서 동시에 여성의 처한 상황을 이미지로 보여준다. 역시 내가 속한 사회를 다시 있는 기회였다.

온라인 전시는 물질적인 경비를 최소화할 있다는 점에서 긍정적이라고 생각한다. 최근 오프라인 예술잡지가 쇠퇴하고 있고 대신에 온라인 잡지가 인기를 끌면서 많은 잡지가 나오고 있다. 빠른 시간에, 적은 비용으로 글로벌 관객에게 널리 알릴 있다는 점이 장점이다. Trans-Asia Photography Review 그런 온라인 잡지중의 하나이고, 사진분야에서 이미 많은 독자층을 확보하고 있다. 그런 장점을 아는 곳이기에 온라인 전시를 잡지의 일부로 기획한 것은 아마도 당연한 결론이었을 것이라 생각한다. 아마도 미래에는 이런 잡지와 전시가 많아질 것이다. 그렇다고 오프라인 전시가 사라진다는 말은 아니다. 단지 전시라는 형식이 어떤 아이디어를 보여주는 틀로서 기능하는 , 지금보다 다양하게 나타날 것이라는 말이다.

Questions Translated from English to Korean by Kim KwangSoon


Interview with Yang Eunhee


Yang Eunhee    photo: sitecited

Independent curator and writer Yang Eunhee lives in Seoul, South Korea. She wrote her doctorate “On Kawara’s Nomadic Mind: Autobiography of a Citizen of the World” in art history at the City University of New York (CUNY). While she lived in New York for 11 years, she curated exhibitions for spaces such as Dumbo Art Center and Gallery Korea, lectured in colleges and wrote essays for art magazines. After completing her Ph.D., she returned to Seoul in 2004. Since then she has been actively writing and curating. In 2005 she curated Conjunction Points, for the Gwangju Arts & Cultural Council. In 2008 she was named the main commissioner for the 2009 Incheon Women Artists’ Biennale. She also curated the show Close Encounter (2010) at the Jeju Museum of Art, and was a guest curator for the Brain Factory in 2011. More recently she curated Uneasy Fever: 4 Korean Women Photographers for the online journal Trans Asia Photography (TAP) in the spring 2012 issue. Her book New York, Art and the City (Random House Korea, Seoul), originally published in 2007 was re-released as in revised edition, in 2010. Also in 2007 Yang translated Ideas in Art (JRP, Seoul) by Robert C. Morgan. As well she is a frequent contributor to Art in Culture, Public Art and Monthly Art, and has written for such publications as Journal of Contemporary Art Studies, Art AsiaPacific, and Art in ASIA. Yang also teaches courses on contemporary art at universities in Korea.

I was fortunate to meet Yang in 2009 when I was hired by the magazine SPACE to interview artists participating in the Incheon Women Artist’s Biennale for which Yang was the main commissioner. Yang is straightforward and sensitive on issues of gender here in Korea and around the globe; and creating a more global context in which the Incheon Women Artists’ Biennale can operate has been a focus for her since we first met time. When I sat down with Yang in the winter of 2012 I was most interested in talking to her about the status and condition of Korean women in general, and more specifically Korean women artists.

The following interview questions, which where answered via email, are based on the conversation we had in January 2012.

Julia Marsh: The International Women Artists Biennale (IWAB) has been developing for nearly 10 years. What are its future prospects, given there has been turmoil surrounding its purpose and function.

Yang Eunhee: This biennale is an exhibition system that was developed by the female artists in the Incheon area. Therefore, it is a matter of what kind of will they have and where they will lead this system. This system has been successful during the past 8 years and now has many sponsors. Still, the current situation is difficult due to the political environment, so I hope that maybe these issues can be resolved by the politicians. In essence, these present difficulties will not cause this biennale to disappear, and moreover the committee won’t let that happen. It will continued, even if it is in a scaled down format.

JM: Although the IWAB is an international exhibit, its roots are in a regional group of artist. Is that origin helpful to its progress or a hindrance to its legitimacy in the eyes of the global art world?

YE: I don’t think the global art world dominates the local scene. The global art scene would not exist if there were no local art scenes. I think the “location” has a huge influence on artists’ works and it makes their reason for being tangible.

Because IWAB was created by the female artists in the Incheon area it has the power to appeal to female artists in many other countries, in fact its power, having this starting point has been proven by the past history of IWAB. Female artists in Greece, Iran, Indonesia and Thailand could empathize with the meaning of this biennale quickly, and therefore participated. Moreover, for female artists from developing countries there are not that many exhibition opportunities.

JM: What is the value of the IWAB to Korean artist and global audiences?

YE: The competition between countries and the system paralleled in the commercialization of art we find in many biennales are some of the biggest drawbacks. IWAB is a system made for the female artists who are disregarded in these clashes. Yet IWAB sets up another confrontation of sexual politics; however, a biennale cannot be a utopia, so the greatest value of it would be the fact that IWAB takes care of a realm the other biennales chose not to fulfill.

JM: Can you assess the conditions of women in general in Korean, but also female art professionals in terms of equality, treatment, and respect?

YE: There are several statistics about the circumstances of Korean females today of. Women enter college at a rate of 80.5 percent (2010) and pass the national exams, such as the bar exam, civil service exam and foreign service exams, where equality is guaranteed, at a rate of 42, 44.7 and 60 percent (2010), respectively. But in terms of general employment the participation rate of females in the workforce is less tan 50 percent and the pay rate is only 66.9 percent of what male salaries are in similar age groups and for working hours. These statistics also show that female workers are likely to be working in temporary jobs rather than in the permanent positions.

Yet there is an exception. The percentage of female members of the National Assembly has increased from 13.7 to 15.7 percent. This is due to each party’s political consideration on proportional representation of assembly seats. If there were no such consideration, the situation would be still more disparate.

Also in the arts, women hold a large majority of the positions. The number of well-educated females is increasing, and yet most of them are still temporary employees. In the competition between men and women for the limited number of permanent jobs, it seems the females have an advantage due to the fact that they simply outnumber men; on the contrary it looks like men are protected due to their low numbers in this profession. Recently, major art gallery and museums hired females for the top positions. I hope that is not the one-time deal, but the beginning of progressive changes.

JM: Moreover, what are the obstacles to women’s equality in Korea?

YE: I think complete equality is a utopia. Nevertheless, we should build a more female-friendly environment than what we have now. First of all, for this to happen, it is crucial to believe that women must take the lead to make it happen, but it is hard to find that kind of thinking in young women today. It seems they are too busy fulfilling the proscribed social necessities to have any room left for introspection about the factors that control their overall conditions. The major obstacle to this change is the authority of the system, which makes younger women into passive laborers, and causes them to be frustrated because they think their failure is due to their lack of ability.

Lately “the equal society” or “just society” has been the topic in South Korea. But in the process of discussing this topic, only the problem of social class is an issue, and the status of women can hardly be found in the dialog. To that extent, the voices of feminists are buried and not considered as a part of the press coverage. Especially after low birth rates became an issue, rather than creating a better environment for women in general, the direction of the discourse is to reform the environment for nurturing children, or so to say making a policy for motherhood. Meanwhile the problems faced by women in this sense are suppressed.

JM: Last year you curated an online photo exhibit Uneasy Fever: 4 Korean Women Photographers, which focuses on images that stress or underscore the pressures of domestic life in Korea. Can you talk about the experience and about the works you included? Do you feel now having worked on something ephemeral, that this type of exhibition will ever have the same impact as an exhibition in the real?

YE: It was the special exhibition commissioned by Trans-Asia Photography Review, opened in April, 2012. After the request, while researching it, I came to see the changes experienced by Korean women in the several Korean female photographers’ works. Bek Ji-Soon and Kim Oksun are already well-known artists, but Lee Sun-Min and Shin Eunkyung were introduced specifically for this subject. In their photographs, they show the disappearing of the obedient culture: to husband, the mother-daughter relationship of middle class in the new city, a Korean woman who married a foreigner and a single woman confronting marriage culture, all while presenting a cross section of Korea, these artists are clearly reflect the condition women face in the meantime. It was an opportunity for me to reevaluate the society I live in, too.

I think online exhibition is positive in that it can minimize the material costs. Nowadays many online art magazines are published, and have growing popularity, in the place of declining offline editions. Its merit is the accessibility to the global readers, with the less time and budget. Trans-Asia Photography Review is one such online magazine, and already has many subscribers interested in the field of photography. So the magazine understands well the merits of being online and therefore planning an online exhibition, as a part of the magazine, was natural for them. It seems in the distant future, there will be more of this kind of magazine and exhibition. Yet it doesn’t mean the offline exhibitions will become extinct. I want to emphasize that the form of an exhibition functions as a frame to show certain ideas; and that because of this in the future I believe there will be more diverse forms of exhibition than there are now.

Translated from Korean to English by Kim KwangSoon


Review: Ambivalent Synthesis: Artist as Mediator, or Modulator

– A note on the exhibition We Are Just Bits

Gallery view: We Are Just Bits courtesy of Lee KyungMin

Gallery view: We Are Just Bits

This past winter in the duplex structure of One and J. Gallery three artists working in different media, including easel and mural painting, photography and video installation, were brought together by curator Kyung Min Lee. Due to the differences in media, form and subject, few things seemed to connect their works at the first glance; however, the

Lee, Eun Sun, [left] Trumpet lily, 2013, digital c-print, 130x130 cm left and [right] Tulip, digital c-print, 130x130 cm (2013)courtesy of Lee KyungMin

Lee, Eun Sun, [left] Trumpet lily, 2013, digital c-print, 130×130 cm left and [right] Tulip, digital c-print, 130×130 cm (2013)

exhibition title: We are Just Bits, suggested a shared theme: art concerning perception of the visual and signs of the digitalized multimedia era. In turn, as one moves through the exhibit, these concerns can be read in each artist’s works. Eunsun Lee’s mural painting and digital photographic prints seemed to invoke the “bits” of painting as the formal structures involved in illusion and materiality, while Kyungwoo Han directed the audience’s attention toward

Han, Kyung Woo, Point of Recognition, multi channel video, loop (2013) courtesy of Lee Kyung Min

Han, Kyung Woo, Point of Recognition, multi channel video, loop (2013)

dematerialization in the digital era. The imagery of “bits,” however, is simultaneously actualized and abstracted in Taeyoon Kim’s video tableaus. Kim’s works have special significance because they succeed in grasping contemporary art’s perennial concerns with the immanent issues of material and form. Kim’s work implies that art practices needs to be concern with both intrinsic forms and expanded concepts. This combination can sometimes go beyond a mixture to a synthesis. Abstractly, when forms are interpreted as visual signs the signification of works of art operates on both internal and external features in a structural system, which still holds ambivalence in its synthesis.

So, however painterly Taeyoon Kim’s video installation Six Points Evolution (2012) may appear they are formalist; strongly based in a confined set of visual structures and compositional rules. Lines, colors, patterns, directions, rotations, and overlap, are all under the strict control of the artist’s detailed and meticulous timing of the coordinating configurations he has set in his vector values. However much these screen saver-like video installations give the impression of being merely abstract modulations in an animated scene, their formalist and modernist features are only one side of their content. The other side is their semiotic implications. The sources of Kim’s digits are directly transcoded from archival web material, and thus his “bits,” modulated in the video, are actually representations of collective and discursive practices emerging at the micro-level of social structures in everyday linguistic exchange. This two-fold direction contains critical contemporary feature that reject the author’s sole creative subjectivity on one hand, and diminishes the possibility of sliding into an empty cynicism of language-based art.

Six Points Evolution, Six Kim Taeyoon, Points Evolution, custom software, variable size (2012)

Kim Taeyoon, Six Points Evolution, custom software, variable size (2012)

Whether or not Kim considered formal elements simply as sources of visual pleasure, these elements reflect the sign systems embedded in social representation. In actuality, it is exemplified in his treatment of visual forms, such as the repetitive series of slashes and seemingly random patterns controlled by 0s or 1s in Spaced Oddity (2013), which mutually overlap and separate. In considering the structure of the display, the falling bits constantly collapsing and receding into the bottom edge always move vertically, preventing the audience from viewing what is depicted as merely or only painterly. Because the “image” moves to the bottom, as in the calligraphic tradition, the audience also then “reads” the work due to this directional cue.

Kim Taeyoon, Spaced Oddity, video loops, variable size (2013)

Kim Taeyoon, Spaced Oddity, video loops, variable size (2013)

Going back to the matter of the immanent form, it is generally thought that for abstract painting, the dialectic of the surface and space depends on achieving a tension that defeats its static condition; while video relies on tension achieved by taming its superfluous elements, such as such as flicker and the facile movement given off by the media’s temporal characteristics that overcome its kinetic nature. From this point of view, Kim’s video successfully integrates the static and contemplative tensions, especially in that Kim’s palimpsest of a web archive is a carefully composed work of confined elements achieving a vibrant effect.

The motivation of an art practice can be derived from several places, such as formal, socio-cultural, and theoretical positions. If Kim’s work solely focused on one of these interests, his work could simply be a display of the capabilities of media technology, or a boring societal poll using a bunch of tweets; however, by not omitting any of these positions the quality and interest in Kim’s work are obviously augmented. That seemingly opposite features can be embraced in a subtle and ambivalent manner, which is of concern in the contemporary interest in unifying diachronic axes of form, art history, and immanent issues of art with synchronic axes of societal interest, the sense of contemporaneity, and materialist recognition. Meaning that fervent activism should go with critical reason. Still, its potential might yet be grasped in what once were thought not reconcilable: visual representation, linguistic textuality, and the politics of representation. The intersection of these in Kim’s work defies their easy appearances and weighs heavily within its structure.

Oh Hyeong Jin, M.F.A. candidate Seoul National University

All Images Courtesy of Lee Kyungmin