The work of Korean photographer JoSeub has gained a reputation for humorous commentary and serious play. His is never an easy look. You are ask to address the work inspect and discern. There are visual puzzles to be unlock and deciphered. And if you are willing, you might just find there within the frame something of delight and horror, but always an experience. His works, in the photographic canon represent the staged, documentarian, the tableau. Joseub never takes a random shot. His are thorough and exacting, however insanely arranged. His last group of works Moon Melody depicted a man in a crane costume getting up to all kinds of nonsense, from giving piggy back rides to drunk scholars to having sex with a random man in a dilapidated house. Unquestionably, Moon Melody 2: Eclipse provides just as much play and seriousness. Joseub’s large format prints, some arranged in the pattern of a traditional screens, or as diptychs show old men and women playing on beaches, camping, and hiking in the woods. However these old people are costumed players. Younger men dressed up not only as old men, but as North Korean military. These images beg many questions but the first is: what is going on here?! The answer to the question revealed itself slowly in the exhibit. An obvious fiction, perhaps more accurately surrealist dream is played out across these photographs. These figures that time forgot emerge from a land that time also forgot. And while they appear ready for a fight, Joseub’s “old men” dressed in tattered infantry uniforms are seemingly aware that the fighting ended over 60 years ago. The forgotten place is the demilitarized zone (DMZ), a gash of wild growth running across the Korean peninsula, designed to keep the peace. Reading these images is tricky because Joseub only give you clues, with nothing direct to hang onto. One is left wondering did I really see that old pregnant lady about to give birth on a mountain cliff? Or were those crazy old men really preparing to take the beach? Joseub forces you to read and see that there in his pictures is a kind of truth. The war goes on how ever ridiculous it may seem, waged by old men who remain invested in its lasting effects.
Last spring I had the good fortune to see excellent examples of works, while graceful, meaningfully represent the distances one faces being a stranger in a strange land. These images were neither self-portraits, nor personal in the sense of depicting lived experience, but rather addressed such distances through the visuals of traditional culture and pictorial composition. Last May the printing plates and watercolors of Greek artist Nikos Papadimitriou were exhibited of at the cafe SLOW, in Chungju, where he lived and worked until June. He has since return to Greece after a year and half teaching in the art department at Konkuk’s Chungju campus. These works are so to the point about being here and there while being here. The small, carefully, but blurrily painted female figures dressed in hanbok juxtaposed to the larger and perhaps cruder, but more detailed plates of women in traditional Greek garb, offer up a dialog about intimacy and distance. The small, elegant Korean figures show the out-of-reach quality of other cultures, while the prints of Greek women reveal a familiarity, even a certain disregard we may all have for our own cultures. Papadimitriou’s treatment of culture here shows sensitivities to, both cultural fluency, and illiteracy, desire and longing for sometimes, being far from home inclines one to feel cut off from either end. While the crudeness of his print plates belies a need and urgency, the watercolors evoke all the exotic impressions of the foreign. This also reveals the manner in which desire also operates. The familiar is less compelling while that which is out of reach may drive us to grasp. Although these works may appear to lack any obvious criticality, by attempting to represent the problematic of inhabiting another culture they offer a gentle entry into a discourse on the same. Papadimitriou’s sensitive depiction of this knot makes the distances between home and away all the more acute.