Let the Sunshine In!

It was a long, cold and sometimes lonely winter. But spring is here and finally it is warm.

Although it has also been a long while since my last edition, this installment of sitecited reflects winter’s labor and meaningful encounters. Actually this last six months have been quite full with travel and other projects, including the exertion to finish a draft of my long awaited manuscript: Looking at Lincoln: Pictures and Persuasions. Also last month, I attended the conference MediaCities 4 (Buffalo) via Skype, where I presented a paper titled “Detouring, Dérives and Destinations: The Dislocated Performance Practices of Seo Hyun-suk.” This paper is published now in the conference proceedings and I hope later to expand it for another publication.

Another smaller project I worked on earlier this spring can be found in the updated the links. This link will take you to Karolina Bregula website where you can see her photograph The Street, about Nam June Paik’s The More, the Better, which was featured in the exhibition The Stranger at Gallery Loop in April. I wrote a short essay, which you can read on that link. This text is now the basis for a longer essay I will be delivering at the College Art Association conference in February 2014.

The exhibition Bregula’s work was included in was intended to be a forum to note the accomplishments of international artists in residence in Korea. However, by calling the exhibition The Stranger the curator raised questions about what it means not only to invite international artists to Korea, or anywhere for that matter, but who the residency program benefits, as well as core ideas about such kinds of international artistic residencies. In essence the sentiments provided in the accompanying (albeit poorly translated) essay was that although artists are welcome to come and work, they will always be decenterened and therefore not able to have anything resembling a legitimated experience, because they will always be alienated outsiders. I understand this as part of self-other recognition theory, but the essay in English made it seem as though any attempt to bridge gaps is futile, veering far too close to prevailing and unfriendly attitudes towards non-Koreans living and/or working in Korea. The essay, as well, made me wonder once again what is the point of inviting artist and curators from around the world to live and work here, if not to bridge the gaps between ignorance and understanding of different cultures. I’ve met many participants over the years here and most were entirely enamored and found their experience rich and textured. Are they wrong?

I recently had the good fortune to see a good example of work that gracefully and knowingly represents being a stranger in a  strange land. Last month the printing plates and watercolors of Greek artist Nikos Papadimitriou, were exhibited of at the cafe SLOW, in Chungju, where he lives and works. These works are so to the point about being here and there while being here. The small carefully painted female figures dressing hanbok juxtaposed to the larger perhaps cruder but more detailed plates of women in Greek tradition garb, offer a dialog about intimacy and distances. The small, but elegant Korean figures show the out of reach quality of other cultures, while the images of his own show  the familiarity, even disregard we may have for our own. A longer look at these images will be offered in the next issue.

As part of my continuing series of interviews with Korean art professionals, included in this issue are two interviews with independent curators Yang Eunhee and Shin Sung Ran. Also I am pleased to publish Oh Hyeong Jin’s review of We Are Just Bits curated by Lee Kyung Min, and an essay by me about a new project I am working on, which came out of another encounter in March. Before beginning my course Space and Moving Images at Yonsei I was asked to do presentation. The text included here is a development of one part of that presentation. There are four other parts, which will be included in subsequent issues. This essay is an exercise in review: a look back over my work as I prepare to make new work.

In the coming months I will be finishing the interview series with Korean art professionals I started in the winter of 2012 and beginning a new series with international art professionals living and working in Korea. There are six more interviews in the current series, including conversations with photographers Nanda Choo and Joseub, and then with curators Cho JinSuk and Kang Soojung. I am seeking to round out this series with two younger artists who are just getting started after completing their graduate studies. Although I have ideas, I ask for your suggestions and welcome your ideas on artist who might be interesting and appropriate for the site.

Thank you again for reading! See you in July!

Julia

June 5, 2013

 

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“Free Fall”

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.

Julia Marsh

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“Spring Circulation”

Anyone who’s seen the beotkkote (벚꽃, aka cherry blossoms) this last week knows that spring has arrived here in Korea! In this way, too, there is a fresh start with sitecited’s fifth “issue,” in that, for the first time sitecited will be featuring its intended content: supporting through discourse and advocacy as well as funding, the exhibition or distribution of art projects with a special emphasis on site-specific works in and around Seoul. At the start of this web journal in 2011, my aim was to collaborate with artists and writers to help bring focus and attention to these interdependent cultural endeavors. So although it took 10 months for the site to germinate, the wait was well worth it. When Kristina Dziedzic Wright suggested bringing Cynthia Gray’s “don’t give up” project to Korea, in Korean last fall, it was for me as near to perfect a project for sitecited as any could come. The compatibility of Gray’s project with mine goes beyond Dziedzic Wright suggesting a project to feature on the website, but also because her proposal was specific to the Korean context, and it was with Gray’s project, which I have known, loved and distributed. Gray’s “don’t give up” magnets reflect many of the subtler ideas I have about this web journal, including ideas of exchange and interaction. Moreover the collaboration between the three of us: Gray, Dziedzic Wright and myself, has represented a convergence of the past, present and future: Chicago, Seoul, and what is worth striving for next. Therefore, I am thrilled and proud to present Cynthia Gray’s “don’t give up” magnet distribution project in Korean “포기하지마,” as introduced by Kristina Dziedzic Wright’s essay: “The Universal Language of Hope: Cynthia Gray’s ‘don’t give up’ Project in Korea,” on sitecited.

Beyond Gray’s work having relations to site-specific and conceptual art, from the start her “don’t give up” magnets broke away from the cynical reason of the late nineties and offered something else: sincerity.[1] As a distributor of the “don’t give up” magnets since 2007, I’ve come to realize the essence of this project is in the gestures: the giving, the taking and the displaying. All of which involve people and personal interactions, things that in the art world can come at a cost or are the cost of success or notice. Embedded in Gray’s project is the slow build—connections made over time—adding to a stream of interconnectedness between the givers and receivers. Having long ago given up any belief in any god, and then replacing it with a now nearly defunct belief in culture, specifically art, this kind of work does more for my faith in humanity and our culture than most other things.[2] In this way “포기하지마” has personal significance that goes beyond the website, by bringing together disparate threads of my life. I knew when I moved to Korea I was looking for a new challenges, and so it has been for me: an effort to reinvigorating meaning and the imposition to understand culture through shock, juxtaposition and adaptation. Having landed on my feet (once again) I can say that Gray’s “don’t give up” project has been like a low mantra since I came here. The magnets are on the whole an offering, and not a campaign, so I hope that those who come across them here in Korea will take them as such.

In our effort to bring this project to Korea, Dziedzic Wright and I were fortunate to receive the financial support of pianist and Seoul National University Professor of Music, Aviram Reichert, who will, along with Dziedzic Wright and myself, be distributing the magnets in Korea. As an additional way to support the project, and extend its reach Gray sponsored magnets for two friends: Oh Siwang and Park Gunhee, co-owners of Coffee Connexion. They are more than familiar with the ideas of persistence embodied in the concept of “포기하지마,” as they have worked hard to make the most excellent café in Nakseongdae, and perhaps in Seoul.

The free distribution of the magnets through sitecited will be done by self-addressed stamped (830KRW) envelop (SASE) to:

Julia Marsh
Seoul National University
Bldg. 3, Rm. 201-1
Gwanak-gu, Seoul 151-745

Meaning you send me an envelop with your address and postage and I’ll send you a magnet. Also as part of the project sitecited welcomes recipients to post images of the magnets in situ on Facebook, along with comments. Each week an image from the Facebook posts will be featured here on sitecited.

Another aspect of this new beginning on sitecited is the introduction of a series of interviews with Korean art professionals. Next month I will be publishing the first two: Kim Heejin, director of Pool and a Shin Hyunjin, former curator of Ssmazie Artist Residency. These two are the first of 12, which will include Jung Yeondoo, JoSeub, Gu Minja and Shin Sungran, among others and be published over the next 12 months. Another part of this interview project is that each interview will be published in English and Korean, as will all future posts on sitecited. I look forward to bringing more such focused content to the web in the coming months.

I want to again thank Aviram Reichert for his generosity and interest. I am grateful to Cynthia Gray for trusting me with her project. I can’t thank Kristina Dziedzic Wright enough for her keen interest, daring spirit and for shaking things up around here. Lastly I need to thank Park Gunhee and Oh Siwang for their kindness and the relaxing environment they provide at Coffee Connexion. Please join us there next Monday April 30th at 6:00pm to celebrate the release of “포기하지마.”

Julia Marsh, April 24, 2012


[1] Hal Foster, The Return of the Real, MIT Press, Cambridge, MA and London, 1996, p. 122

[2] See Sigmund Freud, Civilization and Its Discontents, WW Norton & Co. New York, London, 1961, p. 21-24

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“Site-specificity in a Shifting Field”

I came to Korea hoping to continue making a contribution to visual culture. After many discussions with friends, here and abroad, I came to the conclusion that my efforts had to be easily movable and multi-layered. Therefore, sitecited will be more than a web journal, but rather an integral extension to a larger, future, activity in a physical location—a flexible and adaptable entity that will respond to both sides (writers and makers) of the ongoing conversation about art on and off the web—a point of departure for works in situ. The aim of sitecited is to be a forum that showcases and discusses how art increasingly occurs in situ and to ask as many questions as it answers, maybe more; bring artists and writers together in an equal and interconnect way, without privileging one over the other, provide a space for the articulation of ideas, both visual and written; support contributors by paying them and giving their work proper respect.

Shifting mores and artistic attitudes, funding, access, critical and commercial reception and acceptance have over the last 50 years or so, challenged the definition of site specificity. If the earliest entries into this field were defined by their physical, set location, today clearly that which claims to be site specific does not necessarily mean art about a specific location, let alone a locked in position. Without doing an entire review of the history of site-specific work it can be said that the work of the last two decades has taken place where definitions are formed, as well as spaces defined. These works are moveable, re-doable, temporary, even hard to identify and still perhaps difficult to find. What current works in the category are can be comprehended in part through the history of Earthworks or Land Art, projects strategically placed outside the then normal parameters of exhibition in the remotest landscapes in the American Southwest. But with few exceptions, works made since the 1990s bare little or no relation in scale or intention, to those singular and iconic works. Those works, defined as a rupture with the history of sculptural practices,[1] placed the audience in the position of having to engage with the site or place, forcing a dialog that could mean driving far distances to reach the work. Works by artists, such as Smithson, Heitzer and Holt, moved away from the drama of modernist principles to more real theaters of the senses and time.

Today we have quite the opposite sense of time and space, particularly due to media. This is not to say that the origins of site-specific art were not mediated, as their remoteness dictated that their documentation would be the work in fact for most that have seen them. Nevertheless, if these earlier works were can be defined by the geological time of their locations, contemporary site-specific works may be defined by the quickness of sight and technology, or the persistence of vision. What that means for site-specific artists working outside of museums and institutions is that access to their works or their work’s accessibility can be trumped by the very speed at which we move through and take in space. Meaning that depending on where the work is, it may not be seen. In this way, site-specific works in general rely on documentation to support their existence. Furthermore, it seems as we enter fully into this new century that site-specific art can be defined more by where it does not happen, as it happens just about everywhere—online, in the street, on buildings, in discussions, in stores, at home. Additionally and because the global art scene has become incredibly small and large at the same time, with artists and curators traversing the globe in pursuit of exhibition opportunities, following the nearly endless cycle of biennales, artists are more and more likely to make sited works related to these events, rather than actual sites, with the exception of some large scale well funded projects that purport to be sited.[2] The former spaces mentioned are, granted, no longer considered entirely anti-institutional per se, but compared to works made within institutional frameworks or more exactly its authority, these more ambiguous spaces are perhaps where we can find raw, new interventions that embrace anti-instrumental ideas of resistance to institutionalism and administration of culture.

All this is not to say that funding is in someway negative, for without funds artists would make no work. The issue, though, as it relates to site-specific works, especially, shows that funding can and does influence outcomes. For instance, grant applications in the United States will frequently ask how the artist’s work will impact the community. Regardless of intent or methodology, this question requires artists to develop a way to think about their work in relation to the public. Maybe it is cynical to linger over questions how defunding the NEA affected art making. Yet the mandate for institutions to promote educational programming over the last 20 years, created to satisfy the critics of funding solo art projects, have clearly affected both the kind of works are funded and how those works are made. Specifically because work that is funded by government coffers must in some way reflect, if not be representative of the community, as defined by the state. But as community and public are both slippery slopes that are essentially tools of states and governments to appeal to citizen desire for inclusion and identification, yet denied, the only real outcome for artists is, that this kind of management, has diluted artists’ authority as the sole arbiter of content. Of course funding does not preclude agency. Here the concern is that money and support have yielded more complicity and co-optation than may be readily apparent, but more importantly shaped the content and intention of art making.[3]

Ultimately all these concerns rest on a single question: what is at stake in making site-specific art? As the scale of the art world or market, if you will, grows, what constitutes sited work continues to shift. Therefore, this site asks what is site specificity in a moveable world? Does it matter anymore? Where is this kind of work being seen and made and by whom? Has the backlash against galleries and the culture industry in the 1990s yielded anything important for society and culture? How has DIY responded to the chokehold of capital or is it merely an answer to the volume of product or something else?

In this first issue of sitecited, a seemingly small offering, I am pleased to feature an extended interview with Seo Hyun Suk on his latest work Heterotopia, a (wee late) review of the Gwangju Biennale and my first editorial essay. sitecited.com continues to invite proposals for visual works that are have been or are scheduled to be installed and essays about these works.

Julia Marsh December 31, 2010


[1] Rosalind Krauss, “Sculpture in the Expanded Field,” October Vol. 8 (Spring 1979): 30-44.

 

[2] The Editors, “Inside Out: Art’s New Terrain,” Artforum International, (Summer 2005): 263

[3] For a full discussion of the relationship between site-specific works and community involvement see: Miwon Kwon, One Place after Another: Site-Specific Art and Locational Identity (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2004).

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