KOREAN CONTEMPORARY ART MUSEUM EXHIBITIONS EMERGING ARTISTS
“The Penguin that goes to the Mountain“, an exhibition of contemporary art by young and emerging Korean artists, recently finished up this month at the Nam June Paik Art Center (NJPAC). It took the viewer on a journey from the ordered and well-known to the broken-up and disastrous. Embracing works beyond the visual arts, the exhibition presented practitioners that produced critical and demanding work often relating to the surreal and fictional. Below, Art Radar presents you with images from the exhibition and an interview with NJPAC curator Tobias Berger.
The Nam June Paik Art Center, established to celebrate and illuminate Nam June Paik‘s avant-garde spirit, finished running “The Penguin that goes to the Mountain” last week. The exhibition displayed various methods of expression, including the visual arts, stage productions, media, theatre and animated films from 23 emerging and relatively unknown artists and artist groups. These include:
Mano AHN, Sungeun CHANG, Eunphil CHO, Yeoja DDAN, Subin HEO, Intergate, Jaechoul JEOUNG, Dokyun KIM, Kimoon KIM, Minkyu KOH, Jihoi LEE, Jinwook MOON, Moowang MOON, Sohyun MOON, Adjong PARK, Seungwon PARK, post-EAT, Jinwoo RYU, Rhee SEI, Joonghyup SEO, Mongjoo SON, Hojun SONG, Vaemo, Donhwi YOUN
Focusing on the concept of “intermedia”, the exhibition proposed imaginative alternative ways to look at artistic production. Deconstructing the art center’s existing space and previously defined exhibition criteria this exhibition pushed the boundaries of the working methodologies of all those involved in its preparation and reception – from the artists and curatorial and technical staff, to the gallery assistants, and even the audience.
The title comes from Werner Herzog‘s 2007 documentary film made in Antarctica called “Encounter at the End of the World“. The film chronicles the story of a penguin that leaves its normal habitat for the unknown world of a mountain. The idea for the exhibition came from the fact that pioneering artists such as the late Nam June Paik dared to explore new territories, combining many often unrelated genres.
Art Radar Asia spoke to Tobias Berger, Chief Curator of Nam June Paik Art Center, to find out more about the exhibition.
What prompted “The Penguin that goes to the Mountain”? What is the mission of NJPAC and how does this show fit with that mission?
It was the need to show some young, edgy new work by professionals from different disciplines; the try out of new curatorial concepts by using some ideas from theater productions; to blur borders between the different disciplines. These are all the parts of the misson of what the Nam June Paik Art Center is showing. Paik wanted this to be ‘the house where his spirit lives on for a very long time’ and showing interdisciplinary young works is certainly Paik’s spirit.
Can you tell us about how “The Penguin that goes to the Mountain” is organised? What are the themes?
We took a very strong curatorial approach to the exhibition and it’s basically a voyage from the rather clean and not minimal. The further you go through the exhibition, the more chaotic it becomes and the more difficult it becomes to navigate. There’s a chaotic room, where two walls in the middle are falling down and the works are very tied together … We tried to put in a more kind of theatric setting.
Are there styles or mediums which predominate in “The Penguin that goes to the Mountain”? Why do you think that is?
… we have sculpture to video to photography to big installations. As usual in contemporary art you do have quite a lot of videos.
How did you select the artists for “The Penguin that goes to the Mountain”? What characteristics were you looking for?
I think we looked for artists that really went to the edge or over the edge. That is the idea of this penguin that goes to the mountain. It’s a penguin that leaves the others and just goes this way. We more collected different works. It was not a show where we selected ten artists and asked them to do new works. It was more a show where we saw certain works that fitted into the idea of ‘The Penguin’ or into our curatorial context.
Which of your artists has drawn the most interest at “The Penguin that goes to the Mountain”?
There are some controversial video works that are quite challenging. One is talking about the subject of sex, which is a little bit of an interesting subject in South Korea. The other one is an animated video, where [the subject] kind of begins to cut off her fingernails and then her fingertips and then her fingers. It’s an animation, but it’s also quite visual. I think these works are quite controversial, but also in a good way controversial.
The artists in “The Penguin that goes to the Mountain” are all emerging or young artists. What problems do you see for young artists compared with older generation artists working today? In what ways are young artists fortunate, as compared with older artists?
They all have problems and challenges. It’s going to be interesting, how do we justify and how do we not justify them? How do we relate to the art of the older generation? How do we look at it and how do we look at the artist in their mid-career. How do we judge them? You need curators, writers and critics that can evaluate different types of art. Museums can be stiff and kick out the most avant-garde. Maybe because they’re not commercial, maybe they’re a bit too challenging, maybe they’re too critical. So it is the question of the entry into the galleries or the museums or the institutions. A lot of times, the most interesting artists don’t find galleries because if you’re a media artist or performance artist your work doesn’t sell as easily as a painter. But you’re still certainly a much more interesting artist than a certain painter. How do we find a way to deal with that problem? So it has nothing to do with older or younger. It has more to do with genres.
How do you find dealing or working with young artists as opposed to established artists?
They are certainly much more involved in the process and much more interested in what’s going on, more than the established artists that have done big shows in museums many times. For [the young artists], it’s the first time to do an institutional exhibition and that brings a certain tension, but it’s basically good tension that brings out new works and quite interesting work.
Does NJPAC intend to feature other works from students, graduates or emerging artists?
In [“The Penguin that goes to the Mountain”], we cared if the work fitted into the context of the exhibition. Certainly we didn’t care if it was a young artist or an established artist, or if he’s Asian or European. But sure, we will in the future invite students or just-freshly-graduated artists again.
Have there been any unusual, unexpected or interesting responses to “The Penguin that goes to the Mountain” from the viewers and critics?
It’s Paik Art Center. People expect tough or different art…. I think the people who come here know what they can expect. There was nothing surprising or unusual, because people expect the surprising and unusual at Nam June Paik Art.
Tobias Berger also spoke with us about the Korean contemporary art scene: how accessible it is to non-Korean speakers; the current worldwide popularity of Korean art; the innovative non-profit art spaces in Korea. We will present this interview on Art Radar in the coming weeks.
- 27 contemporary Southeast Asian artists featured in ASEAN-Korea photo exhibition – July 2010 – this post names the artists and has a number of images of their work
- Art about curators: Korean artist Yang Ah Ham’s No Nonsense solo show – April 2010 – links to some articles and videos on the show
- Four Asian artists nominated for NYC Pulse Award – March 2010 – Korean artist Shin Duk Kang among the nominees, contains biographical details and links
- Korean Eye exhibition in Saatchi Gallery London extended due to popularity – August 2009 – Simon de Pury comments on why the show was extended
- Troubles for Korean art at home, better reception abroad – Korean Herald, New York Magazine – January 2009 – article summary, Korean artists move into the global market