“How Little You Know About Me”: focusing on Asia at The National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, South Korea

The National Museum of  Modern and Contemporary Art, South Korea (MMCA), presents a special Asia-focused exhibition,How Little You Know About Me”, to establish MMCA as an international hub for Asian contemporary art.

The MMCA hostsHow Little You Know About Me” as the first exhibition of the series focusing solely on Asia in 2018-2019. This first special exhibition is on view until 8 July 2018 and showcases the works of 15 international artists. Art Radar looks at 7 highlights from the exhibition and talks to the one of the artist, Mark Salvatus, to hear more about his work.

“How Little You Know About Me”, 7 April - 8 July 2018, The National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Seoul. Image courtesy the artists and MMCA.

“How Little You Know About Me”, 7 April – 8 July 2018, installation view at The National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Seoul. Image courtesy the artists and MMCA.

The concept for “How Little You Know About Me” sprang from the questions: what do we think of Asia, and how do we understand it throughout history? The term Asia’ in this exhibition does not simply define geographical division or identity, but rather it stands for the possible diverse perspectives to look at the world creatively.

The show consists of 21 artworks by 15 artists from eight countries. The 15 artists perform as storytellers and bring the various voices of their personal experiences to the show to propose new and diverse viewpoints to recognise the forgotten individuals and local values under the name of Asia.

“How Little You Know About Me”, 7 April - 8 July 2018, The National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Seoul. Image courtesy the artists and MMCA.

“How Little You Know About Me”, 7 April – 8 July 2018, installation view at The National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Seoul. Image courtesy the artists and MMCA.

Timoteus A. Kusno, 'The Death of a Tiger and Other Empty Seats', 2018, mixed media, dimensions variable. Image courtesy the artist and MMCA.

Timoteus A. Kusno, ‘The Death of a Tiger and Other Empty Seats’, 2018, mixed media, dimensions variable. Image courtesy the artist and MMCA.

The exhibition at the MMCA is divided into three sub-themes: ‘About the unseen’, ‘Intersectional space’ and ‘Relations’. Through the subject of the unseen, the exhibition raises attention to the conventional meanings of nation, national border, ethnicity and identity to expose how these notions are interwoven with the ideas of nationalism and ethnic pride in Asia. Mark Salvatus, Yogesh Barve, Timoteus A. Kusno, Ji Hye Yeom and Hikaru Fujii manifest their metaphorical works under the concept of ‘about the unseen’ revealing the discrimination, distinction, tension and antagonism undeniably existing in contemporary societies.

“How Little You Know About Me”, 7 April - 8 July 2018, The National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Seoul. Image courtesy the artists and MMCA.

“How Little You Know About Me”, 7 April – 8 July 2018, installation view at The National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Seoul. Image courtesy the artists and MMCA.

Martha Atienza, 'Our island, 11°16'58.4"N, 123°45'07.0"E', 2017, video. Image courtesy the artist and MMCA.

Martha Atienza, ‘Our island, 11°16’58.4″N, 123°45’07.0″E’, 2017, video. Image courtesy the artist and MMCA.

With the theme of intersectional space, the exhibition becomes the place where the various ideas and perspectives meet collectively and acknowledge the complexity of individual identity that cannot be described as one definition. Artists Yuri An, Tao Hui, Yusuke Kamata and Elia Nurvista show how the perception of their personal events and objects are modified into elaborate forms in accordance with their miscellaneous viewpoints.

Po-chih Huang and Martha Atienza introduce works under the subject matter of relations. The two artists suggest ways of understanding and communicating with each others problems through relations.

Po-Chih Huang, 'Production Line', 2018, mixed media, dimensions variable. Image courtesy the artist and MMCA.

Po-Chih Huang, ‘Production Line’, 2018, mixed media, dimensions variable. Image courtesy the artist and MMCA.

“How Little You Know About Me”, 7 April - 8 July 2018, The National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Seoul. Image courtesy the artists and MMCA.

“How Little You Know About Me”, 7 April – 8 July 2018, installation view at The National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Seoul. Image courtesy the artists and MMCA.

Filipino artist Mark Salvatus (b. 1980) created a video of the never-ending cycle of opening and closing gates, entitled Gates. The various gates inside of film are taken by the artist in his Quezon City neighbourhood in Manila to represent the ambivalence of meaning between welcome and unwelcome, safety and boundaries, and power statements and symbols of separation. Art Radar spoke to the artist to find out more about his work and inspiration for Gates. Salvatus revealed about the work:

In 2013, Dan Brown the author of the Da Vinci Code released his novel Inferno. In one of the chapters, Dr. Sienna Brooks went with a group of volunteers to the Philippines for a medical mission. She expected the Philippines to be  a wonderland of geological beauty, with vibrant seabeds and dazzling plains. Upon setting foot in Manila, however, Brooks could only “gape in horror” as “she had never seen poverty on this scale. “One after the other, the book described chaotic Manila: “six-hour traffic jams, suffocating pollution, horrifying sex trade.”

The book went on to detail a turning point in Brookslife. Ive run through the gates of hell,she said. It was this description that made it into a very big news that many people from Manila especially politicians and conservatives got offended and angry to the fictional literature as if its real. This is how powerful fiction and reality intertwined in the society. Inspired by this, I made a video I called Gatesa collection of gates from my neighborhood building a never ending loop of opening and closing with an ambivalent feel of welcome and unwelcome.I am not critiquing the novel but I feel that the issue was humorous with the effect on the politicians and conservatives.

The novel Inferno was just a jump off point for the video work. But I am interested about structures- not only as physical structures but also social structures. In history, gates and walls are built to divide societies to represent power and dominance as well as security, defense, refuge and surveillance. In the contemporary society is also prevalent but also obscure, building different layers of tensions. Because of this physical structures, people tend to become also the structure- are you open or not? making borders and boundaries because of ones belief and the given norms.

So the work not only talks about Manila- as the social structure but think of the security in airports, gated posh villages in different cities, border patrol lines for refugees and migrants etc. These are all human made gates because we don’t trust each other, we have differences made by political, religious and other beliefs. But as a domestic gate like houses that I used for the video, everything starts from the house creating pressure if we want to be open or not. Home as the very basic unit of the society. For this work I want the audience to feel that something will be revealed but not coming from the meaning of the work but something coming from them as a viewer. Like waiting and waiting for something to come out of the gate.

“How Little You Know About Me”, 7 April - 8 July 2018, The National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Seoul. Image courtesy the artists and MMCA.

“How Little You Know About Me”, 7 April – 8 July 2018, installation view at The National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Seoul. Image courtesy the artists and MMCA.

Ji Hye Yeom (b. 1982) illustrates the cultural movements of futurism spread around Europe in the early 20th century by resuming the current state of tensions like a sense of crisis, urgency and inferiority towards the future as history appears to repeat itself over the past. In her proposition, contemporary society seems to be suffering from a plague called future feverunder the belief that the progress for the future is only possible through adopting advanced science and technology. Yeom uses the title of her new work, Future Fever, to raise questions about what kind of behaviour we should take in our lives as technology develops, and where exactly we are headed now.

Fujii Hikaru, 'Playing Japanese', 2017, multi-channel video installation. Image courtesy the artist and MMCA.

Fujii Hikaru, ‘Playing Japanese’, 2017, multi-channel video installation. Image courtesy the artist and MMCA.

Playing Japanese by Fujji Hikaru (b. 1976) is a multi-channel video installation that features footage of a workshop where the artist asked dozens of strangers to “perform” what it means to be Japanese. The video work includes reenactments of actual events from around a century ago, which brought imperialist views imported from the West to Ainu, Okinawa, Taiwan and Korea. It is unclear whether this anachronistic simulation and revival of past behaviours and attitudes, which are believed to have disappeared after colonisation, can embody the emblematic movement of colonialism and racism that once dominated the world. However, Hikarus work interrogates whether these traces of past postures have perpetually vanished in the 21st century, where being diverse is considered as normal.

Fujii Hikaru, 'Playing Japanese', 2017, multi-channel video installation. Image courtesy the artist and MMCA.

Fujii Hikaru, ‘Playing Japanese’, 2017, multi-channel video installation. Image courtesy the artist and MMCA.

Click here to watch an excerpt of ‘Rogue Stars’ by Yuri An on Vimeo

Rogue Stars by Yuri An ( b. 1983) is a three-channel projection of the Joseon-jok, the Korean ethnic group who still use the same language and have left the Korean Peninsula and scattered around the world since the end of the 19th century. The projected documentary renders the common difficulties on the history of this migration such as discrepancy between homeland and the motherland” and positioning among the compatriots and foreigners” by following the route of the Joseon-jok around Korean autonomous region of Yanbian, in China’s Jilin province. With Rogue Stars, the audience faces the question: what is the meaning of nationality and ethnicity in contemporary society?

Tao Hui, 'Talk about Body', 2013, video. Image courtesy the artist and MMCA.

Tao Hui, ‘Talk About Body’, 2013, video. Image courtesy the artist and MMCA.

Chinese artist Tao Huis (b. 1987) video Talk About Body records the sharply contrasting narratives between the identity of the artist himself and the identity that others project onto him, by juxtaposing the dramatic staging of the scenes with the logical and rational text that analyses him through an anthropological viewpoint. Inside the scenes, the artist is surrounded by spectators and sitting in their midst while they are making judgments about him simultaneously. This interesting scene creates a bizarre tension, which is intensified by the camera revolving around them, unfixed on single person or a perspective, but rather making the viewer feel like an outsider who is peeking into the scene. Dressed in a Muslim woman’s attire, but still being himself – a Chinese, male artist – in moments of intimate and earnest confession, the artist reads out loud the rational and objective result of an analysis of himself by an anthropologist he had commissioned prior to the filming.

Tao Hui, 'Double Talk', 2018, two-channel video. Image courtesy the artist and MMCA.

Tao Hui, ‘Double Talk’, 2018, two-channel video. Image courtesy the artist and MMCA.

Elia Nurvista, 'Possibility of Inauthentic Recipe', 2018, mixed media, dimensions variable. Image courtesy the artist and MMCA.

Elia Nurvista, ‘Possibility of Inauthentic Recipe’, 2018, mixed media, dimensions variable. Image courtesy the artist and MMCA.

The work of Indonesian Elia Nurvista (b. 1983), Possibility of Inauthentic Recipe, intersects the boundary between art and social studies through food. In early 2015, the artist started the food study group called Bakudapanbased in the Yogyakarta. Bakudapan has researched various social issues like economy, labour, politics, gender and art. Through this platform, Nurvista has been expanding her work into installation, performance and video. Possibility of Inauthentic Recipe selects a hypothetical recipe of a traditional dish that is regarded as intangible cultural heritage. By analysing each ingredient, its origin, etymology and the cooking methodology of the chosen recipe, the artist engages with discussions on notions of country, traditional culture, authenticity and identity.

Yogesh Barve, 'Explaining Could Be Exploiting ll', 2018, polyester, dimensions variable. Image courtesy the artist and MMCA.

Yogesh Barve, ‘Explaining Could Be Exploiting ll’, 2018, polyester, dimensions variable. Image courtesy the artist and MMCA.

Kamata Yusuke, 'The House', 2018, wood, mirror, three video projections, 9552 x 8230 x 6273 mm. Image courtesy the artist and MMCA.

Kamata Yusuke, ‘The House’, 2018, wood, mirror, three video projections, 9552 x 8230 x 6273 mm. Image courtesy the artist and MMCA.

Kamata Yusuke‘s (b. 1984) The House approaches the diverse histories and the challenges we face in contemporary society through the history of architecture. The project starts with researching and examining the Japanese two-story wooden house structure that has existed for varied reasons in different periods in Japan, Korea and the United States. Ultimately, The House investigates how history and culture have been created, and explores human history through architecture.

Zhang Xu Zhan, 'Si So Mi', 2017, mixed media, dimensions variable. Image courtesy Project Fulfill Art Space, the artist and MMCA.

Zhang Xu Zhan, ‘Si So Mi’, 2017, mixed media, dimensions variable. Image courtesy Project Fulfill Art Space, the artist and MMCA.

Yogesh Barve, 'Explaining Could Be Exploiting ll', 2018, polyester, dimensions variable. Image courtesy the artist and MMCA. Yogesh Barve, 'Explaining Could Be Exploiting ll', 2018, polyester, dimensions variable. Image courtesy the artist and MMCA.

Yogesh Barve, ‘Explaining Could Be Exploiting ll’, 2018, polyester, dimensions variable. Image courtesy the artist and MMCA.

MMCA will also showcase an upcoming series of exhibitions, “MMCA Performing Arts” (2018) and “Awakenings: Art and Society in Asia 1960s1990s”, and a Korea-Japan-Singapore cooperative exhibition (2019) as the parts of Asia Project.

Soo Jeong Kang

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How Little You Know About Me,part of 2018 Asia Project, is on view from 7 April to 8 July 2018 at the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (MMCA), Korea, Deoksugung, 30 Samcheong-ro, Sogyeok-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul, 03062, Kore.

Related Topics: Asian artists, identity art, installation, museum shows, events in Seoul

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