The Nam June Paik Art Centre in Seoul displays the works of 13 international artists and artist groups that are witnessing social and political changes in the digitally networked environment.
Art Radar looks closely at the exhibition and the works in the show.
Art Radar asked Hyun Jeung Kim, the curator of the exhibition, for further insights about the inspiration for the project. She commented:
What triggered the exhibition “Common Front, Affectively” was the recent “common front” in Korean society. These days, the country has gone through great political and social changes. Under these circumstances, Koreans share some feelings in common: confusion, fear, anxiety, explosive desires, occasional relief and hope for a better future. I wanted to tell a story based on such feelings. Indeed, the exhibition gave me an opportunity to gather these feelings in a variety of ways and to share them better than on any occasion in the past. One of the factors that enabled such sharing would be social media we use in our daily life. How we communicate has become much different from that in the past. In this context, I came to ask myself the following questions: where are people’s feelings headed? Is there any “common venue” where people could discuss social issues amid the coexistence of online and offline spaces? I then came up with the idea of telling a story of such invisible feelings in this digital age and this is how I started curating the exhibition.
The exhibition captures various emotions and perceptions using different media such as video, installation, sound performance and design. In the show, the propagation of these new forms of emotions and sensations are depicted through miscellaneous expressions and narratives. The exhibition also proves that the new digital technologies affect the individual’s mind and feelings in responding to the social issues and relationships between people and collectives.
As written in the press release, the works on show “pose questions as to how discrete individuals transpose their feelings to common values, whether individuals not only burst out into a public forum, but build it up inside themselves”. Through “Common front, Affectively”, the connection and isolation of individuals and groups, the relationship between the emotional outbursts and emotional control are exposed to the surface in a “common front” with diverse interpretations.
The participating artists were mainly born in the 1970s and 1980s, and include Hyewon Kwon, Daum Kim, Ragnar Kjartansson/The National, Rosalind Nashashibi, Bojan Djordjev(with Katarina Popović and Siniša Ilić), Cécile B. Evans, Ed Atkins, Ignas Krunglevičius, Yunjung Lee, Everyday Practice, Femke Herregraven, Yang Ah Ham and Minki Hong.
Yunjung Lee, a Korean artist who is also a choreographer and a dancer, performs on the subject of ‘in-betweenness’. Through the performance, which represents the dancing of friction between bodies, Lee investigates the relationships between body and space, body and time, body and language, and between bodies. She expresses physical contacts and psychological conflicts via dance movements and investigates the relationships between self and others, individual and society, minority and majority, and parity and disparity.
Lee’s performance, Between Spot and Spine (2018), began with the long-standing agony about her own body, a side-curved spine and a huge spot inside the arm. Through her performance, Lee has introspectively realised that the violence and oppression of the social gaze have deeply dwelled as an affliction of her body and mind. She has also comprehended that things considered as a personal matter were actually generated by the social systems and majorities.
Through the process of choreography and dance performance, Lee was gradually liberated from the gaze of others and looked back on her own behaviour, whether she acted like one of the majorities towards someone or minorities. Her research about the body as modified by the eye of society has been rendered in her earlier works Seventy-Fifth Second (2015), 1 and 4 (2017) and a recent solo piece of Between Spot and Spine (2018).
In the two-channel high-definition video work Hisser (2015), British artist Ed Atkins presents an uncannily realistic computer-animated protagonist that expresses intimate emotions — desperation, loneliness, alienation, mortality and longing — via mumbled soliloquy in a whitened, sorrowful room.
Through his video work and sound installation, Atkins examines how digitalisation and technological developments impact on our personal life. In his digitally generated video work, he created a place of hyper-real and artificial images with the perfect simulation of avatar’s expressions and movements. Although the artist employs a virtual protagonist as a surrogate, the voice inside the film was recorded by Atkins himself. With this work of art, he embraces and strikes the sympathetic nerves of humanity in the post-digital contemporary society.
In her moving image works, Korean artist Hyewon Kwon captures stories of people and spaces that were not revealed in the official records of historical events and memories of the past. See You at the Barricades (2016) is reshaping the experiences of time, emotion and space embodied in resistance songs and the structure of barricades.
The popular songs that were used by protesters in different parts of the world are presented with eight monitors and speaker sets paired with the architectural composition of the barricade utilised in the demonstration site. Audiences can listen to the contents of each song from the musical Les Miserable’s Do you hear the people sing? to the Into the New World by a Korean pop group Girls’ Generation, and watch the conjoined process of shaping the barricades. Through these songs, the historical and contemporary sites of resistance are brought to the audience as diachronic narratives. The work introduces a possibility for solidarity, expressed through the explosion of the crowd’s physical movement and its collective power.
Korean artist Daum Kim’s Blind Land, which in real estate jargon means a land without a path surrounded by the land of other owners, extends to the concept of psychological and social places and the interface of the connection between friends. By the time this work was produced, Hong Kong, Taipei and Seoul were passing through different but somehow similar social turbulence.
In the background of the cityscape of Hong Kong, Taipei and Seoul, the three friends in the work talk about houses they live in and the feelings about what is happening in their lives in letter-type conversations accompanied by nostalgic sounds. In the narrative conversations, the three young people are speaking about their personal circumstances, anxiety and uncertainty about their future, but these private stories are underlining that the situations they are facing are closely linked to many historical and sociopolitical aspects.
A voice speaking “you cannot go anywhere or do anything if you don’t pass by someone else” seems to invite the audience to interact into the dialogue and constitutes another interface as an invisible speaker.
“Common front, Affectively” suggests that feelings of insecurity, instability and helplessness can still generate a certain ‘movement’ in society, and express more or less clearly what we feel and what we think in a variety of ways. The curator, Hyun Jeung Kim, explains to Art Radar how the exhibition and its theme could be better understood:
Digital space gives us surprising news every day. Our society, which appears to be driven by logical and systematic elements, may be making greater changes with emotional waves that motivated this exhibition. Its title includes the word “affectively” but it may not be about strong emotions. The questions asked by the artists through their works might keep us from drawing conclusions or anticipating what the future may hold. The exhibition isn’t intended to summarise current phenomena; its intention is to naturally accept or let go of what is flowing in today’s society and to discuss open-mindedly, sharing this era’s “common emotional front.” This would be the beginning and the end of this exhibition.
Soo Jeong Kang
“Common From, Affectively” is on view from 22 March to 24 June 2018 at Nam June Paik Art Center, 10 Paiknamjune-ro, Giheung-gu, yongin-si,Gyeonggi-do, 17068 Korea.
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