Exhebition review–Keeping it Real


Andrew Odlin

Exhibition Review: Keeping it Real


ArtH 3539

            Keeping it Real, Korean artists in the age of multimedia representation, immediately coheres to its title. With works ranging from three-dimensional video installations and large format C-prints to a poised leopard made of tire shreds threatening viewers, the show delivers in the areas of visual impact, diverse working styles and enveloping format. The show seems isolating in spite of the different sounds and music coming form video installations into the rest of the gallery space. Though the music of some influenced most, it was a show that successfully posed the question of belief and seeing. To what extent do we allow the work to carry us away—more importantly, how do we let the cacophony of contemporary information influence our beliefs, our willingness to believe?

Among the first sensations that I felt as I entered the gallery space was the ethereal effect of the numerous monitors. Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World” carried me into the space and preceded my clockwise circumnavigation of the room. “I see fields of green…clouds of white…” (I saw Astroboy being un-ground by some rotating grinding machine in Kiwoun Shin’s video). The feeling of ephemerality was reinforced by the 3-D video installations of Kiwoun Shin also, whose super slow-motion shots of young people with alcohol being bombarded by toy cars, hello kitties and doll houses mesmerized me. As I made my first pass by the large C-prints on the north wall, I saw the familiar face of Nichole Marie Schwager, who had instructed me in ARTH 1400 accompanied by other CU affiliates in the staged camping documentation of Yeondoo Jung. Then, thousands of pieces of gum depicted on the text bubble-shaped monitor arrangement on the east wall fell at varying rates out of view. As I regarded the final video piece showing a woman in a pool with a polar-themed tile-mural and the flowing amalgamation of black lines that led my eye back to the entrance, the ubiquitous element of time was overwhelming.

Every piece, either through its own literal manipulation of video footage, as in the case of Jay Rhee, or by virtue of the larger context of the works around it (as was the case of the tire leopard frozen in mid-approach) was suggesting a sort of limited timelessness. The long-shot video of sets being manipulated by a team of uniformed workers by Yeodoo Jung and Hyung Koo Lee’s Tom and Jerry-esque skeleton cat and mouse also contributed to this feeling of mine. As this was such a diverse selection of works I will limit my discussion to those which grabbed and held my attention in respect to time manipulation and multimedia explorations.

As I watched the alcoholic containers held by varying young people, the advantage of high frame-rate digital technology had a dichotomous effect on my interpretation. At the same time that the staggering capability of the camera work brought to mind the inconceivably rapid recording of information that takes place around the world today, it also had the soothing  effect of taking control of the moment. This was an internal thought, as the artist did not directly reference these implications. The exploration of danger in youthful activities–drunk driving, for instance–was suggested through the use of alcohol and collision with toy vehicles. Larger implications included the drastic shift of Korean society since the cultural boom of recent decades. This is achieved using modern housing models which careen through the air and into the beverage of the subject. Each minute detail of the flowing liquid and swinging housing unit tantalizes the viewer while maintaining a playful attitude. After all, the collisions are voluntary and the enjoyment of the process is evident on the subjects’ faces.

It was almost difficult to settle into the time-consuming video works knowing that a menacing leopard was poised just behind me. Constructed almost entirely of rubber tire pieces, this large feline connoted for me the fairly recent development of ecological awareness, or, the willingness of marketing executives to brand their products as “green.” Tires are among the most problematic materials involved in transportation and contribute to copious amounts of carbon output. Their durability is great for travel but very bad for relinquishing. Another artist whose work features tires extensively in Nicholas Hlobo. His installations frequently take the form of dragons, sprawling over dozens of feet of floor space. Hlobo’s work is concerned with contemporary issues of South Africa, and tires refer to the increasing use of motorized transportation locally and globally, as well as to an old form of torture called Necking, in which a tire tube is used to direct scalding oil down an unfortunate person’s esophagus. Yong-ho Ji’s Leopard at CUAM seems not condemning so much as warning us not to act irresponsibly with our natural resources.

Yeondoo Jung’s work was first introduced to me at his artist lecture as part of the visiting artist lecture series. His fantastical accomplishments through both photo and video works deny impossibility. He and his team create foggy forest worlds with bee-keeping smoke poofers, they build prairie lands and by the time they leave the frame, you might never suspect that it is fabricated. His photographic works typically act as documentation of acts that he goes to great lengths to accomplish for others. If he comes upon a girl who always wanted to be a princess, he takes it upon himself to gather all the necessary props and make the dream a reality for the photograph.

Another of my favorite examples of Jung’s photographs is the series he built based on children’s drawings. The atmospheric magic surrounding a girl who rides a broom through the sky under moon and stars is the playful kind of creativity that inspires and uplifts me, though it is so outside of the work that I typically enjoy. For Keeping it Real, Jung staged photographs that documented a camping trip he took as part of his previous visit to the university. The photos promote a feeling that, though the photos are constructed, they also inspired a real feeling in the students that mixes ambiguously with their conscious persona. The photographs employ warm lighting in tent scenes which we can play into as confidants of the conversations taking place. Indeed, because of the proximity of the camping trip to our school and program, given a couple years, I could have been involved. I am in the visiting artist class this semester, but no artist saw fit to include me in a work of theirs, unfortunately.

While the situation of the photographs in the context of a visit to the University is interesting, I get the feeling that it is an audience and site-specific work. Without the relevance of the visiting artist talk and the camping trip that they constructed for the shoot, I am not sure that it would captivate me. Especially taken in comparison to his other works which make dreams come true with private jets and flying kids, this work has much less accessibility than his others.

The work that gave me the most sense of multimedia exploration was Kyung Woo Han’s sculptural projection. His arrangement of tables, red plastic and the stars of the American flag allowed viewers to physically enter the flag and see themselves projected in its stripes onto the wall. The intricacy of the objects that created the American flag was such that it took a minute for me to connect the projector’s surroundings with the wall. As a printmaker, I have a good idea about the precision required to register images. That is considerable on a two-dimensional image. The three-dimensional aspect compounded with the idea of literally placing someone into the American flag made me think of how we construct our identities. The materiality of the project did not constrict its implications and allowed for an open interpretation from each individual audience member.  This piece was successful for these reasons at providing just enough, but not too much information. And for a Korean artist to have made this work lends prominence to the globalized nature and world wide impact of Korean contemporary art.

Korean Artists in the age of multimedia representation provided a cohesive and engaging arrangement of works that demonstrated clearly the contemporary focus and international relevance of Korean artistic expression. Technologically and formally sound, with artists representative of Seoul, New York and Europe, the exhibition incited in me the most important ingredient in a fine art exhibition: the lasting want of more. I will be watching these artists and taking notes on their progress, because the caliber of works represented is the caliber to look up to.

One Response

  1. I also saw this show at our museum, which was a privilege. It is so interesting to see how these artist represent themselves culturally and as contemporary artists. This is such a wide array of work, and as a sculpture student, I’m happy that free standing sculptural work was included. It seems like so many artists are working digitally these days.

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