Future’s Future’s Future_3rd UK Korean Artists Exhibition
2010. 12.3 – 2011. 2.19, KCCUK, London, UK
(c) Korean Cultural Centre UK _ Future’s Future’s Future
The UK-Korean Artists exhibitions are not strictly prescribed shows. Yet these exhibitions represent what the Korean artists in the UK can offer. This year, we return with the theme “Future’s Future’s Futures”, where the artists were asked to respond to the phrase in their own individual way.
How we came to the theme is quite interesting. Last year, the 2nd year of the UK Korean Artists, a common theme of Surveillance arose from the artists’ and designers’ works. The exhibition evolved to be called “Supervisions”, and works depicting artistic interpretations of the world around us being monitored were expressed through self-monitoring CCTVs, a digital tapestry of social networks, a photographic diary of moments of ethical dilemmas for example.
When the exhibition opened in December 2009, we received a comment that the exhibition was very forward looking. Indeed, in the following year 2010, the Tate Modern’s “Exposed” exhibition shared a similar theme of CCTVs whereas Hayward Gallery’s exhibition in June 2010 looked at blurred distinction between art and design, also contained two Korean artists.
It became clear that this generation of Korean artists is very much experimental and contemporary. Close inspection reveals how these artists are influenced by both streams of culture and in different spectrum of futures : Jung Pyo HONG’s cartoon heads made of resin depicts a futuristic cartoon character’s head based in space age but was popular to Korean kids growing up in the 80s. Was the vision of the future of the past still prevail in present?; Jinkyun AHN’s transient depiction of confusion tradition in Korean society looks at us in the future; Jung Wook MOK’s found images in the internet and those of images of demolishment of building sites are particularly reminiscent of Seoul where this destruction and reconstruction occurs, city transforming into a more futuristic city. Was it from the exhaustion of this continuous rebuilding? Hyung Jin PARK’s Mickey Mouse to Van Gogh’s head made of foil is an exhausted version of the popular characters and icons of the modern world look ghostly yet futuristic, being made of foil and resin; Jin Han LEE’s paintings of complex quotations of geometric shapes against architectural structures is her gesture of applying numerous layers, smearing the background and the object and deleting any chronological order. Jung-Ouk HONG’s earlier work deciphering the relations of necessary but invisible elements in the world, like gravity, seems to be developed into poignant but electrifiable state of art. By using found objects like clothing tags, HONG builts his own combination of elements. Some of Luna Jungeun LEE’s portraits are also found images but by adding her own commentary, the faces become representatives of different elements in the Korean society; This duality is expressed by Minae KIM’s site-specific works look into a dilemma or absurdness behind human recognition. Her two wroks “Conundrums” and “Reflection” seemed to me enigmatic, like the gap between the present leading to the future.
During the preparation of the show, I happened to read a popular magazine on plane to Korea which featured an article entitled “Seoul & Art”. Mark Schatzker wrote, “What Koreans are thinking about is the future. And the faster they can get there, the better.” (P88 Nov Issue, W magazine)
Stephanie Seungmin KIM
Picking up from Seungmin’s comments my response as guest curator has been a bit tongue in cheek. Often during the visits I make to Korea I notice many building sites proclaiming slogans like ‘proud to be building a better future’ and variations along that sentiment. The signs are in Korean and English so clearly the developers have a global audience in mind. I like building sites as a matter of course and always peer through the boards to see the construction going in inside. I have noticed how the public face of the sites show massive shiny photos of the architects dream, of how wonderful the development will be, this is in contrast to the muddy hole of the site within.
Choosing a name for a group exhibition is difficult as one always ends up with something so general in an effort to cover all bases. So thinking of the building sites and their promises of brave bright futures I put forward the title, future’s future’s future; a future so impossibly distant that one would be forced to see the contradiction, the absurdity and humour of that hyperbole, dismiss it and get back to the work.
The future has traditionally been the preserve of progress, equality and technological advance, that it isn’t here yet is a set back to the ideas about progress that we may harbour. The sharp distinction between what is and what should be is becoming especially clear in the UK in these new times of financial stringencies and increased inequality between rich and poor.
Back in Korea which is by no means some sort of Utopia there is a strong sense of optimism for the future, it is a go-ahead society where people work incredibly hard for themselves and their families. Koreans prize education very highly and are prepared to dig deep to pay for it for their children. The artists in this exhibition have come through or are in London art schools seeing them as gateways for their future. I think what this exhibition does is to spot-light the contribution young Korean artists are making, not only in financial terms by buying into the UK education system, but also by the fresh set of ideas and influences they bring to art here that re-charges the batteries for us all.