The contemporary art exhibition “The Middle Land: When Time Unfolds into Land” currently taking place at the Arko Art Center in Daehangno, central Seoul, is unique in at least two ways.
First of all, the exhibition is completed with a performance that takes place ten times during the scrolling period. Second, this is an exhibition selected through a competition between curators, highlighting their role, unlike most art exhibitions in Korea where curators are overshadowed by participating artists.
The exhibition, which features works by featured artists such as Kimsooja, Kara Walker, Wu Tsang and Paul McCarthy, was curated by Zoe Chun, who was shortlisted for this year’s visual arts exhibition by the Arts Council Korea, which manages the art center. She is the director of the Great Commission, a nonprofit organization that facilitates the production of exhibitions, performances and publications that “explore contemporary values through an eclectic hybrid of artistic genres,” according to Chun.
“Inspired by the ‘Middle-earth’ mentioned in JRR Tolkien’s fantasy novels, this exhibition explores the meaning of space and place, which is the basis of a complex life story made up of both good and wrong, ”Zoo explained. “The exhibition engages with mental and spiritual narratives that involve historical events.”
“Tolkien said in a letter to his readers that while the story of Middle-earth may seem like the biography of a great hero, his greatness means nothing without the trivial and the ordinary,” he said. she adds.
In other words, the exhibition deals with modern history and contemporary society perceived and told as a “little story” by individuals, including marginalized people. Among the works is “Planted Names” (2002) by Korean artist Kimsooja, which is an installation of black rugs on which the artist wove the names of enslaved Africans who served on the Drayton Hall plantation in North Carolina. South, in white thread. Next to it, an animation of the silhouette of the American artist Kara Walker is projected. It’s “8 Possible Beginnings or: The Creation of African-America” (2005) that tells the story of the Atlantic slave trade and slavery like a dark and horrific fairy tale.
Other works include “We Hold Where Study,” a 2017 film by Wu Tsang, and “Painter,” a 1995 video work by Paul McCarthy, both of which challenge various societal stereotypes. There are also paintings in Sungsic Moon’s “A Mediocre Landscape” series; “Extasis”, a media artwork projected onto the staircase by Sohyun Moon; “You and I are Sculptures”, a sculpture group by Haneyl Choi; and “Telepathic Improvisation”, a video work by Pauline Boudry & Renate Lorenz.
Chun added that “The Middle Land: When Time Unfolds into Land” as a performance exhibition highlights the notion of “playing as contemporary art”. It is a two-part production of a contemporary art exhibition and an experimental play. “The epic and adventurous performance exhibit personifies each work of art in the format of a theatrical production,” she said.
Five artists – Hyunjun Ji, Setbyeol Lim, Woochi, SEP and Ari Kim – have already performed eight times. The last two performances are scheduled for 3 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. on Saturdays. The exhibition ends on June 13.
BY MOON SO-YOUNG [[email protected]]