Last week for the second time I went to see an exhibit at MAD called Korean Eye: Energy and Matter. The exhibit shows new pieces by 21 contemporary Korean artists, who work in many mediums, including painting, photography, video, and mixed media, “with the aim to bring Korean contemporary art world-wide.”
The program description from MAD also reads, “Korean Eye: Energy and Matter reflects a new era of diversity in Korean life, politics, and culture” while giving viewers the opportunity to learn more about “Korea’s rapidly developing art scene, which until recently has seen little global exposure.”
I hadn’t been this excited about an exhibition in a long time. After extensively researching the Korean Wave last fall, it was clear to me that Korea is a leader in exploring innovative visual techniques by utilizing advanced technology. Korean Eye: Energy and Matter exemplified this pretty well. Through the combination of many varying materials, the artists seemed to be exploring the meaning of making in a society strongly engaged in virtual reality and under the “pervasive influence of fantasy and pop culture.” The use of traditional artistic techniques, such as embroidery and antique porcelain vases, with cutting edge practices such as the use of giant LED screens and digital photograph sculptures, worked to display the vivacity and forward thinking of contemporary Korean artists at the front of the Korean art scene today, revealing a new era of diversity.
One of my favorite pieces was a small sculpture in the corner titled “Breik,” made by Hyun-Soo Kim (Gyeonggi, Korea) in 2008. In the description, Kim wrote that his pieces are based on his dreams. His dreams mirror his reality, and by manifesting them in concrete form, he can create another reality, one he dreamed of himself. ”Breik” brings things from the world of fantasy to the space of reality.
I particularly like this piece because a concept that was once a dream is given an undeniable concrete physicality. It shows that unreal entities can be brought into the real world, similar to virtual identities becoming real by taking form in the person who created them until they cannot be distinguished from reality.
Another favorite of mine was “Ming and Chung Dynasty Paintings- Cross Over” by Lee Leenam (Damyung Korea) from 2011. The five large LED screens illustrated an original classic painting from the Myung-Cheong era, but with a modern twist. The painting was animated, with birds flying across the five screens, the small people walking along the pathways, and the river flowing throughout the scene. The landscape also changed seasons- first the rains came, and everything turned green like spring time. Then it started snowing. Finally, the sun sets on the entire painting and it becomes night. I’ve attempted to capture a bit of the transformation in the following photos.
I loved the piece for the personality it gave to this old screen painting. I felt so much more involved while viewing the animation and had a lot of fun watching it. I was truly mystified because I’ve never imagined one of these old painting in animation. Additionally, I appreciated the technique of digital painting that was utilized for its freshness and the obvious use of technology in tradition. The piece found the point where past and present meet.
Among all the pieces in the exhibit, it seems to me that these artists are working in a discursive space somewhere between the traditional and the contemporary, between reality and fantasy, the concrete and the virtual. This discursive space combines different worlds, thereby transcending them and moving beyond them, indicating our ability to create limitless other worlds and make them reality. Because of this, Korean Eye is a great example of metamodernism.