It has been 50 years since Korea and Australia established diplomatic relations and the friendship is now blooming on the art scene, with two exhibitions “Tell me Tell me” and “City within the City.”
The National Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) hosts “Tell me Tell me: Australian and Korean Art 1976-2011,” in collaboration with the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) in Sydney, at its main building in Gwacheon, Gyeonggi Province, through Feb. 19, 2012. The exhibition was first held at the National Art School in Sydney from June 17 to Aug. 24 before travelling to Korea.
Co-curated by Glenn Barkley of the MCA and Kim In-hye of MOCA, the title of the exhibition came from Korean girl group Wonder Girls’ song by the same name.
“We hope the exhibition will explain the relationship between the two countries and we are happy to introduce young Australian artists to Korea,” Barkley said.
In the exhibition, not only do Australian and Korean cultures meet, but so do the times of 1976 and 2011.
“Though Australian art is not well-known in Korea, it has hidden charms. Though the history of Australia as a nation is short, it has a longer tradition of its land and indigenous culture that influenced contemporary art,” Kim said. “The beginning of Korea-Australia artistic exchanges date back to 1976. Korean artists like Lee Ufan and Lee Kang-so participated in the second Sydney Biennale and Korean video artist Paik Nam-june also visited the country in 1976.”
Kim said the process of preparing the exhibition was a perfect example of a cultural exchange as she and Barkley had to research each other’s art intensively.
In the lobby, Brook Andrew’s 2008 work “LOOP: A Model of how the world operates” greets the visitors. Andrew’s works are inspired by traditional Aboriginal patterns which he combines with contemporary materials such as neon.
A round, pinkish glass ball in front of “LOOP” is Korean artists Kil Cho-sil’s “The Breathtaking,” which holds a shaman’s breath in it.
The exhibition also introduces Paik’s “Zen for TV” (1963) from MOCA’s collection, which incorporates the concept of Zen through a television monitor, then the newest technology. The curators found Lee Ufan’s earlier work “Situation I,” which was on display at the 1976 Biennale, at the Mildura Arts Centre Regional Gallery in southern Australia and brought it to light.
Australian artist Louise Weaver’s works “No Small Wonder” and “Grey Forester” portray the nature of Australia through knitted objects and animals, while Charlie Sofo creates pieces using everyday objects such as sheets of paper, watermelon seeds and fluorescent light in “Balls” and “Watermelon.”
Yee Soo-kyung’s video “Our Tryst Has Been Delayed” and Christian Thompson’s “Gamu Mambu (Blood Song)” keenly contrasts the two country’s characteristics.
Admission is 5,000 won for adults and free for students. For more information about the exhibition, visit www.moca.go.kr/engN or call (02) 2188-6114.
Artsonje Center in central Seoul presents “City within the City,” examining various issues regarding cities and urban areas. The exhibition is co-developed by Gertrude Contemporary in Melbourne, Australia.
It looks at the rapid change of Seoul through a wide spectrum of artists. Alexie Glass-Kantor, director of Gertrude Contemporary said the two cities are very different in historical and cultural background, but both have a drive to keep moving forward.
“The city described in the exhibit is not a physical space, but a place of uncertainty, contradiction and intimacy,” Glass-Kantor said.
Architecture historian Ahn Chang-mo has collaborated with graphic designer Jung Jin-yeoul to research the city and present it in a newspaper-like form, while Seo Hyun-suk explores the people behind Sewoon Mart through a double-screen video.
Jung Yeon-doo chose to look into the life of diverse people and took photos of families living in the Southern Rainbow apartment complex in his work “Southern Rainbow Seoul.” Each apartment is the same structure and same size but the people living there are so different.
Listen to the City presents art activism project “Design Seoul or Gotham City.” The group also offers tour programs of the Han River Renaissance and the Four-River Restoration Project on Dec. 3 and 10.
Ash Keating, who was in Seoul in 2008 participating in Asialink Residency, revisited several locations for “City within the City.” Keating was struck by rapid redevelopment projects and luxurious apartment advertisements and created a fictional development project “Zi Namsan Plus.” His work is on display on a replica construction wall inside the art center as well as on a construction site’s wall behind Artsonje Center, blurring the line between reality and art.
Other artists participating in the exhibition include Andrew McQualter from Australia, Abraham Cruzvillegas from Mexico and Alicia Frankovich from New Zealand.
The exhibition runs through Jan. 15. Entry is 3,000 won for adults and 1,500 won for students. For more information, visit www.artsonje.org/asc or call (02) 733-8945.