Now how do you look critically at Korean arts from your position in Korea’s art circles?
|Hwang Seok-gwon senior reporter of Monthly Art|
|Views of contemporary Korean arts
Recently, I have been finding similarities in my talks with people at art events and in magazine manuscripts: comments on the words posted on the social network services (SNS), symbolized by Facebook and Twitter, have increased quite a lot. Thanks to the popularization of mobile devices, if someone has an account, they can access SNS anywhere within the region where communication service is available, and read other opinions and express their own. In such an environment, it has become a part of our daily lives that we read other people’s comments and thoughts in real time. And it feels like this has become a standard for judging others.
Most of the opinions on such services have a declaration or definition type of writing style. This trend makes one sense the changes in the attitudes toward situations and issues, producing various controversies involved with the problem of whether SNS is a private or public space. The great ripple effect of such services has yielded a diversity of opinions, and these opin- ions are collected, criticized, or made the topic of discussion. In fact, such a process also shows that it is hard to have meaning beyond simply adding words to a discussion.
Since I have joined ‘Moving Triennale,’ I have tried to solve one of my questions under such reasoning. I am in a position of only reading others’ opinions on SNS, and I have never posted my opinions. I think of myself as just a listener. So I’ve wondered about the changes in people’s attitudes. I wanted to know the difference between their writings on Twitter or Face- book, which they think is a private space, and their manuscripts written for a public space.
I asked a question to ten critics, artists, and curators. Along with the conversation about the purpose of the ‘Moving Triennale,’ our talk was connected with their answers to my question. I asked the following rough and clumsy question to them.
“I want to hear your words, like the liberal—of course, even if it will also be partly filtered through self-monitoring―words you express on Twitter or Facebook. My question is this. Can you tell me how you look at Korean arts now from your position within Korea’s art circles? You can point out some problems or comment on artistic works. Or you can tell your contemplative view like looking at a natural landscape. Or you can think based on the purpose of the triennale I mentioned earlier. It is also good to tell me your anticipations. And I welcome the issues that have made you angry, happy, or agonized. Please tell me your thoughts on Korean arts.”
They answered as follows. But I should clearly say that I will not judge their manuscripts for publication to compare them with their comments here. My intention is simply to image the difference between their words on social media and their manuscripts for publication.”
|Now how do you look critically at Korean arts from your position in Korea’s art circles?|
curator of Gyeongnam Art Museum
When the Gwangju Biennale and the Busan Biennale launched, a biennale was considered an international art event that produced many topics to discuss and had a pure function to present advanced contemporary arts. However, these days such huge art events seem to be engrossed in enlarging their size, like capital increasing into more capital. Today’s biennales are losing their will to produce new discussions and healthy movements, and are only showing their greed to satisfy their interest and solidify their organizations. Recently, Busan Biennale caused a boycott of artists due to the abuse of the biennale chairman Oh Gwang-su(오광수), and Gwangju Biennale reserved the installation of a work with the reason that the work satirized the president, causing the resignation of the director of the special exhibition. I personally hope that events like biennales will come to an end. I believe that such massive and useless events must disappear to realize a cultural democracy in which artists and curators can create living stories in people’s daily lives.
Where are you?
Portray us as we are.
Remember that no one can prevent the flow of history.
Already the time has transformed from words into images, what does it matter to visualize a story?
I shout, “Artists are no idle people.”
We are helpers of people who look at their lives, culture, politics, and economy, and then record them.
Then, don’t worry even if the world is noisy and the insides of artists are dizzy.
director of Corner Art Space and curator of Mimesis Art Museum
Korea’s contemporary arts are the White Cube Gallery and the Black Box Theatre mixed with contrary esthetic concepts and artistic experi- ments; interdisciplinary arts crossing borders; international biennales invested with huge budgets and alternative art organizations hardly surviving without support; evolving art markets and still hungry experimental arts; translated Western themes and renewing Asian es- thetics; and a ‘creative economy’ adopted as a policy of the country and pure arts forced to prove their economic value.
A friend asked me,“What is contemporary art? Is art a deceit?”
I didn’t like the questions. I said that art is not a deceit but rather a trick used in art. At that time I was exhausted with this emotional fight. The work of an artist is a problem of how much they make viewers recognize our age objectively. Thus, art does not need the empathy of the viewers. And even though they may cry out, trying to look lowly, those who are within art will not do so.
Today there may not be many people who think that art is the fruit of a few artistic geniuses or something holy standing alone from the world. Most people cannot help but agree that art too is the result of a person within a capitalistic society investing their capability and time, and belongs to the area of production that is maintained by receiving a rational reward and recognition. But in the workplace of art in our country, it seems that the system of rational reward and recognition fitting the results of artists’ works has not yet been firmly settled. The reward and recognition I mentioned here are not about the position of artists or the value of artistic works that are seen from buyers or viewers outside artistic circles. It is about many mediators’ awareness of the reward and recognition, who are indirect producers related with exhibitions, the sale of works, and media that are involved with art.
Recently, artists and critics have seriously discussed ‘artists as labors’ as a theme of a few exhibitions and as a topic made in the process of preparing artistic events. Concretely, this will be about paying the production cost of a work or paying the fee of a manuscript. In the structure of Korea’s current art circles, only a few artists earn their living by selling their works, and most of the artists lead their lives difficultly through public or private support or by having multiple occupations. I also depend on a small number of manuscript and lectures fees because I am not a professor of a college or a curator of an organization. Despite such a situation, our art circles do not have proper awareness regarding the production cost of a work and the fee of a manuscript that are the basic reward for the result of an artistic activ- ity. When an exhibition is planned, the production cost should be set in the section of expenses, no matter how much expense of the exhibition was allotted. And in the case of a manuscript, regardless of the quantity of the manuscript and the position of the writer, the fee of a manuscript should be paid. About this claim, someone might say,“But isn’t art for earning a reputation?” or“Haven’t you made your name and been recognized instead of a financial reward?” Of course, these are not incorrect words. It is because art regards reputation and recognition as more important than other production fields, and has the specificity that symbolic capital is converted into substantial capital. However, basic rewards such as a production cost and manuscript fee are very direct costs that should be paid, in addition to such symbolic capitals. When this fact is overlooked, our art circles cannot avoid the unbalanced structure where only a few famous artists and writers mo- nopolize it, and expect the qualitative development of artistic works and criticism. Of course, fixing an exhibition cost and a manuscript fee is managed by the head or manager of an organization. But if actors in the workplace of art do not change their awareness and do not continuously talk about it, there will be no change. Don’t stand in the servile, second place. When we request an honorable, second place, we can be in the true, first place.
Looking back at the art circles in the early 1990s, I agonize over the meaning of contemporaneity in Korean art. It’s been 25 years since then, but how free are we from the logic of the center and periphery? The alternatives appearing for locality, otherness, alter-modern, and so on still come from the West, and the winning of awards by Korean artists in Western events and displaying their works in Western leading organizations are still accepted as great achievements. If contemporaneity is a problem to us that we cannot set aside the time difference with the West, there will be rather a possibility in how we re-write the original text-that is, cultural translation.
curator (Nam June Paik Art Center)
It is time that our society and art circles stop the policy of quantitative development, and instead examine our current situation and ensure our internal stability. We must no longer put building art museums as our goal but now seriously think about what we will put in the current museums and how we will put them in them. We also need to seek a way to improve the unstable employment condition of most workers who work at museums. These days, the fact that ‘people’ create a society and culture seems to be forgotten.
As an artist, I am losing my sense of humor.
Such elements as satire, humor, wit, paradox-whether light or heavy-have been keywords of my work.
But in 2014, my humor is now no longer alive or sharp.
Along with the sunken Sewolho, my humor has drowned.
“Sinking” is a word that presents me these days as an artist and a normal person.
Is humanity run by a system this hopeless?
Could my art losing humor return?
Art does not come through the accumulation of a single image or time but is endless unfamiliarity and deviation. Since there is no compass, it cannot be predicted. It is the same as chaos but makes us live. So acts related with art, artists, directors, critics, and viewers are unfamiliar. When an act of art is felt familiarly, it has become an act of daily routines. Aren’t we thinking that a daily routine is an act of art?