Universes in Universe / Caravan / 50th Venice Biennial / Republic of Korea
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50th Venice Biennial, Republic of Korea
Press Release, May 2003

Contact: Ms. Jeon Jeong-ok
Korean Pavilion Office
5-129 Changjeon-dong
Mapo-gu Seoul 121-190 Korea
Tel: +822.3142.1693 (Seoul) / +39.340.988.1667 (Venice)
Fax: +822.338.4237 (Seoul) / + (Venice)


Korean Pavilion to present “Landscape of Differences” at the 50. International Art Exhibition - La Biennale di Venezia, June 15 to November 2, 2003

The Korean Pavilion at this year’s La Biennale di Venezia will present the works of Whang Inkie, Bahc Yiso and Chung Seoyoung under the theme of “Landscape of Differences.” It marks a significant departure from previous Pavilions by focusing on the architecture of the Pavilion itself. The theme is intended to promote a more productive discussion of contemporary Korean art by emphasizing differences found among the artists, the works, as well as the difference between art and the environment. The Commissioner and curator of the exhibition is Kim Hong-hee, a noted critic and art historian, and the Director of SSamziespace, a multi-purpose arts space based in Seoul.

Featuring mid-career artists Hwang Inkie, Bahc Yiso and Chung Seoyoung, the Pavilion will showcase new works specifically premised upon the Pavilion building and grounds. Initially trained as a painter, Hwang will install “Like a Breeze,” a continuation of his “digitized landscape” series in which traditional literati paintings are scanned and then reconstituted in mosaic-like fashion by the accumulation of thousands of acrylic and silicon bits. Known for his subversive conceptual works, Bahc will present “Venice Biennale” and “World’s Top Ten Tallest Structures in 2010,” while sculptor Chung Seoyoung will show “The New Pillar” and “A New Life.” All three artists have shown widely, including participation in the Gwangju Biennale and Yokohama Triennale.

This Pavilion will also be the first time that three, rather than two artists will be shown. As Pavilion Commissioner Kim Hong-hee states, “this Pavilion hopes to avoid the kind of competitive atmosphere that two-person shows inevitably must face.” This will be the fifth time that the permanent Korean Pavilion has been exhibited at La Biennale di Venezia. A 100-plus page, full color, bilingual catalogue with essays by Kim Hong-hee and Joan Kee, in Korean and English, and designed by Byul, will be available for sale for 25 Euros during the exhibition’s duration.

Site-Specificity and an Affinity With Nature: An Exhibition Based On the Korean Pavilion

As the core concept for this year’s Korean Pavilion, the theme “Landscape of Differences” is based on the many differences that can be found in art and nature, internal space and the external outdoors, as well as the artists and their works. “Landscape of Differences” utilizes the position of the Korean Pavilion which is located some distance away from the main thoroughfare of the Giardini but is also on the southeasternmost point of the Giardini, where viewers can enjoy the lush coastal scenery of the Venice lagoon. This latter point is particularly emphasized by the Pavilion’s architecture which incorporates various elements found in nature, as seen in the northeastern wall shaped to mimic waves rolling onto the Venetian coast, while the structure of the building itself is gradually raised in such a way as to suggest a ship that has come into port.

Because of its intimacy with its natural surroundings, the architecture of the Korean Pavilion has often been described as “an expression of the Asian spirit through Western architecture.” Yet from the time of its construction in 1995, the Pavilion has been criticized by many within Korea as an inappropriate space for an exhibition because of its unusual shape. Consequently, previous exhibitions staged in the Korean Pavilion have tried to overcome what was perceived as unfavorable architectural elements.

In contrast, this year’s exhibition actually showcases these “unfavorable” elements as an important means of emphasizing the key concepts of difference, site-specificity and open-endedness. Derived from the Pavilion building, the Pavilion’s surrounding environment, and the open aspect of the Pavilion structure designed to blend in with nature, the exhibition theme and specifics highlight the unique identity of the Korean Pavilion.

Here, the original shape of the building has been restored by leaving that part of the ceiling which obstructs the skylight, and by removing the temporary wall covering the glass wall originally encompassing the Pavilion. This allows the scenery outdoors to directly permeate the inside of the building, as well as enable the intensification of natural light within the exhibition space. Subsequently, the outdoor vista is drawn into the exhibition space while the works installed within the Pavilion appear to be thrust into the outdoors which causes a kind of spatial invagination to take place, which in turn, commences a dialogue between the inside and the outside, the making of an aesthetic of permeation. Furthermore, the exhibition space shaped like a half-circle along with the wave-like wall, both of which were once considered unusable, or “dead,” are utilized in order to expand the surface area of the exhibition as well as highlight the difference of the Korean Pavilion vis-à-vis the national pavilions of other countries.

The Works of Whang Inkie, Chung Seoyoung and Bahc Yiso: Creating a Different “Landscape of Differences”

Given this site-specificity, the selection of the artists was also done in consideration of the specific structural and spatial demands of the Korean Pavilion. Upon opening the main door, one is presented with the oblong central space and the curvaceous wall to the right, which comprises one exhibition space, while across from this is a clear view of the Venetian coast and lagoon. So striking was this image that it was decided that the front central space was to be left dramatically empty in contrast to the 17-meter long, wave-like wall where Whang Inkie will place part of his large-scale installation, “Like a Breeze,” based on a reconstituted computer scan of a famous Korean literati painting. Reaching a total length of 28 meters, the work will also cover the glass wall that looks out onto the Venetian seascape, thus blurring the boundaries between what is considered as the spatial outside and inside.

This work will be the latest in his series of what he calls “digital sansuhwa” (sansuhwa is a kind of traditional inkbrush painting much favored by Korean literati) where original images of well-known paintings are scanned, pixellated, and converted into dots that serve as a blueprint upon which the artist then “recreates” these paintings as giant mosaic-like works by attaching thousands of small acrylic pieces, rivets, and other materials.

To the left is an exhibition space almost opposite to that of the central one. As if to underscore the positional and stylistic isolation of this space compared to the rest of the Pavilion, Chung unfolds a singular drama upon this unlikely stage. Composed of arched, square, and concave sorts of spaces, this will be home to Chung Seoyoung’s architecturally-informed objects. “The New Pillar” will be a falsely expanded version of a pre-existing pillar while “A New Life” is an installation that uses the cube-shaped space that was the original tenant of the site upon which the Korean Pavilion now stands. “A New Life” is comprised of two elements, a bright orange door and a surreal motorbike standing in another doorway. One half of the motorbike stands outside, the doorway, while another is inside, once again reinforcing the seamlessness of the inside and outside. Both these works will continue Chung’s exploration into the gaps and the incongruencies between images and concepts, words and objects.

Because the Korean Pavilion is located in a slightly remote area, it was the intention of the curator to select works that would appeal to the viewer. Bahc Yiso was selected for this reason, and he fulfills this not by making spectacular outdoor work, but the opposite: a seemingly careless installation consisting of crudely carved miniatures of each of the national pavilions and the Arsenale buildings aptly titled “La Biennale di Venezia.” The complement to this work will be “World’s Top Ten Tallest Structures in 2010,” a series of what will be world’s top ten tallest structures as of 2010 sculpted in plastiline. Linked together by their use of miniature scale and architectural models, they in turn link the inside with the outside and reenact the spatial invagination of outside and inside first initiated by Whang. In addition, the reduction of human accomplishment and historical legacy into miniatures, into something non-virile, anti-heroic is made possible by Bahc’s long-standing interest in the peripheral, the useless, the lacking, the empty and the weak as well as his preference for cheap and everyday materials like plywood and concrete and his artmaking process where works seem carelessly produced without deliberation.

In these site-specific works, all three artists engage both in facilitating a dialogue between the inside and the outside and inverting the order implied by the two: the digitized traditional landscapes of Whang Inkie’s allegorical landscapes, the fictitious landscape of Chung Seoyoung that externalizes an impossible language of expression through the expansion and condensation of form, and the cultural landscapes of Bahc Yiso that launch a critique of culture through a certain aesthetic of carelessness. Taken together, they form a “landscape of differences” that catalyzes a process of becoming that is also deconstructive, as site that is meditative as well as dynamic in nature.

In the name of art, the conceptual landscapes offered by the three artists raise another kind of landscape of differences that includes the intersection and the juxtaposition between the Venetian coastline and an actual landscape. Consequently, the Korean Pavilion's structural and site-related specifics will comprise a spectrum based on conflicts, communions and missed connections between the exterior and the interior, art and nature. Coming together in an irregular union based on the aesthetic and conceptual differences of the three artists, their works enable a comprehensive vision of a Korean Pavilion that is unique from other national pavilions; the works produce a “landscape of differences” that can easily oscillate between the polar ends of contemplation and restlessness.


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