The Korea Herald


Depictions of ‘body aches’ in modern society

Sungkok Art Museum explores the idea of society being overwhelmed by stress and anxiety in relation to the body

By Lee Woo-young

Published : March 13, 2014 - 20:19

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Tension and anxiety are sometimes crucial factors that drive modern individuals to deal with the increasingly competitive world. But they also leave them and society at large in great distress.

An exhibition in Seoul shows artistic interpretations of such distress or “aches” that prevail in Korean society. Titled “Momsal,” or body ache in Korean, the exhibition examines modern society and how individuals respond to social phenomena in relation to the body.

Curated by the museum’s five young interns, the exhibition looks into functions of the body in modern society from the perspectives of six international artists, including Israeli artist Sigalit Landau and Chinese artist Cui Xianji and four Korean artists Shin Je-heon, Lee Sun-haing and Lee Seung-hoon and Black Jaguar.  

Lee Seung-hoon highlights the reality in which bodies are treated as commercial products through photographs of women who are readied for plastic surgery. The artist reveals the before images with surgical markings drawn on their faces. The perfectly measured markings give an idea of which part the person wishes to enhance ― a sharp jaw line, high nose, round forehead or double eyelids. 
“On Plastic Surgery #01” by Lee Seung-hoon. (Sungkok Art Museum) “On Plastic Surgery #01” by Lee Seung-hoon. (Sungkok Art Museum)

While people desire to look better, anxiety dominates their everyday lives even in sleep.

Lee Sun-haing deals with the anxiety of modern people through an installation of mannequins covered in blankets. Lee attempts to portray the tension and anxiety people suffer even in sleep. The mannequins, covered in blankets, stand in the exhibition hall as a metaphor for people who do not sleep deeply, but always remain light sleepers because of stress.

Artist Black Jaguar uses her body as an instrument to heal psychological trauma from the violence of the government in its crackdown of the 1980 democratic uprising in Gwangju. She paints herself in black-and-white stripes and starts to wash the paint off under a blazing sun in mid-afternoon at the heart of Gwangju. 
“A Giant Monster” by Black Jaguar. (Sungkok Art Museum) “A Giant Monster” by Black Jaguar. (Sungkok Art Museum)

Israeli artist Landau explores the tricky issue of borders in relation to the body. A performance by three naked women on a beach expresses the constantly changing borderline between Israel and Palestine. Korean-Chinese artist Cui Xianji explores personal endeavors to find identity as a man who lives as an outsider in both Korea and China.

The exhibition runs through April 6 at Sungkok Art Museum in Jongno, Seoul. For more information, call (02) 737-7650.

By Lee Woo-young (