Exhibitions delve into anxiety, social problems that weigh on us

By Lee Woo-young

Artists Yoon Dong-chun and Yangachi examine repeated problems in Korean society in solo exhibitions

  • Published : Jul 1, 2014 - 20:32
  • Updated : Jul 1, 2014 - 20:32
Anxiety sometimes drives us to raise our standards and meet them, but when anxiety arises from complex societal problems, it tends to be more of a burden.

Artist Yoon Dong-chun conducted a simple experiment to figure out what troubled young people of today the most. He displayed dozens of bottles of “Hope Pills” in his solo exhibition and let young viewers buy them for 3,000 won ($3) each. Pills that the artist said would help realize the dream of getting a job were the first to sell out. Other kinds of pills ― those that help with dating and marriage ― were not so popular.

Yoon believes the hardships that the younger generation feels today have been caused by older generations. His photograph series, entitled “Tools for the Older Generation (Politician)” shows baseball bats, rulers, hammers and other tools as means to satirize older people.

His work initially targeted old politicians. But he came to think that the harsh reality young people face might have resulted from what those in the older generation as a whole have done. So, a few years on, he changed the title of his photo series to include the older generation.

Artist Yangachi focuses on the lack of self-reflection in Korean society after seeing tragic accidents and irregularities occur over and over again. He partly attributes this to a hidden strategy by the government to distract people from politics.

He named his solo exhibition at Hakgojae Gallery in Seoul “A Night of Burning Bone and Skin.” The title is the same as that of a Korean erotic movie from the 1980s. 
“A Night of Burning Bone and Skin” by Yangachi. (Hakgojae Gallery)

The movie was one of many erotic films churned out under the so-called “3S policy” of the authoritarian regime of President Chun Doo-hwan, a former army general who took power through a coup. The three S’s were sex, sports and screen. The policy was intended to sap the public’s interest in politics.

“The government still develops new media in order to take away people’s interest from politics and social issues,” Yangachi said.

His artists’ name is a Korean word for a street bully that threatens younger kids for money.

Yangachi noted that preventable incidents repeat themselves throughout history. He tackles this matter by installing a stuffed bird on a mountain. The installation looks like a living bird when it is seen at night in the distance.

He said the artwork symbolizes those who should have been alive now, including the teenagers who died in the Sewol sinking in April. 
“Hope Pills” by Yoon Dong-chun. (Shinsegae Gallery)

Yoon also presents a set of 20 picture frames with yellow paper inside. The combination of black frames and yellow paper remind viewers of the yellow ribbon campaign that expressed hope for the return of the missing passengers from the ferry.

A candlelit vigil might be the most common night scene in Seoul after accidents took place, such as the ferry sinking that revealed so many irregularities and illegal practices.

Yoon fills a white wall inside the gallery with images of a candlelit demonstration. Instead of printing, he scorches the surface of the paper with a laser cutting machine and creates an old picture effect with some burn marks on the surface and faded colors.

Yoon Bung-chun’s exhibition “Juxtaposition ― Shade” continues through July 30 at Shinsegae Gallery (02-310-1921) at Shinsegae Department Store, Jung-gu, Seoul. Yangachi’s exhibition “A Night of Burning Bone and Skin” runs through July 27 at Hakgojae Gallery on Samcheong-ro in Seoul.

By Lee Woo-young (wylee@heraldcorp.com)