Peering behind people’s social networking masks

By Lee Woo-young

Seoul National University Museum of Art examines the complex facades people adopt on social networking sites and the truths behind them

  • Published : Jul 13, 2014 - 20:12
  • Updated : Jul 13, 2014 - 20:12
Art duo Kang Ji-yun and Jang Gun-hee take on an unusual quest to follow the traces of a man they call Mr. K solely based on his updates on a social networking site.

The two artists travel to the gym Mr. K exercises at, a coffee shop he frequents and the apartment complex he lives in, as they put together a video montage. Thanks to the updates he posts every hour, they find the man they’ve never met at a coffee shop.

But they never confront him. They simply peek through the window to get a glimpse. 
“Chasing K” by KKHH. (Museum of Art, Seoul National University)

The five-minute video is part of an exhibition at the Museum of Art at Seoul National University that examines the use of social networking sites as a place to put one’s private life on display, as well as people’s desire to snoop into the lives of others.

The exhibition, whose title “Confession of a Mask” is borrowed from a Japanese novel, asks whether confessions and secrets shared on social networking sites reveal who a person really is. With an increasing use of social networking platforms, more people reveal their private lives online, but do personal updates really reveal the truth?

Artist Chung Mun-kyung turns a stuffed animal inside out and reveals the inside stitches and rough edges. She even writes the names of the stuffed animals backwards such as “YFOOG.” In doing so, she examines the ugly truth behind stories made up or embellished on social networking sites.

Artist Kim Min-kyung asks about the truth of ourselves, using objects and symbols that represent us. She brings a variety of objects she could find in her room and displays them in a wooden box. She says that though the objects might describe her, they do not reveal her identity.

“Ode A l’Oubli,” a collection of sewing by Louise Bourgeois, indicates that sharing one’s misfortunes on social networking sites can’t be a solution to those problems. The artist, whose works are considered to symbolize her traumatic childhood and the process of healing, did sewing and needlework to make works that reflect herself, healing her wounds.

Artist Jeong Jeong-ju’s installation of a paper-made temporary town deals with the curiosity to look into other people’s lives. Viewers cautiously look in small windows and doors to see what’s inside the small town. At the same time, a camera installed inside the house films the viewers who are peaking through the “City of Gaze.”
“City of Gaze” by Jeong Jeong-ju. (Museum of Art, Seoul National University)

A painting of people holding cameras to take pictures highlights the fact that observing others’ daily updates on social networking sites doesn’t mean that the two persons build a close relationship.

Lee Hyo-youn’s painting features tourists holding cameras to take a photograph of something. They may know what they are photographing based on travel guidebooks and word of mouth but they remain as observers.

The exhibition runs through Sept. 14 at the Seoul National University Museum of Art. Admission is 3,000 won. For more information, visit snumoa.org.

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