Beauty in conflict, vulgarity and action

By Lee Woo-young

Finalists of Korea Artist Prize showcase works themed on social conflicts and taboos

  • Published : Aug 10, 2014 - 19:26
  • Updated : Aug 10, 2014 - 19:26
A man holds his smartphone up in the air to take a snapshot of a protest over the Sewol ferry disaster. Artist Noh Sun-tag spots him and photographs the man and another protester pressing his smartphone camera button for him.

Noh has observed scenes of protest and various social conflicts through his lens. His photographs are on display at the Korea Artist Prize exhibition, the annual artist award by the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea.

The exhibition showcases works by four artists that offer critiques and observations on society. They deal with political and social issues, social taboos, or challenge casual perceptions of our surroundings.

Noh has captured scenes of conflict escalating. His new photograph series “Sneaky Snakes in Scenes of Incompetence” features police men and protesters clicking camera shutters for different purposes. The police capture the faces of protesters to identify them afterward. Protesters and observers take snapshots of protests for a record. 
“Sneaky Snakes in Scenes of Incompetence” by Noh Sun-tag. (MMCA)

The exhibition also includes his previous series that documents life after the shelling of Yeonpyeongdo Island by North Korea in 2010 and people’s reactions on the observatory tower in the Demilitarized Zone.

Artist Chang Jia uses female bodies in her works to break social taboos about women’s sexual desire. For the exhibition, she made an installation of 12 large wooden wheels attached to chairs and adorned with feathers and crystals. When performers sit on the chairs and begin to pedal, the protruding crystals and feathers touch their genitals, giving both pleasure and pain. Performers also sing a medieval labor song with lyrics of a Korean folk song.

Chang challenged the stereotypes of women and objects in a previous series. She sought to reveal the aesthetic aspects of old surgical instruments used as torture tools and titled them “Beautiful Instruments II.” Her 2006 photograph series “Standing Up Peeing” feature women standing upright and urinating. 
“Taboo Stimulates Hidden Desire” by Chang Jia. (MMCA)

Artist Koo Dong-hee makes viewers navigate her installation work. The giant roller coaster installation “Way of Replay,” which takes up the whole exhibition space, is a 75-meter track that looks like a Mobius strip. Viewers are asked to put on a helmet for safety and sign on the “visitor safety regulation” before heading to explore. The adventure ends when a viewer jumps on a trampoline at the end of the track.

Her installation is based on her own memories of the Seoul Grand Park amusement park, located next to the museum.

“The work suggests an organic relationship between people and the world, which has been formed through an incessant exchange of action and reaction,” said a curator of the exhibition.

Artist Kim Shin-il presents installation works with the most visual impact. He presents letter sculptures accompanied with lighting and sound effects that are adjusted to viewers’ movements inside the exhibition space. When a viewer enters the space, the gallery darkens. Sound stimulates the viewer’s curiosity. Lighting effect highlights the sculpture. More visual effects come following viewers’ movements.

The exhibition continues through Nov. 9 at the Gwacheon Museum of the MMCA. For more information, visit www.mmca.go.kr.

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