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MMCA Cheongju turns into a space for humans, animals and plants

The entrance to the exhibition “ARTificial Garden, the Border Between Us” at MMCA Cheongju (MMCA)
The entrance to the exhibition “ARTificial Garden, the Border Between Us” at MMCA Cheongju (MMCA)

A large magnolia tree stands in front of MMCA Cheongju in North Chungcheong Province. The tree became diseased in 2019 and will be cut down soon as it has now died.

Artist Han Seok-hyun revitalized the tree, transforming it into a work of art. He covered the dead tree with wood scraps -- cut timber and broken furniture, which ultimately come from other dead trees -- and added plants such as geraniums, trumpet creepers and even green onions in the spaces in this new covering. 

"Reverse-Rebirth Project” by Han Seok-hyun (MMCA)

The Cheongju venue of the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea, opened the exhibition “ARTificial Garden, the Border Between Us” as a reflection on humans’ selfish manipulation of nature that questions how we can better coexist with animals and plants. Such awareness has grown in the pandemic times.

The theme of the exhibition fits in with the history of the building, which was built in 1946 as a tobacco factory. The museum was set up here in 2018, becoming the national museum’s fourth branch.

The exhibition has eliminated partitions between artworks and sections to visualize the meaning of relationships and to emphasize the mutual influence between artworks, according to the museum. The exhibition explores four themes: “The Border Between Us,” “Awkward Coexistence,” “At the Border of City and Nature” and “To Be Able to Live Together.” 

"Reincarnation..Sunday” by Song Sung-jin (MMCA)

Pig sculptures made from earth are on display at the exhibition hall. Artist Song Sung-jin was inspired by a mass cull of pigs when foot-and-mouth disease hit the country. Those pig-shaped sculptures, titled “Reincarnation..Sunday,” contain seeds, and will return to the earth after the exhibition.

Kim Lee-park, an artist with a keen interest in plants, presents “Botanical Sanatorium,” providing treatment for sick plants. Park Ra-yeon showcases a series of paintings of plants that grew with perseverance at apartment construction sites. 

Keum Hye-won exhibited pets preserved through taxidermy along with their things -- food bowls, toys, even an owner’s old shoe -- questioning for whom those pets exist in the first place. In South Korea, about 1 in 3 households owned pets in 2020, according to the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.

Youn Bum-mo, the director of MMCA, said the exhibition posed the question of how much effort humans should make to coexist with nature.

“I hope that this exhibition provides an opportunity for visitors not only to examine how humans use their power for coexistence, but call for changes in people’s ways of thinking as well,” he said.

The exhibition showcases 87 works by 13 artists and runs through Nov. 21. Online reservations to visit the museum can be made through the museum’s official website.

By Park Yuna (yunapark@heraldcorp.com)

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