Mina Cheon treats politics like lollipops
By Kwon Mee-yoo
An enlarged DIY action figure of U.S. president Barack Obama rotates in the middle of the exhibition hall and dances to the “Hooked on a Feeling” ooga chaka refrain featured in the hit Fox-TV series “Ally McBeal” in a video installation titled “Obama Dancing.” This is “The “Obama Room,” a part of Korean-American artist Mina Cheon’s exhibition “Polipop” at Sungkok Art Museum in Seoul.
Cheon takes politics into the witty world of pop art and named her work “Polipop.”
“I am interested in all kinds of media. When I wake up in the morning, I read all the headlines and even tabloids. Those are sources for my work,” the artist said. “Politics has become a source of conversation for everyone. I don’t think we should avoid talking about politics and my work interprets politics through the language of pop art.”
“The Obama Room” is on the first floor of the art museum. The hall is colored yellow, symbolizing sensitive issues around the U.S. president such as race, human rights, war and terrorism.
Cheon poses with Obama in “Yes, We Can! Obama & Me,” a parody of U.S. cultural icon “Rosie the Riveter,” while she blends the faces of Obama and Osama bin Laden with a phrase saying “I’m scared” in a endearing way.
“I tried to pull out controversy from the image of Obama,” she said. “The Obama figure is 186 centimeters tall, the same height as the U.S. president. However, it seems larger than life and more like a monument.”
The second gallery in strong red and blue is named “The Dokdo Room,” bringing in the acute conflicts in Asia into the world of media and pop art.
“The center of power is shifting to Asia,” Cheon said. She explores the South-North Korea relations as well as Korea and Japan’s longtime dispute over the Dokdo islets and capitalism in China.
The late North Korean leader Kim Jong-il is portrayed as a Pokemon in Cheon’s work “Pokeman,” inspired by the 2004 movie “Team America: World Police.”
“Traveling to Dokdo,” a three-channel video installation, shows various ways to visit Dokdo — physically visiting the islets, taking a tour through Google Earth or Second Life and participating in a marathon commemorating Dokdo Day.
“The Diamond Room” is full of images related to media, capitalism and consumption.
“Image a Day: Occupy 2011” is Cheon’s way of paying tribute to the late video artist Paik Nam-june. It is composed of 52 digital photo frames displaying political photos from each day of the year 2011 chosen by Cheon. She said it is one of her favorite pieces, showing a year through news and issues, from the Egyptian revolution and the royal wedding in England to the death of Steve Jobs and Kim Jong-il and the “Occupy” movement that swept the globe.
Cheon also exhibits a series of digital paintings piecing together various images from the Internet such as a day in the life of Korean figure skater Kim Yu-na or football player Park Ji-sung as well as a fake advertisement for a copy of Prince William of England and Kate Middleton’s wedding ring.
“Diamond 4 Ever,” light installations in the shape of a diamond accompanied by a mirrored wall installation in collaboration with Gabriel Kroiz, is the finale of the exhibition, representing the precious stone its named after, one of the most valuable and most sought-after products in consumer society.
The exhibition runs through March 11. Sungkok Museum is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. from Tuesday to Sunday. Admission costs 3,000 won for adults and 2,000 won for students. Docent programs are available at 2 and 4 p.m. every day.
For more information, visit www.sungkokmuseum.com or call (02) 737-8999.