Up for discussion in Goyang: humanity, gender equality
By Ines Min
Hermaphrodites. Homosexual taboos. Doppelgangers and bucking traditions. Art exhibition?
“No More Daughters & Heroes” opened Wednesday at the Aram Nuri Arts Center in Goyang, Gyeonggi Province. The 12-artist showcase is a collaboration between the hosting center and an independent German curator, to bring together the likes of feminist rocker Peaches to the renowned Harun Farocki, many for their domestic debuts.
Just as gender roles and politics are comprised of disparate perspectives that meet in discussion, the exhibition bridges the concepts of its two curators — Kim Eun-jung of the Aram center and Jung Me from Germany.
The title of the showcase reveals the approaches they focus on: no more daughters, no more heroes. The former confronts the antiquated, if persistent, wish for sons, prominent within many Korean families (an attitude that Jung herself understands, being a second daughter) while the latter appropriates the perspective of global society: men are the heroes, the saviors.
Kim creates a critical account of contemporary thought while Jung looks past feminism to find resources in human relationships. However, both combine on the universality of stereotypes, preconceptions and self-image.
“We’re not just trying to show all the shades of man and woman, but also interpret how they deal with these themes,” said Jung, who was in charge of enlisting the foreign artists.
“It’s not just basic gender problems, but with humanity,” said Kim. “The role of one gender cannot change without an equal change in the role of the other.”
When asked if the topic would be shocking to the Korean public, the amicable curator said without pretension: “I hope so.”
The two-country exchange includes five domestic and seven international names and, though not all are German, each of the participating figures has ties to the European country, whether through residence or ancestry. The flexibility shows in the bold exhibition of installations, paintings, projections and videos, which approach an often taboo subject in local conservative audiences.
While each is recognized in their field — many of the artists have participated in the Venice Biennale or the German Documenta, shown solo exhibitions in Korea or abroad — some of the highlights include Kim Young-sup’s interviews with men and women, booming from 40 speakers a la propaganda of the DMZ. When asked, “What do you look for in a partner when you get married?” the answers come forth thus: for men, looks, for women, money.
A larger-than-life white gown made of “hanji,” traditional Korean paper, by Kim Sung-rae grows dark as it becomes saturated with ink from bottom up, while “The Dopplepass” by Thomas Eller — former editor and executive manager of the, German magazine, artnet AG — is a playful look on image and relationships. Visitors stand on a “grass field” as photographs of the artist are seen playing football with an Austrian player of the same name. Experimental filmmaker legend Harun Farocki provides a video of his analysis of the site of a Playboy photo shoot, which loses all exotic appeal in its conduction, placing a strand of hair there, pointing a toe there.
The Korea Times spoke with several of the artists ahead of the opening. Here’s what they had to say.
Katharina Sieverding is a Czech-born German and three-time participant at the prestigious Documenta in Kassel. One of her most famous works, “Transformer,” shows the enlarged faces of the artist and her husband Klaus Metting, each wearing exaggerated make-up and overlapped to create a blurred portrait of a single countenance. This exhibition is the first time it will be shown digitally, as opposed to the original analogue film.
“I constructed it from my idea of every human being including both sexes, the male and female,” said Sieverding, who is one of the 11 artists who personally installed their work, including her own daughter Pola. Though the piece was created more than three decades ago, it has recently seen a revival in world tours. “I feel it must still be relevant,” she said. “I think the idea is still not common, it is an idea that has to be talked about.”
Jan Peter E.R. Sonntag is part scientist, part auteur. The artist with a history in philosophy, cognitive science and instrumental music brings “GAMMAvert” to the exhibition, a work that seeks to distort the senses and provide a visceral reaction to the elusive green ray that appears momentarily, immediately before sunrise.
“To viewers it becomes white, because the brain can’t accept it’s all green,” he said, which recalibrates one’s white balance (an aftereffect is to see everything with a purplish tinge). Wishing to recreate the moment described by Jules Verne, Sonntag focuses the room around a photo of the seaside in front of his home, developed in uranium nitrate and read by a dangling isotope reader.
Standing waves fill the room creating an “architectural stress,” which transports the viewer into that scene: physically and mentally.
Peaches, an outrageous musician well-known for her unabashed sensuality on stage, shows her work “Fanbase Cave” for the second time to the public. An enclave of glowing pink (“I wanted it to be a woman’s shape”) invites the audience to crawl in on their hands and knees into the world of tokens made of the items thrown to the musician during performances.
“I wanted to honor my fans in that way,” she said sincerely, who confessed she couldn’t throw anything away, from self-sewn sequined bras to sex toys. “What I like about it is that their creativity comes through.”
Peaches added that while people may hold a “trepidation” about her, she wanted to break down that wall of idol; after all, her shows are more conversations and artwork than mere concerts. And as for the hair lining the exterior of the cave? “It’s a protective measure.”
The exhibition runs through Dec. 12 at the Aram Nuri Arts Center in Goyang. Admission is 3,000 won. Take subway line 3 to Jeongbalsan Station, exit 7 (the station connects directly to the center). For more information, visit www.artgy.or.kr or call (031) 960-0180.