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Exhibitions held in public and state-run museums are inevitably of conservative character as they disregard planners and curators's intention. It is conversative, a good way, from the perspective that it attempts to wrap up the culture in macro-sense, but also conservative, in a wrong way, from a perspective where it renders culture a subject of mere record in the field. This attest to the contradiction involved in an attempt to display works that aim to find a point where social reality and art confront each other in at the museum. <Bad Boys are Here and Now - New political art in Korea since 1990s> also position itself among these problems.

When you take a look around the space, things automatically remind you of <People's Art, 15 Years Ago> from 1994 at the National Museum of Contemporary Art, Korea. At the time, the exhibition received a complimentary review on government's implicit acceptance of people's art, while being criticized for categorizing the whole genre as that belonging in the past. There were criticisms on the exhibition itself. The exhibition was harshly criticized for displaying works that bear resemblance to the works that had been accepted by the institution, instead of displaying works that genuinely reflect people's art. Compared to the fact that displaying people's art, which was fueled by revolt again the institution itself, in an institutional space such as the National Museum of Contemporary Art, Korea, was borne with an unsolvable contradiction from the beginning, in <Bad Boys>, such dilemma does not bear a significant meaning. Regardless of what is mean by 'political art,' in this exhibition, although it makes criticisms and comments on various political system and institutions, it, as things were in the past, dwell not on dichotomy. Jungho Ok's work where it makes a satire out of Love Hotels which mimic castles of the West, Yangachi's saccharine reproduction of singing songs in a karaoke room are among the works and artists that are in the front line. The blind spot exists within us, and this is why we cannot just let it go.

Flying City , A Ghost house, Pallet, Mixed media, 346x714x809cm, 2009

Changkyung Park , power outage 停電, Single channel installation, 6min, 2009

Minuk Lim,Portable Keeper Single channel video installation, Sound, 10min, 2009

Just checking out this fact renders this exhibition positive, on both conscious and unconscious symbolic level. It may be meaningless to apply concept of progress into art, but if one could discuss a point in which Korean art has managed to achieve, it would be the degree of differentiation in art which equals that in the society, and the young emerging artists are integrating more sensitivity, richness and individuality into their work compared to their seniors. All these attest to the fact that the horizon of Korean contemporary art is broadening. Their choice of subject are diverse as their varying style and approach. Problems pertaining to urban planning(Minuk Lim, Minju Lee), immigrant workers(Kyungjoo Park, Mix Rice), refinding the starting point of Korean modern history(Seunguk Ko, Wonjun Choi), records on person and societal history(Kangwoo Lee, Haejung Cho-Donghwan Cho, Flying City), the homeless(Jonghun Bae), image of the North Korea(Changkyung Park), parody on the kitsch character of Korean society's culture(Yoonho Kim, Jungho Ok), etc. Mostly these works in the exhibition does not reflect the tendency of political arts, but are the achievements of Korean art itself from the past ten years. (Of course, there are some things that were rather unfulfilled. The some works' subjects merely appears to be of a political one, but not genuinely is one. It breaks down the unity of the show. It has to do with the fact that political art does not have a firm set boundary, but in any way, if the work shares a tangency with the reality, such should not bring much confusion into the concept.)

Such comment may appear to be a general one saying, 'I really enjoyed the exhibition,' but not putting this show on a part with <People's Art, 15 Years Ago> is a contradiction and reality itself. In the Republic of Korea, 2009, where violence and lack of sensibility runs amok as if the clock is running backward, the artists participating in this exhibition show diversity and richness, which make a sharp contrast. Bypassing the reality, this exhibition does not establish a confirmed account of the past, but places an on-going inquiry, overcoming the conservative character of exhibitions controled, to certain extent, by the state.

By Cho Seonryeong Independent Curator

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Posted by EYEBALL_Media Arts Webzine


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