Beyond the Detail: Censorship at the Gwangju Biennale (Dilettante Army)

A few weeks ago, the Gwangju Biennale (광주비엔날레) censored Hong Seong-dam’s (홍성담) painting Sewol Owol. Many news sources focused on one small part of the painting. With the support of my colleague, Hanna Yoo, I explain and analyze the entire painting in an article for Dilettante Army. See excerpts below and visit Dilettante Army for the full story.

“Censorship and government control is still a major thread at the Biennale, where a painting concerning these South Korean leaders has caused significant upheaval. “Restricting Eyes”: Lee Yong-woo on Gwangju Biennale Censorship by Julie Baumgardner explains why Lee Yong-woo, its cofounder and president, resigned his position—censorship of artist Hong Seong-dam’s paintingSewol Owol. Intended to be part of a commemorative exhibition at the Gwangju Museum of Art (GMA) celebrating the Biennale’s 20th anniversary, the painting is a raw tribute to the tragic sinking of the Korean ferry last spring which killed nearly 300 people, mostly high school students; it is an artwork created in the true spirit of the Gwangju Uprising. When presented to the GMA officials mere hours before the opening on August 8, the officials called a meeting and decided to postpone any decisions until the middle of September. At that point Hong withdrew the painting. In addition, at a press conference Lee stated, “I don’t think it is taboo to satirize a country’s president…Freedom of artistic expression should not be restricted by the government just because they have the exhibition budget under their control” Lee alludes that the government has more say in the Biennale than the public may realize.

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Many online sources written in English, including the Art in America article mentioned above as well as the New York Times, the Economist, and The Korean Herald, addressed the censorship. Most of the visual representations of the mural are just a detail that focuses on President Park Geun Hye (such as the detail used by Art in America). Though the reason for censorship, this image is only a fraction of the entire artwork. With the flurry surrounding the censorship, the entire artwork requires viewing and analysis. After the controversy arose, the artist posted an image of the entire painting on his website revealing a vast, dramatic, and visceral scene. If you can read Korean, the artist explains the painting in detail here.”

Posted: September 30th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Art Review, Visual and Critical Studies | Tags: , , , , , , , , | No Comments »

Sunday Morning Coffee [Reading List]

Image via Art in America

“Norko Realism” by Travis Jeppesen for Art in America gives an overview of the contemporary art world in North Korea.  Jeppesen explains the style, “This is a socialist, yet also ultranationalist, “realism” that belongs strictly to the Korean people north of the 38th parallel, and cannot be understood apart from their ideology-infused quotidian life, which has existed for a relatively brief span of time (since the DPRK’s founding in 1948).” He also explains the expectations and boundaries that established for the art community in the DRPK (Art in America).

“Is Yellow Fever an Expression of Pedophilic Tendencies?” The main question of the article asks if “Yellow Fever, is it a multicultural symbol or a pedophilic fetish?” Overall, I think there needs to be more research to support the arguments in the article but  this part stood out to me: “The sexualisation of Asian women and the equivalent desexualisation of Asian men is [also] reflected in the American popular culture […]“ (Love Love China).

“Defining Racism in Korea” was sparked by controversy regarding racism and the Ebola outbreak; it gives a brief introduction of the roots of racism in Korea. Racism is a complicated topic in most countries and cultures, “Korean racism, however, must be understood differently from its Western cousin, experts say. It is a complex product of the country’s colonial history, postwar American influence and military presence, rapid economic development as well as patriotism that takes a special pride in its “ethnic homogeneity,” according to professor Kim Hyun-mee from Yonsei University” (Korean Herald).

“Wife’s Memory” is a Korean comic (with English translations). (I found it via The Grand Narrative.) The comic is heartbreaking and heartwarming.

On Friday I shared a collection of links as a quick way to get to know what is going on at the Gwangju Biennale this year.

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Not exactly something to read but very important, North Korean exiles will be speaking at a conference next week. “This is the first time that prominent North Korean exiles will speak publicly in a conference about the functioning of this totalitarian state. Some of them have only recently fled North Korea. All of the speakers held important positions in the regime as high-ranking officials, politicians or party cadres.”

Posted: September 14th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Sunday Morning Coffee, Visual and Critical Studies | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | No Comments »

Gwangju Biennale 2014

Opening Ceremony of the Gwangju Biennale via gwangjubiennale.org

Last week Art in America was the first Western source to reveal first hand information about the censorship of Hong Seong-dam’s Sewol Owol and subsequent resignation of the current president and cofounder of the Gwangju Biennale, Lee Yong-woo. The satirical painting includes criticism of the current president, Park Guen Hye and references the Korean ferry that sank last spring tragically taking many lives. The Korean Herald also covered the topic quoting Mr. Lee saying “‘From an art critic’s point of view, the painting should be on exhibit. I don’t think it is taboo to satirize a country’s president,” said Lee. “Freedom of artistic expression should not be restricted by the government just because they have the exhibition budget under their control.”‘

Among the controversy, some sources were able to shift focus back to the artwork. Art Radar Asia reviewed eight artworks from the Biennale including Minouk Lim’s Fire Cliff 3. I wrote about Lim’s Fire Cliff series when she came to Chicago in 2013. The Economist also touched on some of the artwork and the head curator, Jessica Morgan. Morgan has continued to progress; Art in America just announced  that the curator will be the new director of the Dia Art Foundation.

Posted: September 12th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Art Review, Visual and Critical Studies | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

“Top online resources for Korean contemporary art” (Art Radar)

June17_Pieta

An image I took in 2011 of Lee Yongbaek’s “Pieta”

I wrote an article for Art Radar Asia about the top resources for contemporary South Korean art:

“The digital sphere offers a relatively limited number of resources on contemporary South Korean art in English, especially compared to Korea’s East Asian neighbours. Although online resources for English-speaking art professionals are becoming more abundant, a need still exists for varied and critical debate among the online art community.

To help you make the most of South Korea’s exciting art scene, here are the best online resources that feature contemporary Korean art. Ranging from online archives to critical reviews, as a collection these virtual spaces allow anyone with internet access to delve into the rich contemporary art scene flowing out of the Korea peninsula.”

To read the entire article click here!

Posted: April 10th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Art Review, Visual and Critical Studies | Tags: , , , , , | No Comments »

Body Update: Bending

Images by Bill Durgin via DesignBoom

Virtual gender swap via DesignBoom. This is an interesting concept but I don’t see why it has to be specific to gender. Size? Race? Health? Also, gender is not necessarily a binary thing as it seems to be presented here.

Speaking of gender, Facebook has some interesting news.

People are making the internet a better place! (Don’t tell my student’s I endorsed something Wikipedia related! ;) )

A friend shared Ren Hang’s photography with me a few weeks ago because of my work on Chang Jia’s Standing Up Peeing. 

Posted: February 18th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Art Review, Body, Visual and Critical Studies | Tags: , , , , | No Comments »

Current Reading List

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From my Instagram taken outside of the restroom at Alternative Space Loop in Seoul

“Pink Writing: P.R.C.-Based Publishing in English on Queer and Pot-Queer Issues” in Intersections: Gender and Sexuality in Asia and the Pacific (Issue 33, December 2013) by Maud Lavin

“Big Flesh, Big Emotions: Jenny Saville’s Paintings And Melissa McCarthy’s Comedy” in The Last Women’s Magazine by Maud Lavin

“The Politics of Identity for Korean Women Artists Living in Britain” in Third Text: Critical Perspectives on Contemporary Art and Culture by Beccy Kennedy

“Bargaining with Patriarchy” in Gender and Society (Sept. 1988) pp. 274-290 by Deniz Kandiyoti

Americanah by  Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey

Posted: January 22nd, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Body, Visual and Critical Studies | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | No Comments »

Body Language (Body Conferences)

Freddy will always have a piece of my heart. Queen’s “Body Language” (1982).

If I had all the time and money in the world I would apply to participate in these two conferences:

Bodies in Between: Corporeality and Visuality from Historical Avant-garde to Social Media

Deadline for call for papers: February 15, 2014

Conference Dates: 29-31 May, 2014

Location: Cluj-Napoca, ROMANIA

Time, Space, and the Body

Deadline for call for papers: April 4, 2014

Conference Dates: 7-9 September, 2014

Location: Oxford, ENGLAND

Posted: January 14th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Art Review, Body, Visual and Critical Studies | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | No Comments »

North Korea Notes

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An image I took this summer looking across to North Korea from Paju

North Korea is mentioned on occasion in this space. Below is yet another collection of links about the country.

David Guttenfelder is the only western photographer allowed to take photos of North Korea. In this short video he discusses that experience.

“I was born a [North Korean] Unicorn.”

An essay by Kim Jong Il’s former cook. He traveled all over the world to satisfy Kim Jong Il’s decadent cravings. In the end, he used one of those trips to escape.

An article about North Koreans in Japan. A friend of mine, Kim Insook, has an ongoing photography project about the subject.

Art Asia Pacific’s succinct article about what it means to be an artist north of the DMZ.

If you’re on the Korean peninsula next September you should check out the DMZ Korean International Documentary Film Festival. September 17-24, 2014 in Paju and Goyang.

North Korea and Choco pies, one of our favorite convenience store desserts when we’re in South Korea.

Apex Art’s exhibition from 2012, A Postcard from Afar: North Korea From a Distance curated by Mark Feary.

Posted: January 9th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Art Review, Visual and Critical Studies | Tags: , , , , , , , | No Comments »

Faces and forms

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The image above is from “The Average Faces of Women Around the World.” I’m not sure about how scientific this project is but the idea is interesting. You can make your own average face here.

The Average Faces are reminiscent of this project.

Last week David Rosenberg wrote an article about plastic surgery recovery. “Stark Portraits From The Plastic Surgery Recovery Room” includes stunning and chilling photographs of women post surgery created by Ji Yeo. Here’s an interview with the artist.

This image by Zanele Muholi from 2009 is lovely and runs along the theme of this post. I found it alongside a call for papers on Visual Activism.

Posted: September 23rd, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Body, Lifestyle, Sunday Morning Coffee, Visual and Critical Studies | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | No Comments »

Sunday Morning Coffee [Masculinity]

Image from Joseph Maida’s series New Natives (Hawai’i)

Huffington Post’s article, “8 Scantily Clad Reasons To Rethink Your Understanding of Masculinity” written by Priscilla Frank. Reviewing Joseph Maida’s photographs, “Far removed from your typical headshot, Maida’s photos capture the wide variety of men who happen to find shelter on the tropical islands, combining blatant sensuality with traditionally masculine and feminine poses.”

Knife and Fork shared an interesting article about male eating disorders posted on Jezebel, “I’m an Alcoholic Dude With an Eating Disorder. Hi.” written by stand-up comedian Jamie Kilstein. In a comedic but poignant tone Kilstein explains, “I would tell people that if they ever did a Behind the Music-type special on me, it would be the lamest one ever. Instead of a heroin or a crack addiction, it would just be me on the road after a gig, naked in a bathtub, surrounded by stuffed crust pizza boxes sobbing into my phone, ‘YOU DON’T KNOW ME!’”

A few weeks ago I wrote an article about the male body in contemporary South Korean art for Art Radar Asia. I touch upon the urger to prefect the body and ways artists alter the actual human figure through their art.

On a different note, take a look at this man’s collection of Barbie dolls!

As I write this post some artists come to mind such as Dutes Miller, this exhibition, and of course some of these dudes. Speaking of, have you seen Ai Weiwei’s latest? According to Art Radar Asia, “… bloody performances, simulated sex and government repression can still provoke art audiences.”

If you’re interested, here’s some recommended reading regarding South Korea and masculinity: Sun Jung’s Korean Masculinities and Transcultural Consumption: Yonsama, Rain, Oldboy, K-Pop Idols and Stephen J. Epstein and Rachael M. Joo’s article “Multiple Exposures: Korean Bodies and the Transnational Imagination.”

Posted: September 8th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Sunday Morning Coffee, Visual and Critical Studies | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | No Comments »