Image above Lee Seung-hoon’s Plastic Surgery #01 via Korean Herald
Momsal (몸살), literally meaning body ache, examines the body as a site that represents the distress and aches of society. According to the Korean Herald, the exhibition at Sungkok Art Museum (성곡미술관) features six artists four of which are South Korean: Shin Je-heon (신제헌), Lee Sun-haing (이선행), Lee Seung-hoon (이승훈), and Black Jaguar (흑표범), and two from abroad: Sigalit Landau (Israel) and Cui Xianji (China). Above and below are some images of the artwork from the exhibition.
Black Jaguar, Giant–Monster, 2013, 150 x 100 cm, Digital Print
The first image in this post, Lee Seung-hoon’s Plastic Surgery #01, initially drew me to this exhibition. The marks on the people’s faces in the photographs recall battle paint. Cosmetic surgery is in a way a form of battle paint; it distorts the original likeness so that one can achieve greater success, or so they hope. The melancholic expression combined with the quickly painted child-like marks create a layered view into not just the act but also the person. While looking at Lee’s images I came across an opinion piece written for the New York Times by Han Kang about cosmetic surgery in South Korea. Kang describes looking at the before and after images, “Whenever I look at these pictures, it’s the ‘before’ face that I’m drawn to: the face that has been discarded; the one that has disappeared from the world forever.” Read the rest of Kang’s essay here. If you’re interested in more details, here’s some information from the Economist.
Lee Sun-haing, Place to Rest, 2013
It is easy to become distracted by cosmetic surgery when approaching the concept of the body and South Korea. This exhibition appears to have moved beyond that and addressed further corporeal themes. Alongside the images above, there is a bust of Damien Hirst, a video called Mermaids [Erasing the Border of Azkelon], and more. To see further images you can visit the museum website linked above and there is also an essay in Korean about it here.
I initially found this exhibition through The Korean Herald in “Depictions of ‘body aches’ in modern society” by Lee Woo-young.