Reflection at Bupyeong Arts Center, Korea
The French art historian and sociologist, Pierre Francastel (1900-1970), regarded art space as not just an independent aesthetic, but also as a symbolic system of social space. Through the mirrors of contemporary art, the ‘The Reflections’ exhibition projects the stories of modern people and society. The word ‘reflection’ (which capture both an outward reflection of external influences, as well as an inward self-reflection) symbolizes how through the eyes of two different countries, we can see a different perspective or a ‘mirror image’ of our society. This project is an art exchange project hosted by ‘Art Space Plastic’ in Korea and ‘Project Space Pilipinas’ based in Manila Philippines, which bring together two teams of young artist from Korea and the Philippines through an international exhibition exchange, to create both their individual and collaborative works on the symbolic theme of a ‘house’, drawing upon the influences of their own country’s society and culture. For this exhibition, the artist from Korea and the Philippines spent a month together in each country and through their personal experiences and interaction with each other, expressed through their works, the ‘harmony’ of their two cultures.
One of the artists, Byung-Sung Koh, based his artwork ‘Ulingan’ on his personal experience of his visit to Ulingan, Tondon, an area alienated from the rest of Manila, Philippines. Through his installation work, the artist uses ‘light’ to symbolize the innocence of the young children he encountered there, where their pure and bright smiles are transposed into the bright colors of the rainbow, in contrast with the dark and harsh reality of their everyday lives. In the collaborative art installation piece titled ‘ZIP’, created by artist Byung-Sung Koh and Carlo Gabuco, the English title itself is based on the pronunciation of the Korean word for ‘house’ (‘jib’), which can also convey the meaning of ‘being compact’, suggesting a way in which we can look at both countries’ politics, religions and cultures. The two artists combined the archetypal buildings from each country, a Roman Catholic Church building from the Philippines and a traditional Korean-style house (‘hanok’) from Korea, to create a somewhat unusual looking house, inside of which a photo of the two artists can be seen, which shows a vivid scene of how we live our lives.
The collaboration piece titled ‘What is your dream house?’ by artist Ja-Yeon Kwon, Jin-Suk Che and Christopher Zamora, was based on a direct survey of Koreans and Filipinos, which asked people to describe their ‘dream house’. The artist used the survey to create either a drawing or an installation art piece of each person’s ‘dream house’. The artists from Korea, each with their own perspectives of a house’s shape and its amenities which have been shaped in the context of Korea’s own historical development, created the ‘dream house’ described in the Filipinos survey; similarly, the Filipino artists, each with their own notions of what a ‘house’ would look like, created their visualizations of how Koreans described their ‘dream houses’. The final outcomes of this process show houses whose designs demonstrate ingenuity in the artists’ achievement of creating harmony between the Philippines and Korea.
In his piece titled ‘Our universe’, artist Leslie de Chavez arranged hundreds of picture frames in rows, containing images of Filipino families. In the Philippines, where society is built on family values, the ‘house’ is a warm and emotional place where the family can be together in one place and as well as the driving force for pursuing one’s hopes, dreams and goals. Not only does each scene in a photo capture everyday family life, but it also reflects the country’s society and culture, a scene capturing the process of repetition and renewal of generations over time, their own small universe.
If we were to treat the above pieces as works, which represented a ‘house’ as an emotional space where ‘life’, ‘dreams’ and ‘family’ can flourish, then the piece titled ‘Magic Castle’ by artist Jun-Hee Han explores the representation of a ‘house’ as a snapshot of social structure. Through virtual reality, people today can create their space and house; in reality however, a ‘dream house’ is no different to any other illusion. The artist pushes himself beyond the limits of institutional boundaries and through his piece, reinterprets the meaning of a ‘house’ in a contemporary and satirical context by representing the ‘house’ as becoming just another ‘object of desire’ for people who are drifting endlessly through life. The ‘Magic Castle’ symbolizes the boundary between mainstream society and those excluded from it. Similar to a castle rampart, changes in politics, society and culture will only cause this barrier higher and higher.
The piece titled ‘Conversation’ is a large-scale collaboration which brings together the drawings of artist Mike Adrao with the media art of So-Young Lee and Ju-Yeon Lee. The artists discovered that the colonial past of the Philippines and Korea was a common denominator of their two nations’ histories and their collaboration piece used patterns representing the national identity and heritage of the two countries before the colonial period. These traditional patterns of the two countries will interact in harmony with visitors, whose movements will be visualized on a screen through motion drawing. This piece shows how art through images can overcome communication barriers formed by different languages and cultures, where drawings by a Filipino artist using traditional methods, can be complemented by two Korean artists creating media art using modern techniques, the combination of which amplifies the significance of this art pieces.
In her piece titled ‘Text-ring’, artist Ju-Yeon Lee explores the important role played by social networking website ‘Twitter’ in facilitating social interaction in modern society. Dealing with subject matters of ‘relationship’ and ‘communication’, visitors can type in their Twitter messages, which will then appear as a ‘text-ring’, creating a bond and communication link between the artist and the visitor. We are each a ring that links together with each other, and we surround ourselves with the links to other rings that we make throughout our lives. The rings that are linked to us today are not only the links we have made directly, but also there are links which we have formed in the past at random points in our lives; or there might be links which were not formed by us, but through the links of others. Although we may not feel that those who live in other parts of the world can matter to us, like blood capillaries, we are all actually connected to each other and to other societies.
Artist So-Young Lee captured on camera the scenes of the seaside in Subic, a 2-hour journey by car, North West of Manila. Her piece titled ‘Scenes of the seaside in Subic’, shows images, which like surrealist paintings, reflects the landscape of the Philippines, from the eyes of a stranger. Late one night, while she was walking along the seaside, she encountered a peaceful and natural scene before her, which felt so incredibly surreal and beautiful that it reminded her of the sharp contrast of the scenery to the harsh reality faced by some of the local people. The artist wants to convey with the affection she felt when she saw the sights of the Philippines, a message of hope that in the darkness, the moon will ever shine more brightly. (Park, Soyeon, Reflection Curator)