Platform Seoul 2008: Close Encounters with Space, History, and Memory
25 October – 23 November, 2008
The Old Seoul Station and 13 Galleries, Seoul.
In the old district of Seoul, Korea, 13 galleries and art museums have collaborated to mount Platform Seoul 2008, a biennial-type art event, which has a special focus on media arts and installations. The title “Platform” conjures up the concept of “theatricality,” a term that has provoked a considerable amount of controversy among the post-Greenbergian generation of art critics and artists. In addition, this year’s Platform has a special theme — that is, “I have nothing to say and I'm saying it,” the famous line uttered by John Cage. The overall impression of the event cannot, however, be summed up with either the basic thematic frame of “platform” or a Cagean emphasis on time and space. The fun, playful, and even expressionistic qualities that pervade the event are at odds with the legacy of the low-key, self-effacing Cage.
The gallery Sun Contemporary has been filled with Martin Creed’s purple balloons. Despite its quiet and eerie appearance, Markus Schinwald’s wooden puppet with the huge hole in its chest at the gallery Do Art is consistent with the dominant traits of the art works on display for its reference to fantasy and childhood dreams. Ujino Muneteru’s transformation of a used car into an art object set in the middle of a traditional Korean house appears to be a joke — not to mention Muneteru’s brilliant idea of interrupting the tranquility of a traditional architectural setting with an ugly machine.
In place of the pure perception of time and space, personal narrative and history permeate many of the artworks, especially those displayed in the old Seoul Station, a now defunct historic building that once stood as a symbol of Japanese Imperialism in Korea. During the guided tour of the building, the narration of the photographer Dong-Sung Suh, based upon the stories of his great aunt, is replayed in designated spots. Suh’s great aunt is a Japanese woman who ran away to Seoul with a young Korean man studying in Japan at a time of the Japanese occupation in Korea. The contents of Suh’s narration moves in and out of the Station building, and Yang-Ah Ham’s video projection Bird’s Eye View (of the old Seoul Station) reinforces a sense of vulnerability and nostalgia, the important characteristics of Suh’s story. Ham’s projection forces the viewer to confront the seriously deteriorating condition of the Station. One of the most emotionally engaging parts of the exhibition is Hwa-Yeon Nam’s video installation The Tide is High. Nam’s work is comprised of the abstract moving images responding to miniscule sounds collected from the site; then, in her ritualistic performance, she repeatedly reaches and pulls out strings on a harp as if she summons memory buried at the site. Indeed, her movement enables the viewer to expand their spatial perception meshed with history and personal memories, just as viewers have a chance to realize their urge for healing and reconciliation. Certainly the best beneficiaries of her performance are those Koreans and Japanese still haunted by historical burdens.