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“Through the Looking Glass” panel discussion at Asia house

Cho Duck-hyun talks about his work at Asia House
Cho Duck-hyun talks about his work at Asia House. Photo: Young-Ae KIM, journalist at Wolganmisool – The Korean Monthly Art Magazine

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The full panel

Yesterday morning’s panel session gave a priveleged1 insight into the work of some of the artists represented at the stimulating show at Asia House. Chaired by Beth McKillop of the V&A, the discussant panel included Alessio Antoniolli from Gasworks, Hans Ulrich Obrist from The Serpentine, curator Jiyoon Lee and artists Duck-hyun Cho, Yeondoo Jung, Jeong-hwa Choi and Meekyoung Shin.

The artists presented some of their work outside of the pieces on display at Asia House.

Choi Jeong-hwa: Playground / Happy Happy

Choi Jeong-hwa talked about his colourful Flower Tree installations (most recently in Singapore – below) and his Happy Happy project in Christchurch, New Zealand (above), which fences off a children’s play area with brightly-coloured plastic objects. Other works (such as the chandelier on display at Asia House) used plastic baskets in bright primary colours.

Flower Tree, Singapore, by Choi Jeong-hwa

Cho Duck-hyun introduced some of his games with history. His project in San Francisco in 2003:

Cho creates performance-like excavations in which life-size, fiberglass dogs are first buried in the ground and then dug up by professional archaeologists and presented for public display. The artist also invents a narrative “history” of the excavated dogs; this is usually based on a combination of Korean legends and local folklore and myths. In manufacturing physical evidence for fictional cultures, he blurs the boundaries between science and art.

Encrusted with Korean soil, the twenty dogs on view in the museum’s North Court – along with a video documenting their “discovery” – were made and used by Cho for an excavation conducted in his homeland. For his work Eureka, another twenty dogs are being unearthed in a multi-tiered archaeological pit created just outside the Asian Art Museum building, near the northwest corner of Hyde and McAllister streets. The dogs were buried in June 2003; the excavation, which began in August, is being conducted by Archeo-Tec, a preeminent Bay Area archaeological firm. Museum visitors will be able to view the excavation site as part of the exhibit. The history Cho created for the dogs “discovered” outside the museum combines the themes of immigration, late-nineteenth-century San Francisco political history, and the Korean legend of a lost civilization called Yiseoguk.

The spoof documentary video of the dogs being excavated reminded one of the Chinese terracotta army. A similar archaeological project was devised with “relics” from Hendrik Hamel’s seventeenth-century journey through Korea – this time dropped into and then dredged up from a Dutch canal.

Yeondoo Jung’s project “Bewitched” focuses on the dreams of ordinary people. All the images from the project are on his site. Seriously worth a look (be patient: the page takes a long time to load). He also talked about his Evergreen project: a set of family portraits taken in the identical living rooms of flats in an apartment block. He mentioned the first showing of this project, to which all the families were invited. It’s comforting to know that people are the same the world over: the families were interested more in seeing what the inside of their neighbours’ flats looked like, than in looking at their own pictures.

Finally, Meekyoung Shin introduced some of her classical-style self-portraits in soap, one of which has been on show in the British Museum Great Court (see p 50 of the attached document).

I’ve studiously avoided commenting on any of the works in the Asia House show itself, because I’m hoping that a new contributor will be writing a review for this site and I don’t want to steal her thunder. But for the chaps among you, go along: it’s probably the only time in your life you will be positively encouraged to go and wash your hands in the ladies’ loo. Oh, and you get to use one of those brand new little iPods which only went on sale this week.


  • Further images of the panel discussion and some of the works in the exhibition. Most of the photos are by Young-Ae KIM, journalist at Wolganmisool – The Korean Monthly Art Magazine, as is the one at the top left of this article. The above images of works by Choi Jeong-hwa are from the websites linked to in the text.
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