London Korean Links

Covering things Korean in London and beyond since 2006

A Biennale footnote

As an appendix to my other two posts on Korean involvement in the 2007 Venice Biennale it is worth noting two other London Korean links.

Firstly, in an interesting Anglo-Korean-US partnership, London gallery Haunch of Venison and Seoul’s Kukje Gallery (plus New York’s James Cohan Gallery) united to bring video artist Bill Viola’s work Ocean without a Shore to the Chiesa di San Gallo. Ghostly black-and-white figures emerge through a wall of water into full colour daylight, only to return again to the gloom.

Unfortunately, the contemplation of these baptismal mysteries was rather spoilt by the noisy generator which kept springing rudely to life in the vestry, requiring the attention of the local fire brigade when I first visited.

Meanwhile, in the part of the show held in the vast space of the Arsenale, London-based Japanese photographer Tomoko Yoneda explored how seemingly innocent landscape images can be loaded with historical meaning. Two of her photographs were taken in Paju City, near the DMZ. In one, a minefield is located right beside a tourist attraction, while in the other a view across a broad river, with ajummas working a field in the foreground, is in fact a view across the border towards Kaesong.

Here’s Tomoko Yoneda’s statement:

History is created by the accumulation of memory. Even though history is perceived as part memory it is still real and continuously exists throughout the present. History is never a neutral reminder of events — it is built from our interpretation and affects our perception of the present world.

We tend to think of past locations of war and atrocity as somehow different from our own everyday environment. They are not. The possibility for atrocity does not come from ‘evil’ — a source outside ourselves — but from the normal, everyday human mind.

This series questions how we read the history of landscape. The images are in no way trying to be monumental; on the contrary it is preferable that on first viewing nothing unusual is noticed. It is only when the significance of the locations is revealed that a different and truer understanding can be made of the image and the malleable nature of history.

The images are not a finite statement but become a record of a moment in time from a location in constant transition. They highlight the ordinary in order to reveal its hidden dark history and serve as a silent but potent critique of that history.


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