The Korean Cultural Centre, Grand Buildings, 1-3 Strand
9 December 2008 – 15 January 2009
Jeong Mun Hur, Heena Kim, Yun-Kyung Kim, Minho Kwon, Bommsoon Lee, Younjeong Lee, Soonnam Lim, Jun-Gu Noh, Jee Oh, Jihye Park, So Young Park, Changwoo Ryu, Gee Song, Hyemin Son
Review by Beccy Kennedy
Rephrase the title of ‘Entry Forms’ to ‘forms of entry’ and this clarifies and assimilates the strands which form what this exhibition is about: how entrance is made into new environments, whether physical, imagined, artistic, institutional or perceivably ‘national.’ It asks, What happens, culturally, when artists traverse location? Appropriately, the exhibition does not prescribe an answer or even begin to.
Whereas the 2007 exhibition at Arts Depot, ‘Eo-Ulim’1, also showing UK-based Korean artists, tackled this topic by broaching the issue of cultural hybridity and / or harmony, here the 14 artists are presented without borders. In fact, the curatorial input is minimal in terms of the labelling of the art works, which successfully appears to be artist-led in terms of the thematic detail, rather than fixed by curatorial categories.
There do, however, appear to be reoccurring forms and concepts throughout the exhibition, such as the physical versus conceptual construct of home. This can be seen particularly in Jeong Mun Hur’s focused illustrations of terraces, Younjeong Lee’s patternised prints of city blocks and Yun-Kyung Kim’s vivid video installation in which she boldly walks the streets embodying a doll’s house (below). The insights of these artists, although comparable, are not compared by the curators themselves or clumped together as themes. The question the viewer must ask themselves is whether this elusiveness of exhibitory presentation works to enhance, obscure or mystify each individual work of art.
The introductory placard to the exhibition describes the diversity and individuality which the artists bring to Entry Forms: ‘Each artist brings a unique and individual interpretation to what it means to live here today; and as a result helps those of us who live here to re-examine our own experiences.’2 However, the premise is phrased in terms of the impact that Korean artists in Britain have upon a perceivable ‘us’ as ‘we’ re-examine our ‘own’ experiences. This unintentionally suggests that there is an ‘us’ and ‘them,’ with the ‘us’ being British-born citizens and the ‘them’ being migrants; thus presenting a dialogue of othering, rather than acknowledging that part of Britain’s cultural diversity and richness entails the presence of temporary / permanent migrants.
It is the case that the Korean artists who contributed are migrants as much as it is the case that they are Korean, or else the exhibition has no ontology, so why not explore the artists’ experiences of their migration in more detail? The answer may come in the form of something theoretically political, or else simply practical. The exhibition generally seems on a smaller scale than is usual for the Korean Cultural Centre but it is difficult to ascertain whether this is because there are fewer pieces per artist, fewer labels or because the catalogue is particularly slim-line. In most cases, there are several art works displayed for every artist but little to explain their background or construction. In the case of the fascinatingly indefinable, mixed/multi media, real time installation, ‘GORI_Sa’ by Jee Oh, this is quite frustrating. There is no information available which describes the processes and techniques involved in the artists’ constructions, despite the array of mediums or possible historical genres covered.
On the other hand, the art works in the exhibition can be received and explored without the boundaries enforced by annotation. The visitor is then allowed a more personal and leisurely relationship with, or way in to, each piece of creation.