Yeondoo Jung in Irrepressible Seoul: Contemporary Korean Video Art

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It was refreshing to have a drink while watching video art at the Hackney Picturehouse.

Yeondoo Jung’s ‘Handmade memories’ in particular caught my eye. I saw it in an exhibition setting at a gallery space in South Korea but this time it became a different work. When I went to his exhibition in the gallery, I focused on the artist, and the way he presented the inteviews using his imagination, rather than the people in his interviews. I did not watch the interviews from start to finish because the story itself was not important for me. The way his camera interviews were shown in the gallery was important. In the cinema it was quite different, the show time was set and I had to arrive on time and wait until the film finished, so the interviewees’ stories became the key focus.

Jung’s video work contrasts the ordinary scenes and ordinary sounds of the interviews with a fake, artificial setting which is shown alongside. The memories of the interview subjects were all from their youth so the settings had to be traditional Korean scenes. For example, one of the artificial scenes showed a traditional Korean house made out of photographs, but the final image was so real. How easily people can be decieved! The elderly Korean interview subjects must have exaggerated their memories. They became good, honest people in their memories and they romanticized the past. The interview subjects still live in Korea but their stories sounded like fairy tales to me. Korean society changed so quickly and it is diffult to say whether the young generation can understand the older generation. Even though the interviewees told their real life stories, in some cases I could not believe their stories could be true. For example one old lady mentioned living deep in the mountains and being worried that a tiger would come and attack her baby while she was collecting wild vegetable to feed her family. As a result, Jung’s fake setting seemed more realistic, and, in the end, I forgot about the artist and became interested in the old people’s story, finally understanding what they were saying.

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