I thought, for once, I’d try to get to an exhibition in the first few days of its existence instead of at the last possible minute. So I dutifully forked out £22 plus booking fee to see what the Delight media art show was all about.
First, be prepared to spend a while wandering around Borough Market and its neighbouring streets trying to find the place. If you’ve pre-booked a timed entry slot, arrive in the area early; you can always browse all the food stalls if you manage to find the place too quickly. The location shown on Google maps is pretty accurate — if, that is, you can get a signal as you walk underneath the railway tracks. If you haven’t already booked online for a timed entry slot, there is a ticket office just around the corner from the exhibition entrance, which I came across as I was looking for the exhibition itself.
The nice attendant who conducted me from the ticket office to the exhibition entrance (which otherwise I might not have found) told me to scan the QR codes that are at the bottom of the information boards in each room as you enter. I think she said that if you scan all of the codes you get a postcard when you exit the show. It is, of course, in the nature of a video exhibition (this one is installed in an otherwise lightless catacomb underneath the railway lines) that there is unlikely to be sufficient light to read the information boards. And I’d had enough difficulty getting a mobile phone signal to navigate my way to the exhibition that I didn’t think there would be enough internet coverage to trouble with the QR codes.
So, on to the exhibition itself. As you enter, there are several ranks of thin TV screens with videos of Koreans talking at you. If you speak Korean, it may mean something to you. If you don’t, then walk between those screens, as I did, to a nice mirrored room with lots of lights hanging from the ceiling. In fact, six hundred and thirty-one lights: one for each year since the start of King Taejo’s reign in 1392.
Indeed, much of the exhibition was Joseon dynasty themed: two or three of the rooms were dotted with replicas of the statues you find standing around the burial mounds of Joseon dynasty kings, first in the room entitled Shinro (God’s Road) and then in the double-height space entitled Mind: Myth in which the walls were projected with fish, dancheong designs and, at one point, a giant bear perhaps telling part of the ancient Dangun myth.
Other rooms aimed to tell the complex stories of the domestic spirits which inhabit the houses of Korean folklore, or brought us up to date with collages of neon street signs or a Matrix-style display of hangul text. The most appealing room, for me, was a riot of colour that combined cartoon-like video game characters with stylised traditional architecture and the royal picture of sun, moon and five peaks.
After those lively scenes of colour and sound, one of the final rooms had a peaceful video of a moon rising and slowly setting, reflected in a pool of water, which was a good way to end the show.
Here’s a selection of some of the video we took while wandering around, which might give you an idea what to expect:
The Delight website tries to give some idea of what each room is meant to represent which you may or may not find useful. The information boards in each room give more detailed guidance, but as noted above they’re not easy to read in the darkness. At the end of the day it’s probably just best to take each room as it comes and let the sound and video wash over you.
In summary: ten minutes trying to find the place (which probably doesn’t put you in the right frame of mind to start with); ten minutes walking around the show; and ten minutes wondering what it was you had just witnessed and whether you would recommend anyone else to part with £22 for the experience. In answer to that last question, I’d say it’s engaging enough to be worth a fiver, but no more than that. In comparison to, say, the LUX media art exhibition nearly two years ago, the projection mapping works of Yiyun Kang, or the video walls we have seen at Outernet, this was a little bit disappointing.
Delight is on at Borough Yards for a while — currently taking bookings up until the end of January 2024. Prices £19 for Monday – Thursday, rising to £24 at the weekend. £22 on Fridays, which is when we visited.