The current exhibit at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Tell Me Tell Me: Australian and Korean Art 1976-2001, is part of a cultural exchange that began in 1976. While it is important to understand the development of contemporary art, I can’t help but feel the 70’s is best experienced within an abridged and well designed book from Taschen.
I saw more rocks in the environmental installations than I have seen in the whole of Seoul. I almost thought it was a garden expo until I came across photos of a naked man suspended by hooks amidst a circle of floating rocks. On the positive side, the video art was as awful 40 years ago as it is today. Video art can only be taken seriously when “exhibited artists” stop being so determinedly low budget. No that background hum does not add atmosphere- it is irritating, cheap, and lazy. Go to film school and get a nice camera.
Sure the museum puts on great shows, but when it doesn’t, at least there is always the towering pagoda of television sets by Nam June Paik to admire.
Near the border of the DMZ is the Hyeri Art Valley- home to clusters of galleries, artist studios and cafes. The architecture is surprisingly progressive and artsy considering its proximity to such a highly sensitive military border. During this time of year the small ponds are frozen over and the roads are much quieter, but the galleries are still filled with local and international art.
After catching an exhibit of contemporary German work, my friend and I warmed up inside a café called Hwang in Yong Music Space. We sipped quince tea while the sunlight trickled in and the classical music played.
Before we left, we walked through the commercial corner of the village where the children’s playground was adorned with ddong (poop) drawings. The infamous character Ddong Chim (Poop Needle) holds a firm grasp in the hearts of children and sometimes compels them to thrust their fingers up their teacher’s butts. That’s a whole different story though.
How to get there:
National Museum of Contemporary Art: Seoul Grand Park Station Line 4- follow the signs for the exit to the free museum shuttle bus.
Hyeri Art Village: Hapjeong Station Line 2, Exit #2. Catch bus 2200 and get off at Hyeri Art Valley.