EXPLORING KOREA’S PERFORMANCE ART SCENE FROM THE 60s AND 70s AT THE KOREAN CULTURAL CENTRE, LONDON:
The 2017-2018 Korea/UK season at the Korean Cultural Centre in London continues with an unprecedented exhibition, running from 27th June until 29th July. “Rehearsals from the Korean Avant-Garde Performance Archive” explores the development of South Korea’s performance art scene during the late 1960s and 1970s.
Raised in an atmosphere of rebellion against a strict political regime and a social order that sought to restrict the very body and conscience of its people, South Korean artists turned to performance as a medium for creative expression. This exhibition focuses on how to engage with a non-Western history of performance art through a series of live events, arresting archival material and contemporary artistic practices.
The archival material was sourced from the Asian Culture Centre in Gwangju, forming the core of the exhibition, beautifully complemented by the work of five contemporary Korean artists, presenting a “historical rehearsal” of these events. The term was coined by the curators themselves to emphasise the re-staging, re-framing and reinterpreting of the archive, bringing history to life in a contemporary setting.
Kun-yong Lee and Neyung-kyung Sung were invited to be a part of the exhibition, as pioneering forces of the Korean performance scene, to re-present key works within this specific and current context.
“Rehearsals from the Korean Avant-Garde Performance Scene” takes a non-linear approach to the process of chronicling this period of fascinating artistic experimentation, drawing instead on pivotal moments in the country’s performance art history as a framework to engage with contemporary practices today.
Such moments include “Happening with a Vinyl Umbrella and a Candle” from 1967, scripted by Kwang-soo Oh; “Transparent Balloons and Nude Happening” from 1968, by Kuk-jin Kang, Kang-ja Jung, Chan-seung Jung; “Funeral Ceremony of the Established Art and Culture” from 1970, by Ku-lim Kim, Chan-seung Jung, Kang-ja Jung and Son Il-gwang; “Wind-Folk Amusement” from 1971 by Seung-Taek Lee; “Bar in the Gallery” from 1973 by Kang-so Lee; “Newspapers” from 1974 by Neung-kyung Sung; and “Snail’s Gallop” from 1979 by Kun-Yong Lee.
These innovative performances have served as inspiration to an entire generation of contemporary artists, as further showcased in the exhibition, which includes new commissions and existing works from Kyung Roh Bannwart, Zadie Xa, Suki Seokyeong Kang, Christine Sun Kim and Lee Bul, the latter best known for his work titled “Abortion” from 1989, presented in relation with “Transparent Balloons and Nude Happening”, the very first nude performance in Korea.
The exhibition will unfold and grow over time with a number of live events as it mirrors on its comprehensive archive. A particular moment to take into account will be Kun-yong Lee’s re-enactment of his “Snail’s Gallop” performance, which sees the artist repeat simple lines of 1 and 0 to a seemingly unending point, as he interrogates the process of mark making and gesture, and evaluates the use of the body for communicating and manifesting artistic, political and social thinking.
KCCUK’s in-house curator Je Yun Moon has teamed up with independent curator Victor Wang and ACC curator Ah-Young Lee for this event, which is co-produced by ACC Archive and Research. Find out more about the exhibition and the artists involved by visiting KCCUK’s official website.
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