October 30, 2015

Guest Blogger Sujin Jung Reporting from South-Korea: Alice’s Adventures in Invisible Land of Love

Sujin Jung, art blogger in Seoul, is writing for us a fiction non-fiction series about art life in South-Korea. Last week you could read her story about the museum Plateau, this week Sujin Jung talks about MMCA (Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art) and its Hyundai Motor Series 2015, featuring Ahn Kyuchul - Invisible Land of LoveSep.15, 2015 - Feb.14, 2016. 

Alice was beginning to get very tired of sitting by her sister in the park and of having nothing to do. Once or twice she had peeped into her sister’s meditation, but it had no visual or word in it, “and what is the use of the meditation,” thought Alice, “without visual or word?” 

Suddenly a White Rabbit with pink eyes passed close by her, riding a Segway. “Oh dear! Oh dear! I shall be too late!” It was good enough to mesmerise her. She ran across the park after it and was just in time to see it pop down a large manhole. In another moment, Alice went down after it!

Kyuchul Ahn, Nine Goldfish, 2015

Down, down and down. It was so deep. She was getting less and less stable. 

“I need my mobile. Where am I? I need to check map application! Is wifi available here?”

Unfortunately, however, her phone was in her sister’s handbag. A little while later, Alice found herself in water. She could not understand how she could breathe, though.  A Red Fish was in her sight, so she decided to go there and ask where she is at the moment.  Even though she thought it is so silly that she was thinking to ask a direction to a Fish, a Red fish was the only one to ask there.
“Hello? Can you hear me? Where am I? How can I be in water just like you?”
“I don’t know.” 
After hearing Fish’s answer, Alice was so surprised by the fact that she was talking with a Fish.
“Do you live here alone”
“How long have you been here?”
“I don’t know. ”
The Red Fish kept moving forward while answering bluntly. 
“Where are you going?”
“I am going nowhere, I am just circling.”
“I don’t know.” The Red Fish still answered so bluntly.
The Red fish reminded Alice of her father. 
“Well, my father is also sort of circling. He always seems lonely. Work, home, and work again…” she murmured.  
The Red Fish was no longer to be seen. She did not know what to do, just found one pebble. As soon as she touched it, she was suddenly teleported outside the water. She could not understand how she could get into that tiny pond. Not much later, her mind started to wander, by seeing nine red fishes in the pond revolving in nine separate concentric tracks. The nine fishes could not see each other, they just kept circling around. Alice thought they looked so lonesome. 

“The Red Fish is my father. The Redder Fish in the third track is my friend, Ellen’s father. And that Reddest Fish in the outermost track is Robert’s father..” She murmured again.  

Kyuchul Ahn, Time of Plants II, 2015

Kyuchul Ahn, 64 Rooms, 2015

In front of her were big green plants. Exactly fifteen flowerpots were in the air. Alice thought it looked like a mobil. There were two kind of movements; the flowerpots made a horizontal movement by rotating at a fixed height and each plant made a vertical movement by slowly growing at their own pace. This state of tension between a horizontal movement and a vertical movement reminded Alice of the subtle tension between ‘sound’ and ‘image’. Her sister always said that she prefers images, as words could make the situation too dramatic, whereas an image is the raw thing. However, whenever her sister told her so, Alice thought that images are not that pure and could be easily misunderstood. That moment, one guard came to her with wariness.

“What’s wrong with you? Don’t touch it, kiddo. This mobil is really really sensitive.”
Alice was delighted that she had guessed before this was  a mobil. 
“I knew it! It is a green plants’ mobil, but I felt uncomfortable, like something is missing. I want to see something more sensational.”
“It is already sensational enough. It is an artwork. Look at it again.”
“Well, it is just plenty of plants. Is it art?”
“These green plants are in here, they are art now, not just plants. You have to see some invisible things through visible things.”

Alice thought that it was ridiculous, this seeing of invisible things, and she needed to explore a sort of memorable sensorial experience which is good enough to tweet. That moment, suddenly everything became dark. Alice could not see anything. And there was nothing but sound.

“Confront invisible truths.”
“Who are you? What are these invisible truths? Just tell me, please.”
“Pause for a moment, and try it.”

Kyuchul Ahn, The Pianist and the Tuner, 2015

It didn’t take long before Alice could see everything again. It was bright, images came up. Never a dull moment, piano music sounded from the other side. Alice stealthily came up to The Pianist.

“Hello, how are you? What are you doing here?”
“I play the piano every afternoon at 3 o’clock.”
“Oh is it 3 o’clock now? Oh my sister might worry about me… oh my!”
Suddenly the tuner came to them. 
“Hey, I’ll let you in on a secret, every day, I remove one piano hammer a day. So, Today is much closer to the complete silence than yesterday.”
“Why are you doing this?”
“This is a performance about presence and absence.”
“Hmm…is it meant to be meaningful for you?”
“Yes, this is about meaning and meaninglessness. Try to think about something meaningful that you are missing at the moment, try to see invisible things through these visible things.”
“Hmm….well…I think I don’t understand……too many words and too much images in my world…”
“You already knew that. Be aware of that.”

Kyuchul Ahn, 1,000 Scribes, 2015

Kyuchul Ahn, Wall of Memories, 2015
Alice was confused, so she just said good-bye to them. She thought it was too late, so she had to go back to her sister. At that time, she found the piano hammer on the road like the snack in ‘Hansel and Gretel’, the famous fairy tale.

"They are being deconstructed. Is it meaningful or meaningless that it’s being apart from the order of the world? Does seeing invisible things means reconstructing these deconstructed things?"

However, unlike that snack from the fairy tale, she felt something fortunate about scattered piano hammers. And, in a few minutes, she met one Elderly Woman with White Hair, following the pieces of piano hammers.

“Oh, this is your turn, right?”
“Well, what do you mean? By the way, where am I now?”
“This is the Invisible Land of Love. It is filled with the things which do not exist ‘here and now’. Follow me, this way!”
Alice just followed the Elderly Woman with White hair without even knowing the reason.  There was a tower where she could view the whole land. And there was the ‘scribe’s room’. 
“Now, you can transcribe the ‘The Metamorphosis’ by Franz Kafka for one hour on the desk in this room.”
“Why should I do that? If you need the copy of this book, I can send you a link of an e-book. ”
“It’s not to copy the book. It is to make something new. Have you ever written something recently?”
“Nope. No one needs to write something anymore. We use our smartphone. ”

The Elderly Woman just looked at me but said nothing. Alice went into the room and started to transcribe. One hour later, Alice finished writing and went out of the room. 

“Now, you are not alone, kid. Did you see the nine gold fishes?”
“Well, I saw Red Fishes.”
“Haha fair enough, they seem red, true. You might notice that they are solitary beings. But you are not alone now. After you, another person will come here and do the transcribing.  You are now engaged in solidarity. ”
Alice’s grandfather’s saying came to her mind. Her grandfather used to be an artist. He always said that ‘there are too much gaps between artists, we should band together…’
“Oh, now I have to meet another new-comer. Do you have anything you have missed or longed for?  Please leave me a note. Bye-bye! I have to go now!”
“Ok, well… bye!”
“Oh, I almost forgot to say! There is a pencil and memo-note! Bye for now!”
Alice wrote; that café latte which you bought me for the first time. There were a bunch of memos from others, and it looked like a poem. 

Kyuchul Ahn, Room of Silence, 2015
‘Hmm… I also have to go…where should I go?’

While walking, Alice found a large spherical space, that was empty inside. No words, text, images, sound, and any visible things. Suddenly she felt a little bit afraid of that silence from nothing, but soon, she tried to think about invisible things……

"Wake up, Alice dear!" said her sister.
"Why, what a long sleep you've had"
"Oh, I've had such a curious dream!" said Alice. And she told her sister, as well as she could remember them, all these strange adventures of hers that you have just been reading about. Alice got up and ran off, thinking while she ran, as well as she could, what a wonderful dream it had been.


MMCA HYUNDAI MOTOR SERIES is the MMCA (Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art)’s  10-year long program inaugurated in collaboration with Hyundai Motor Company in 2014 to reinforce the foundation of Korean art and culture. Ahn Kyuchul is the second distinguished Korean artist of this program. 
But talking about MMCA itself, MMCA’s director is the hottest issue in South Korean art scene. After the resignation of the former director caused by being accused of favoritism, that position has remained vacant for about one year. Culture Ministry already failed to pick a new director because of academic factionalism (well, they said nothing but everyone knows), and now announced that they are considering a foreign director in that there are no boundaries when it comes to contemporary art. Well, personally I do not disagree with this, only if he or she is competent and understands very well the South Korea art scene. Actually I think it could be a turning point toward abolishing academic factionalism (Seoul National University vs. Hongik University). However, there are some people who strongly disagree in that it is a sort of voluntary colonization. Well, to be honest, I do not understand that kind of opinion at all. Maybe, this is because I have little understanding how significant the MMCA director is. However, before talking like that, I think we must think at first about what it means to ‘be familiar with the Korean art scene and community’. Being Korean does not mean having knowledge about the Korean art scene. We need to admit how appalling we are at the moment and just find a better way! So simple!

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