Suwon, February 13 – June 10, 2018 (Architecture), Februrary 27 – June 24, 2018 (Not Allowed), http://sima.suwon.go.kr
After my last visit to SIMA two years ago, I was a bit worried if I will enjoy my return visit, or if I will have as mixed feelings as I had last time. Some things stayed the same, but overall, I saw hope this time.
What stayed the same was the painfully “educative” approach to exhibition making, reminiscent more of a museum of history from the last century that a contemporary art museum from the current century. The ground floor exhibition The Architecture of Structure was introduced as an “exhibition (…) designed to demonstrate the aesthetic value of Hwaseong Fortress, and present thoughts and approaches that remain significant to this day from a contemporary perspective, centering on the imagery and meaning of Hwaseong Fortress, Suwon as a prime example of Asia’s architectonic magnificence.” I don’t really know what else to add… Only that it fits well with the permanent educative installation about Pony Chung and the Pony car. Thankfully, despite this type of introduction, there were a couple of contemporary artworks that were actually interesting, like Yang Jeong Wook’s Fatigue Always Comes With a Dream (2013) or funny, like Industrial Reserve Army’s parodic, constructivist sculpture-like rendering of a pulley system in Korean traditional colors.
The larger exhibition was the “Not to be Banned” show which took up the topic of feminism. (Feminism should not be banned? Was that the meaning of the title?). First one had to suffer through an equally hard to digest introduction as mentioned above, this time in the form of a very large scale, monumental drawing of Jeongwol Rha Hyesok, a female modernist painter who lived in Suwon and is of great importance for Korean feminism, and also for the SIMA museum who owns a number of works by this artist. The hyper-realistic drawing was made by Cho Duck Hyun, and it reminded me most of all of the great helmsman chairman Mao depictions. This heavy introduction was followed by an obligatory section of small portrait paintings by Rha Hyesok herself. Here I appreciated the innovative installation with mirrors. Once I got through this two obligatory parts, I arrived in the two main exhibition halls, which featured a selection of works, mostly large size photo prints and video projections. There was an overload of large photograph of women’s faces and bodies (is that what feminist art is about)? But there also were a number of more complex works to enjoy, for example Siren Eun Young Jung’s I am not going to sing (about the male-female switch roles in Korean pansori opera and the stereotypes connected to men/women singer/actor), which echoed an installation I saw at Art Space Pool some time ago. Chang Jia’s works were also nice to see in the show. I would locate her featured work Standing Up Peeing more in the 1970’s than 2006, but I guess at that time this kind of artwork was still banned in South Korea.
Great to see some interesting work, an easy to digest installation, and I am learning to ignore those things which the SIMA exhibitions could better do without.