Seoul, December 22, 2018 – April 7, 2019 (Duchamp), March 23 – July 28, 2019 (Data), October 27, 2018 – April 7, 2019 (Farocki), http://www.mmca.go.kr
Three shows were taking place at MMCA during my visit.
The Essential Duchamp was what the title suggested: An overview of Marcel Duchamps oeuvre. At first I almost wanted to skip it, but in the end I was very glad that I did not. Even though we all know bits and pieces about Duchamp, it never hurts to refresh one’s memories and add some new insights at the same time. The show was very “user friendly” and this was good. There was some early work, there was the Nude Descending the Staircase in original, and there were his ready-mades. There were also a number of his display cases (Boite-en-valise) assembling reproduced material that served as footnotes to specific works or to his oeuvre overall. Two well-known works were missing, the large glass and the “Etants Donnes” installation, but that was for obvious reasons, and they were represented well through documentation.
Vertiginous Data took the visitors to the present moment. The works were a mixture of good and less good. In numerous cases I wondered why exactly that work was selected and not another. Overall it appeared more like a random selection of new media works that somehow tried to represent an array of buzzwords like blockchain, surveillance and robots. The selection and the works were too “obvious” to me. New, but already old and outdated. A number or artworks were stating the obvious: Face recognition algorithms exist and are being used. There is an algorithm for tracking and tracing the movement of objects. The value of an artwork/person/event depends on the attention she/he/it receives. Blockchain is wonderful. Etc.
In the case of Simon Denny’s “ode to blockchain” (“What is blockchain?”) I could not figure out if he was serious, highly ironic, or just having a joke at the unknowing curator’s and poor audience’s expense.
An interesting moment appeared in Cao Fei’s Rumba 01 & 02 (basically a ready-made robot vacuum cleaner placed on a pedestal): The original vacuum cleaner brand referenced in the title of the work has been replaced by a Chinese copycat version of the same.
The most interesting discovery was Sylbee Kim’s Trinity: Finance-Credo-Spirituality, a single channel video projection accompanied by sculptural objects used in the video. What was interesting about it was the mixing of a financial language of trust, credit, etc. with the spiritual meaning of the same words. It pointed, in a poetic way, at the universal narratives of ancient belief systems that still exist today. Rather than thinking in evolutionary and dualistic terms (religion is replaced by science, humanity is replaced by technology, etc.) it pointed towards the underlying linguistic structures that actually prevail and are reborn again and again.
The Harun Farocki show rounded up the experience. Unfortunately time was too short to watch all the videos, but the installation was good, and I was very happy that there was a Farocki show at the MMCA. He is truly a pioneer in terms of moving image semiotics and applied, practice-based moving image research.
Both the Duchamp and Farocki shows had a no-photos policy.
Overall, my visit gave me the feeling that MMCA moved a bit more in the direction of what Seoul Museum of Art (SeMA), especially SeMA BukSeoul (North Brach) stood for: An approach that is more inclusive and educative in nature.