February 11 – 24, 2015 Gallery i – Insadong, Seoul
Be ready for the twisted, meandering imaginings that are the brainchildren of The Crazy Factory – a group of eleven Korean artists. With no unifying theme, each artist puts on display what they do best. The collective result is a vivacious delight for the eyes. Or is it a serious critique on society? Well, let’s look at 5 of the artists and a few of their pieces from the show.
When the Sun comes to us
홍 광성 Kelsey Hong
Kelsey Hong continues her impressionistic foray into couple portraiture. In her last solo show she worked with large paintings of the erotic nature, pure passion glowing from each figure. This time around, the paintings are smaller, the subjects calmer, yet each figure is still alive with her brush’s energy. Everyday life, the stuff ‘in-between’ the bouts of passion, are still filled with the energy of living.
I will go my way!
홍사웅 Jean Paul, Hong
Jean Paul plays with markers and crayons, much like a young child. Each line screams unsophistication and naiveté, yet his oeuvre as a whole doesn’t care about such judgments. Rather, it basks in playfulness and creation. “I will go my way!”
오 화진 Oh, Hwa-Jin
Peeking around the corner, a face is looking at me. Is it looking at me? It’s hard to tell, but it’s both disembodied and it’s licking the wall. And I love it. Hwa-Jin has a wonderful touch with fabrics and a quirky execution.
김영진 Kim, Young-Jin
F..faaaxC2e Kim, Young-Jin M.maaaaasE3 54 t…ob8GM. Tr.Ee34…Tgre3t. BO3..tweeY2. hIkaI…5rIiiiiiiiizU5. P-H.12RRRRR..y67.
김 윤정 Kim, Yun-Jung
Kim, Yun-Jung’s Cokeeeeeeeeee!! was a surprise for me technique-wise. At first I thought it was acrylic or oils. But then I found out it was hanji with traditional pigments. Look very closely and you can see the minor imperfections of the paper – but only if you’re looking for them! If you’re into comical critiques of American capitalism as cheapening the concepts of freedom the country is founded on, this work will also do in a pinch.
There’s more there, more artists and more work. Go check it out at Gallery i in Insadong.
After descending Discovery, you come across a study. A desk with a computer, a bookshelf, a chair, a potted tree and other various objects. It starts off uncomfortable though. The whole scene is painted white – no variation. This tabula rasa is the setting for Ever-Changing.
Wait a little and soon the study changes. You hear an amplified water drop and color is projected.
Soon the antiseptic room becomes a cozy setting for watching the rain. As the rain intensifies, it starts filling the whole scene and the seasons change. Greens of summer change to oranges and reds – and soon the whole study becomes white again with falling snow.
This has an odd effect. The scene itself stays exactly the same, yet the changing conditions change the perspective of what is happening. Perhaps the ‘core’ of our being remains the same while the outward appearance is mere projection and influence from the outside.
Ever-Changing is simple, yet fun. Since it follows the seasons, the metaphors for life, death and renewal are easy to grasp, and the sound adds some welcoming atmosphere.
Entering the Low Technology exhibit at the Seoul Museum of Art brings you straight to a discovery. Or rather, it leads you to Discovery, an installation by Bak Gijin. (or Park Ki Jin – 박기진)
Discovery is a metal drum, around which is a make-shift platform one can walk up to. It’s reminiscent of something out of Myst. It beacons the viewer to climb the rickety stairs and approach this metal thing. The approach becomes almost ceremonious, like one is approaching a mystery meant only for the initiated. The drum takes on the feeling of a well, and I walk around it’s periphery out of reverence. It’s what’s in the well which is the discovery.
This narrow shaft holds the ocean inside. Looking closely, you can see a machined metal surface, but what is eerie is the East to West rippling effect seems to be from just under the metal plane. Stare at it long enough and you might expect an epiphany – or the gaze of Sauron staring back at you.
The walk back is just as ceremonious. You have peered into another world, and you descend the stairs of the gods. They’ve blessed you with a vision, but now you’re back in your own little ever-changing world.
Where: SeMA (Seoul Museum of Art)
서울특별시 중구 덕수궁길 61
When: December 9th 2014 – February 1st 2015
Who: Thirteen Korean installation artists
Because the essence of technology is nothing technological, essential reflection upon technology and decisive confrontation with it must happen in a realm that is, on the one hand, akin to the essence of technology and, on the other, fundamentally different from it. Such realm is art.
Parallel the sleepless Jongno street is an alley packed with old folks, restaurants filled mostly with said old folk, and the occasional protest graffiti.
Not far from the yellow ribbon, next to a gamjatang house is a fairly unassuming entrance to Neungna Babsang (능라밥상) which I think roughly translates as… silk dining table? A finely laid dining table? Something fancy.
Neungna Babsang (능라밥상)
It’s a Korean Unification restaurant. Not quite sure what that means, but they serve some North Korean style food. Some real tasty North Korean food. The dining area feels staged and inauthentic. Don’t let that fool you!
Here are a few of the dishes I’ve tried thus far!
Gaeseong Mujjim (개성무찜)
Personality Steamed Radish!
… I think…
Oh, wait. So evidently Gaeseong is the name of a North Korean city. So this is a stew made with steamed radish in the style of the Gaeseongites. Those of you who followed the now defunct Sunshine Policy of South Korea, might remember that Gaeseong is the site of a South Korean industrial complex run by South Koreans, operated by North Koreans.
Wether personality or city, this dish is excellent. It’s a little spicy, with a little black pepper, tons of garlic, and a little ginger for a nice kick. Come with a friend or group though, this dish serves a minimum of two.
Ogeuram Ddeokguk is a nice, thick ddeokguk. However, while it has some of the regular ddeokguk ddeok (ricecake), it also has a potato based lumpy/wrinkly ddeok. If you like ddeokguk, try this one out. Oh, right, and this dish is also heavy with garlic and I think a hint of ginger.
Sogalbi Gukbap (소갈비국밥) Beef Rib Soup
Like the other dishes, the sogalbi gukbap here has plenty of good stuff, including the ever present garlic and ginger.
Sul (술) Booze
Also for sale – booze! North Korean booze to be specific. Booze of various kinds!
Evidently Dotori Sul is a ‘Well Known Liquor’. I haven’t tried any of these yet myself, but curiosity will eventually get the better of me.
If you want to try Neungna Babsang, you can find it here:
I find myself walking down a poorly lit alley in a dingy little industrial neighborhood in Mullae. The gates are shuttered, graffiti on a few. The art space our MONSTER is my target this Saturday night. The entrance is easily missed in the dark, no lights to bring attention to it. Actually I do miss it – walk right past. There isn’t any sign of life in the neighborhood, save a welder getting in some extra hours around the corner. I retraced steps and started noticing hints of an artist community. A painting leaning against a wall. Signs of second story art spaces or studios. I fantasize doing steel work by day and retiring to a studio in the evenings. Then I stumble across the signboard hidden in the shadows about where the studio should be. Shine a light from my phone. Yep. It’s the place.
The entrance is even darker than the surroundings, an eternal pit of nothing beckons. Not suicidal, the light from my phone illuminates my path. I tentatively climb the stairs and turn the corner into the world of light.
UnMaru has a background in printmaking, a very process oriented art. Unfortunately, it also requires a lot of equipment, so for most artists it’s necessary to be in a printmaking group. Digital media, however, is much more readily accessible and allows for a different kind of manipulation and creation process. Dream Wave is UnMaru’s first solo show, exploring her journey in glitch art. The exhibit is divided into four parts – four types of exploration of these brave new media.
Three Giclee prints follow UnMaru’s exploration with digital manipulation – pushing boundaries with graphical editing tools. Each image started as a photograph, perhaps a flower or a street scene, and were then distorted and twisted using various tools. Personally I felt that the translation to print here did not display the vibrancy of the original digital work as seen below.
Glitch Gifs Given Vigor
As opposed to using software designed to manipulate the image, here UnMaru manipulates the images’ base code through various means and then animates them. Online they’re presented as gifs, but in a gallery setting a more physical form is attainted via lenticular prints. She works with a group called ‘GifPop’ based out of Brooklyn. Look like fun folks.
Suburb was a common favorite amongst visitors of the gallery. Probably due to the yet recognisable suburban scene being glitched out.
The physical lenticular prints have a distinct feeling. It’s something that could very easily come off as cheesy, yet UnMaru married to her glitch art style quite beautifully. While the prints here are also not quite as vibrant as most of their online digital counterparts, their physicality and in some cases their recoloring were strong enough to make a powerful parallel experience.
One of my favorite parts of the exhibit was the installation. Two feeds, one composed of clips taken around Seoul, the other a live hack into a camcorder that points towards the participant are spliced into each other. The viewer is invited to manipulate the feeds with three input controls sans instructions. The sense of control, voyeurism, and narcissism are all toying with your mind as you fiddle with the enigmatic device.
A Generative Feedback Loop
The last segment is hidden away in a dark recess of the gallery. Three videos are displayed on a loop. Up on the wall is projected an untitled work. This is pure glitch art,: start with 32 original image files, each file manipulated four different ways, then glitched out by encoding them in different programs in various languages and retranslated into an image file – 10 different ways – then orchestrated into a video.
If this were not enough, GENFEED2 is then recursive generative feed of the original projection – and GENFEED3 then a generative feed of that. These have an oddly nostalgic feeling to me. The pixelated representation is reminiscent of old school video gaming. The dark cave of a room becomes an echo chamber of half forgotten memories and appropriated culture. Pure Zen or pure horror depending on the viewer.
Places to Visit
If you want to keep up with UnMaru’s works, she regularly updates her site at http://unmaru.com/
If you feel like braving the gallery, our Monster can be found on Facebook at
The England based superstar artist trio, Troika, has been exhibiting in Seoul for a few months. Just west of Gyeongbuk Palace, Persistent Illusions is presented in the clinical white interior of Daelim Museum. The lobby tries to invoke a suave technological look (ala the Apple Store) but I couldn’t help but see it more as an antiseptic, the gritty complexity of the world held at bay. Like the Apple Store, merchandising is available to consume.
Hovering above is an installation piece that sets the mood for the whole show.
‘Cloud’ is composed of a multitude of disks, one side which are black, the other side a mirror, which flip at the will of a mechanical mind. While Sephiroth is conspicuously absent, everything shouts precision and attention to detail. All the little disks fit perfectly, no gaps, no delays or snags. Yet this magnificent mechanical mass holds a overtly oppressive overtones. Cold precision mocks its namesake, changing, not in shape or form but surface. The barren cloud is accompanied by constant clacking, an aspect of the aesthetic that was either overlooked or left to emphasize the manufactured nature. This cloud brings neither shade, nor rain, but spectacle and a soulless rain of noise and reflection. And that was only the lobby.
After handing over my ticket, I climbed into the troposphere.
Beyond the rainless cloud is ‘Falling Light’, a broad room of light machines that create an effect of light drops on the floor. While the play of light as water is intriguing, the mild whirring of the machines calls attention to the unnatural. Standing under the lights recall alien abduction scenes, while just focusing on the actual mechanisms on the ceiling are more reminiscent of a nuclear war.
Around the corner is a collection of various electric devices from various ages, all plugged into a nest of wires, all on. In the centre of this collection is the titular ‘Electric Probe’, presumably measuring the electric interference given off by the various devices. It’s an oddly mesmerising reflection of our technology and our dependence on electricity for our communication, work and entertainment. The set up, while on the one hand purely pragmatic, also sets up or reflects an odd audience/performer relationship. Traditionally the performer is at the centre sharing with the audience around her. Her, the central position of the performer is replaced by the one listening to the audience, and the cacophony of voices sing and shout out – not so much to be heard, but in their everyday actions. Our connected media has allowed each of us all to be both the audience and creators and curators of content. It’s a brave new world.
‘The Weather Yesterday’ is in the same room as ‘Electric Probe’ which is a mild annoyance – both adding and detracting from the experience. It adds to it in the way that it too is an electric contraption of lights, one more drop of the electric white noise of our lives. The piece taken on it’s own is fun mostly for it’s conceptual nature. It could be suggesting the irrelevance of nature for most of our lives. Most of us urban dwellers only venture outside when we hop between home and business, and even then only to get to our transportation conveyances. It could be a reminder of the ever transient past and memories of the mundane. It could also be a statement of the wasteful pointlessness we put into knowing and promoting mundane facts by removing it slightly from it’s actual purpose by a factor of 24 hours or 1.6 million miles through space.
Further through the stratosphere.
The third floor had an interesting theme of nature and chance. Hidden underneath is also the element of control. ‘Persistent Illusions’ is a fountain mimic with multi-colored ropes taking the place of the water. While the illusion of the fountain is mesmerising, the tangled mess underneath is more so. It reminds me of silly string and a snake in a box. Controlled at first, but quickly the nature of the strings make a jumble.
‘Light Drawings’ is much more natural. Produced by passing 50,000 volts of electricity over paper, these burned images are reminiscent of rivers or roots. Personally I am reminded of large maps following the natural terrain, not of our terrestrial sphere but of a temporary spark. It’s a reversal of our traditional notion of maps. While terrestrial maps are temporary representations, here the map lasts much longer than what it maps. Though really, the world around us changes, if imperceptibly, so really, maps of terrain generally outlast the specific state they map.
‘Small Bangs’ are various expansions of ink on wet paper. It’s an obvious parody of the Big Bang – where concentrated beginnings expand into more complex or varied patterns by merit of expansion into the void.
This contrasts nicely with ‘the Sum of All Possibilities’, a mobile consisting of long, thin, curved pieces rotating at various, though slow, speeds. Most often this results in what looks like a sphere, though. The gears are set for a twelve-minute cycle, so if you want to see transmutation of shapes, it might be worth your time. Skip it if you’re the impatient type.
‘Labyrinth’ seems to focus on flow through man-made spaces. Our desire to square things and fit them Tetris-like does not diminish the organic. The latter merely adapts to our machinations.
Einstein is quoted to have said that god does not play dice. Could it be the universe is probabilistic, or are the dice themselves loaded? While I have some thoughts on it myself, I’ll let you think about it yourself. Concepts of determinism aside, I’m particularly enjoyed the isomorphic landscape reminiscent of the terrain in SimCity 2000. Shades of not so sexual grey are created by not only the black and white die, but the determination of which number is showing. If any one of them were changed… it wouldn’t make a big difference. Yet with increased entropy the system would make less and less sense and eventually dissolve into white noise.
And then I made my final climb into darkness
The final floor is heavy with quiet. Where the lobby, a mere three floors down, was filled with sound and fury, this place is void and reflection. And so I entered ‘Arcade’.
The room itself feels like an ever receding darkness, pierced by columns of light that bend into etherial arches. My very presence there felt like an intrusion on holy ground. This space was where the finite meets the infinite, material with the non-physical, the profane with the divine. It is a place made for you to experience, yet forbidden at the same time. Walking down the aisle was communion with the eternal.
But then curiosity got the better of me. Touching art is taboo in galleries, but surely light emanations, being themselves incorruptible by my corporeal hands, would be okay to ‘touch’. So long as I don’t touch the devices emitting them, no? Well, the attendant quickly stepped in to politely ask me not to touch the light. At first I wondered why, but then I realised. Me playing with the light would change the other worldly experience of other people. I negotiated with the attendant – she let me experiment with the light provided I did not touch the actual apparatus and there were no other patrons in the room. I happily waited and bathed my hand in light, seeing how it was bent and reflected on the ceiling. The sense of wonder and discovery swelled in my chest. Wonder and Awe that leads to experimenting and understanding is vastly superior to wonder and awe that tries to preserve that feeling.
If you wish to visit Troika: Persistent Illusions, you still have a month left. Tickets are 5,000 won each the final day is October 12, 2014.
I think I must have passed Club Zion dozens if not hundreds of times due solely to it’s name. I’m not a club person and could probably count the number of times I’ve been to a club on one hand, so it never crossed my mind to pop in.
Ah, but thanks to the power of the internet, I found out that this was much more a bar and restaurant than anything I would associate with a club. And while it is at the foot of ‘hooker hill’ in Itaewon, it wasn’t *that* sort of establishment. Well, at least not on the surface.
I went with three friends, three of us blatantly American and the fourth an older Korean friend of ours. We call him “Uncle Paul”. Because he asked us to. Since the establishment was new to us, we were initially a little hesitant, but we ducked inside and picked out a table. It was initially awkward as the restaurant was filled only with Africans who – for a brief moment – all seemed to look at us, as if surprised by our decision. I’m actually used to this with more backwater Korean establishments, but these folks lost interest pretty quickly and went back to their conversations and playing pool.
Oh, there’s a pool table there.
The menu is concise, which makes it great for those not knowing what they’re getting.
All the dishes here revolve around Injera – the Ethiopian flatbread. It’s spongy and soft to the touch and soaks up the sauces and juices really well. Fred initially thought it would be really light, but it soaks up the juices and fat really well. Turned out to be quite filling. Out of the four of us, I was the only one to finish their piece of bread! We had the following dishes:
Beye Ayenet is the main vegetarian dish, providing a variety of things to eat. Some of which were identifiable! Some chick peas, cabbage, maybe some beets or egg plant. Oh! And some potatoes and carrots.
Lamb sautéed with onions, green peppers, and other goodies. The injera really soaked up the sauce on this one.
Almost a soup, it was a tad salty, but quite delicious. Similar spices to the Awaze Tibs, but unfortunately seemed to lack the onions and peppers. It’s served in a bowl rather than dumped on the bread like the other dishes. To end the meal, we enjoyed some…
The cups are really tiny – like espresso. It’s strong, but smooth. But if you don’t like it bitter, you can always add some sugar. They conveniently serve the coffee with a comparatively large dish of sugar. For each cup ordered. I think there was as much sugar in the sugar dishes as coffee in the cups. I added a tiny spoon full of sugar, leaving me to wonder what they do with the rest of that sugar. Perhaps best not think about it too much.
They had some sort of advertisement for the traditional Ethiopian coffee ceremony, which looked interesting. They even had a table on display that looked like it was for that purpose, though why I didn’t take a photo of it is beyond me.
*EDIT* - Club Zion only serves dinner on the weekends! Weekdays they are just a bar I guess.
Zion Club served some delicious dishes, so I’ll probably want to go back some time to try the others out! If you want to try out their Ethiopian cuisine, it’s easy to find the place. Take exit 3 from Itaewon station and hook a right at the first light. It’s on the left side of the road on the very first intersection. You can’t miss it!
Or you could punch any of these coordinates into your handy-dandy map app!