Simultaneous Echoes Introduction

The Korean media artists presented in this gallery grew up experiencing rapid changes in the artistic environment as a result of the inflow of digital technology; at the same time they adopted media art with a new sensitivity. These young artists who emerged after the 2000s became an interface for the creation of new relations and contexts. They present differing viewpoints of contemporary Korean society through varied approaches such as interactivity. Their works stimulate the imagination and simultaneously change the trajectory of media art by utilizing new developments in technology.

The year 2014 is meaningful as it was the 30th anniversary of Nam June Paik’s satellite project Good Morning Mr. Orwell. The live TV broadcast of the program provided a turning point in the flow of Korean media art, and Nam June Paik, as a founder of video art, directly influenced the emergence of the first generation of video artists as recognition of this new art form spread.

This gallery presents works of a new generation of media artists emerging after the 2000s. It aims to analyze the formative language of Korean media art and examine the meaning of its practice regarding media. The exhibition also considers Paik’s view of media as well as his influence on the development of media art alongside the works of these emerging artists. The result is a continuing discourse about media art that spans different artists’ works and across time.

Nam June Paik recognized early on the social and formal importance of video art and gave birth to a new genre of video art by utilizing television sets. In collaboration with technology experts, he developed new tools to create electronic images and continued to improve the content of his works, visual images and formative shapes by integrating high-tech computers and digital technology in his artworks. His video works and constantly changing images are not only historical documentations of the past but they also serve to present Paik’s wish for and visions of a future of open mass media in which the imaginations and participation of individuals from around the world—and of local communities—are reflected.

Since the mid-1990s, single-channel video works have become more prevalent than video installations, often reflecting interest in subjects related to daily life and reality and exhibiting a participatory tendency rather than just showcasing new technology.

Artists working with single-channel video offered their independent views about personal and private issues or about Korean society, demonstrating a critical consciousness of reality in a descriptive way. By the late 1990s, media art was accepted as a genre in Korean modern art. As media became more accessible and varied, the public, especially in Korea, entered an era that seemed to allow more room for self-expression and individuality.

Simultaneous Echoes investigates the tensions derived from distinctive and opposing relations in Korean society, a shifting terrain where political, religious and cultural identities are being recharted. These contrasting perspectives inherent in Simultaneous Echoes—such as those of society and the individual, art and life, technology and art, Korean modern art and media art—could very well lead to a new vision of reason enriched by creativity and imagination.

The media artists featured in this gallery express diverse values and cultures and harmonize new concepts through media and aesthetic experiences. The works reveal differences and gaps between the viewpoints of Paik and today’s young Korean media artists about media art and society, simultaneously providing important implications for the transformation of media, which is rapidly becoming personalized.

The works in the exhibition are divided into three sections. The first section, “Reverse Journey,” is composed of works in which aspects of daily life are used to bring attention to essential things by recalling discourses in history and memory that are related to either historical and cultural experiences in Korean society or personal experiences. The artists pay attention to the dynamic relationship between memories and the present. Contemporary media art both involves the world we live in and produces realities in parallel with that world.

The second section, “Cityscape and Intimacy,” is composed of works that show individual lives and views about them. In particular it raises questions about individualized life in cities. Media artists put forth cultural and artistic perspectives here on recent shifts in technology. The artists’ distinguished bodies of work have helped to shine a light on some of the most critical and urgent issues of our time. The developments in these areas that have taken place in media and technology have not only changed our daily lives but inspired new artistic visions and motives.

The third section, “New Dialogue, Behind the Scene,” is composed of works in which the artists propose to overturn our cognition, which is deeply embedded within us as we face the world. Media artists comment on new tendencies in media art, not just on the technology. Like Nam June Paik, they try to present new viewpoints about their times and new languages based on their perceptions. We look at today’s paradoxical situation in which complexity, connectivity, perplexity and uncertainty come together. New devices adopted by the artists enable viewers to think about this situation. The screen space provokes viewers to go behind the scene to understand the meaning of the work. Video as a medium can mediate the relation of time and media and reveal the role of perception in cognition.

Youngsil Sohn
Curator, educator
Photography & Motion Picture Department
Kyungil University, 50 Gamasilgil, Hayangup, Gyeongsan
Gyeongbuk, 712-701, South Korea
Email: ysilsohn@hotmail.com


Excerpted from Leonardo, Volume 49, No. 5 (2016)