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City We Have Known - Photographs by Kang Hong Goo and Area Park

19.May.2015 - 15.Nov.2015

  • City We Have Known - Photographs by Kang Hong Goo and Area Park
  • Kang Hong Goo, <Trainee - Attack like a Tiger>, 2005-2006
  • Kang Hong Goo, <The House - Bulgwangdong District #3>, 2010
  • Kang Hong Goo, <Mickey's House - Iron Rods>, 2005-2006
  • Area Park, <Fukushima Archive - Desk>, 2011
  • Area Park, <Fukushima Archive - Sanyo Fan>, 2014
  • Area Park, <Fukushima Archive - 2PM>, 2014

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City We Have Known - Photographs by Kang Hong Goo and Area Park

Kang Hong Goo, <Trainee - Attack like a Tiger>, 2005-2006

Kang Hong Goo, <The House - Bulgwangdong District #3>, 2010

Kang Hong Goo, <Mickey's House - Iron Rods>, 2005-2006

Area Park, <Fukushima Archive - Desk>, 2011

Area Park, <Fukushima Archive - Sanyo Fan>, 2014

Area Park, <Fukushima Archive - 2PM>, 2014

  • Period 19.May.2015 - 15.Nov.2015
  • Venue Gallery 6
  • Artists Kang Hong Goo, Area Park
  • Organ
    ized by / Suppo
    rted by
  • Admission       Free Entry

  • Exhibition

The city we have known has already disappeared; it no longer exists. The aspects and conditions of that disappearance emerge as the symptoms of various problems that are being faced by the city we now live in.

The "city" has long been a favored theme within every form of contemporary art, but this is especially true of photography. Perhaps this is related to photography's traditional function as documentation, or perhaps the qualities of fragmentariness, transience, and fallacy that are associated with the digital era of photography provide a suitable format for addressing the ubiquitous change and disorder of an urban landscape. In any case, there are countless images of cityscapes proliferating in the field of photography, but this exhibition focuses on photos capturing the special circumstances of disaster and redevelopment. With the exception of war, disaster and redevelopment are the two phenomena capable of transforming or obliterating an urban landscape with the most overwhelming scale and speed. With this in mind, this exhibition poses several questions. What is disappearing - either gradually or overnight - from today's city, and what is left behind in the wake of such disappearance? Can vestiges of this disappearance be documented with photography, and if so, to what effect? How does the anxiety associated with the incessant transformation and loss of one's landscape permeate the daily lives of the inhabitants of a city? Today's cities have become so huge and complex that no individual can ever fully grasp their meaning or operation. But in seeking answers to these questions, if we are able to peek even momentarily into the hidden spaces of a city, it is thanks only to the persistence of photography and its purveyors, who doggedly pursue their own relentless investigations of the incomprehensible city. Through photography, we can visit the sites where incidents occurred, wander through areas that have been oppressed with duty and helplessness, and remember the city as it disappears before our eyes.

1. Visiting: Area Park

Area Park (b. 1972) has long been interested in the relationship between the individual and the city as a social system, as demonstrated in his series Part-timers (2001-2005), Seoul: The Society of Gaps (2003-2004), Boys in the City (2004-2005), and The Game (2005-2006). In the photos from these series, which resemble documentary photography in terms of subject matter and technique, Park revealed and questioned the absurdity of hidden sides of Korean society. Now living in Japan, Park has spent the last several years documenting the aftermath of the Fukushima nuclear meltdown through his photography. The Fukushima crisis began with two natural events—an earthquake and tsunami—but it eventually expanded into a complex chain of manmade disasters related to the ensuing social confusion, the political decision to block people's access to necessary information, and the cascading resonance of fear and anxiety triggered by that decision.

Rather than delving directly into an incident with images that deliver a clear-cut message, Area Park maintains a separation of both space and time. Like an explorer, he usually works from the outskirts, whether his subject is a sea that has become a symbol of dread due to the insidious presence of radioactive material, city streets that are strangely vacant at 2 p.m., or random possessions abandoned in a burnt school with no owners in sight. Through these subtle but arresting images, Park unveils hidden dimensions of this bewildering disaster, which remains ongoing to this very moment.

2. Remembering: Area Park, Kang Hong Goo

Although Area Park and Kang Hong Goo address their respective phenomena of disaster and redevelopment in different ways, they each focus on vestiges that remain at the sites. The vestiges may be things that were discarded or left behind by people, or they may simply have survived their owners. It is the capacity for dealing with such vestiges that makes photography the ideal medium for proactively remembering a city. A predilection for vestiges is fundamental to the entire medium of photography, since every photo is itself nothing more than a vestige. However, the photos of Park and Kang use vestiges to communicate an implicit warning about today's cities, built on the foundation of capitalist efficiency and desire.

This exhibition also features key works that Kang Hong Goo and Area Park produced in the late 1990s and early 2000s, the period in which each artist began to fully develop his artistic vision and craft. Kang's Landscape with Fish (2001) and Park's People in Seoul (1999-2003), both set against the backdrop of Seoul as it was fifteen years ago, traverse the boundary between documentation and memory, or between social history and personal experience, thus demonstrating how photography may be creatively used to document and dissect a city.

3. Wandering: Kang Hong Goo

For a little more than a decade, Kang Hong Goo (b. 1956) has examined the ways in which residential landscapes are transformed by processes of urban redevelopment. Beginning in the 1990s, Kang used a digital camera and scanner to produce composite photos that actively revealed the lightness and falsity of images, before incorporating the theme of urban redevelopment in the early 2000s. He has established a distinct style that combines photography's traditional association with documentation with the fundamental duplicity and malleability of today's digital images. As such, Kang's "absurd" photos manifest the absurdity of reality in the truest sense.

Despite dealing with the very serious and heavy subject of redevelopment, Kang's photos are characterized by a unique atmosphere, as if they are hovering between reality and fiction, criticism and enjoyment, seriousness and levity. Furthermore, the meaning of his works emerges from the simultaneous tension and balance between heterogeneous elements (e.g., documentation/memory, intention/coincidence, fragments/panorama). To a certain extent, the odd balance that results can be attributed to his photographic attitude of distantiation from his subjects, as if he is attempting to negotiate the parameters of his role as an onlooker. This attitude in turn reflects the complex mind of an artist: always an outside observer who is helpless to change the situation yet cannot remain indifferent.

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