Since 2010, the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea (MMCA) has carried out various programs to lay the foundation of Korean architectural and design history. The MMCA accordingly presents the exhibition Olympic Effect: Korean Architecture and Design from 1980s to 1990s, which examines the rapid changes that occurred in Korea's visual and material culture hroughout the 1980s and 1990s. Taking "Olympic Effect" as its keyword, the exhibition revisits the architectural events and design objects that appeared as a result of the 1988 Seoul Olympics and reveals their multiple layers of meaning. As a major international event, the Olympics marked a seismic shift in all areas of Korean society. The exhibition turns the spotlight away from the Olympics itself to shine on the overlapping scenes of the event's preparation, exploring the urban development, environmental design, architecture, industrial design, and graphic design both prompted and ironically streamlined by the Olympics.
The legacy of the Olympics permeates our daily lives in various ways that defy physical or statistical measurement. This is shown in how the exhibition's archival display of the era's visual culture, material culture, and artifacts uncovers the process of how and by whom they were produced and accepted. The exhibition also retraces the work of designers and architects who remained in practice amid the social transformation of the 1980s and 1990s. Also on display are reinterpretations of these archival materials expressed in newly commissioned artworks.
International events such as the Tokyo Olympics originally planned for 2020 are now contending with COVID-19. The staggering costs, environmental destruction, and social exclusion caused by large scale development cast a shadow that accompanies the Olympics. Overcoming the past dichotomies of national-international, old-new, vanished-remaining, the exhibition explores the conditions for understanding and recording the present age. The MMCA invites all visitors to discover the multilayered practices of Korean modern architecture and design leading up to and following the 1988 Seoul Olympics.
Jin Dallae & Park Woohyuk's Master Plan: Harmony and Progress superimposes images and patterns of architecture and design representative of Korean society and culture before and after the 1988 Seoul Olympics, presenting a virtual stage combining movement, sound, and structural elements in the Main Hall. The visual and structural order found in the selected architecture and design and the dimensions of the work's various stadiums share common aspects in that they both are comprised of lines and units that intersect to form certain spaces. The resulting scene in which the systematic and unsystematic, the analog and digital, the flat and dimensional, and the frontal and lateral overlap presents an opportunity to reflect on today's society in light of the past.
Part 1: The Olympic Effect
As an introductory section illuminating the exhibition theme, Part 1: The Olympic Effect calls upon the objects, spaces, and events devised especially for the Seoul Olympics as windows into the planning process and afterimages of the Olympics. Rather than rehighlighting subjects symbolic of the event, this part of the exhibition first examines the planning that went into the event. Archival materials contributed by Lee Manik provide insight into the arduous process through which the evanescent spectacles of the opening and closing ceremonies were conceived. The archive attests to the deliberation he took in seeking to convey to the world the Korean sentiment and aesthetic through a comprehensive art program consisting of meticulously designed color schemes, costumes, and stage settings.
Also on view are works in various media that examine the afterimages left by the Olympics from multiple perspectives. Nam June Paik's The More, The Better and Kim Swoo Geun's scale model of the Seoul Olympic Main Stadium are presented as monuments epitomic of the artwork and architecture birthed by the Seoul Olympics, while The Olympic City by Gary Hustwit, an ongoing photography project capturing former host cities of the Olympic Games around the globe, documents Olympic facilities and their coexistence with present day lifestyles. The KBS documentary 88/18 produced in commemoration of the 30th anniversary of the Seoul Olympics illuminates the network that connects the Olympic system and today's Korean society.
Part 2: Designers, Organizations, and Processes
Part 2: Designers, Organization, and Processes sheds light on the changes in the social status and role of designers and architects before and after the Seoul Olympics as well as changes in work scale that led to organizational and systemic renewal, observing the activities of the creative subjects robbed of independence amid the cooperative process of producing a common outcome in the context of industrial affluence.
This section features interviews of and related materials on designers and architects who worked as part of large corporations and organizations like Samsung, Goldstar, KBS, and Junglim Architecture at a time when design was described with such words as technology, revolution, and the future, including the voice of a designer who witnessed the failure of the visual arts scene
to expand following the glamorous Olympic scene. Sunwoo Hoon's web animation Characterized stems from the interviews with the designers, bringing them to the forefront as narrators of their own works, while a Design Lab staged in the exhibition space offers a glance into the design process, showcasing visual materials associated with the overall design process behind the Olympics including company newsletters, magazines, blueprints, and diagrams.
Part 3: Perspectives and Facades
Part 3: Perspectives and Facades focuses on the new forms of architecture and the renewed urban landscape constructed on the materialistic ground laid by the Seoul Olympics. Choi Yongjoon's photographs taken of architecture visible from Seoul Olympic area including Teheranno and Euljiro 2-ga capture the city's surface, streamlined by the explosive emergence of high-rise buildings before and after the Olympics. These photographs are placed as frontal signs for each of the subsections office buildings, residential facilities, infrastructure, and cultural facilities, behind which corresponding archival materials produced by the designers and architects are arranged.
Koo Bohnchang's serial projects Clandestine Pursuit in the Long Afternoon and A Perspective on 1980's capture the sudden change in the cityscape of 1980s Seoul and the subtle schisms found in the Olympic fever phenomenon, highlighting the breaches and holes in national projects at the time. Seoul Model Shop's Diorama Seoul and architectural models produced by Kee Heaung Sung, both made by companies specializing in model production, provide a scaled view of the various artifacts that have become legacies of the Seoul Olympics. This section narrates the time gap between the 1980s and the year 2020 by intercrossing the remnants of the Seoul Olympics as captured in the media of photographs and scale models.
Part 4: Tools and Technology
Korean society's desire for industrialization and globalization in the 1980s turned to technological advancements to manifest practical results. With the Seoul Olympics, Korea entered an era of high growth and industrialization and became an information driven society with the distribution of computers and the World Wide Web. Large office buildings changed not only the urban landscape but also work environments and methods. Office Automation streamlined work processes through systematic installment of the latest devices such as computers, fax machines, and copiers, changing an office scene that was once lined with large drafting boards and cubicles. With the introduction of computers and CAD programs, design tools used by architects and designers to visualize their ideas such as rulers and compasses were compressed into a sleek monitor screen. Kwon Minho's Working Hands reenacts on a virtual drafting board the hand movements of designers who once dreamt up the spaces and objects representative of the future, while texture on texture's Planning Tools newly interprets the 1980s in a still life with tools.
2 0 2 0 1 9 8 1 : Behind the Scene by Diagonal Thoughts (Kim Sara) is an experimental video that follows traces of the Seoul Olympics found in everyday aspects of infrastructure, architecture, art, and design. Centering on the visual motifs of the works and materials displayed in the exhibition space, this work reconstructs jumbled content by intermixing context and chronology as well as the space itself, guiding viewers beyond a first-hand experience of the exhibition and into the temporality of the imaginary world of the Olympic Effect reconstructed inside the monitor.
Seoulstage, a collective formed by urban documenters of the post-Olympic generation, gathers and presents throughout the exhibition period evidence found in 1988 Seoul Olympics. Also active on social media (Instagram@seoulstage), the collective plans to excavate and archive records related to the Seoul Olympics hidden inside maps, underground, and above ground.
Throughout the exhibition period, the MMCA will introduce major works and archival materials from the exhibition as well as behind-the-scene episodes via Instagram on the MMCA Olympic Effect account (Instagram@mmca.olympic).