The National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea (MMCA, Director Youn Bummo)presents the special eco-themed exhibition Time of the Earth from Thursday, 25 November 2021 to Sunday, 27 February 2022 at MMCA Gwacheon.
Time of the Earth is an introspective exhibition that canvasses the ecological worldview that has emerged as the new zeitgeist of the current era, which is characterized by global crises such as climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic. Breaking away from human-centric thought, it proposes an ecological perspective grounded in the values of “symbiosis,” “connection,” and “balance.” The exhibition features 35 works by 16 Korean and overseas artists who work across the fields of photography, sculpture, installation, video, architecture, and design. New works by Kim Juree, Na Hyun, Beak Jungki, Seo Dongjoo, Jang minseung, OAA(Jeong Kyudong), and Chung Soyoung meet works by international artists Olafur Eliasson, Jean-Luc Mylayne, Giuseppe Penone, Christian Boltanski, and Hiroshi Sugimoto to explore themes such as balance and recovery. As the artworks discuss human communication with nature, the relationship between humans and animals, and the spirit of mutual respect, they establish an attitude and consensus for coevolution (the entangled evolution of two or more species that reciprocally affect each other).
Beginning with its spatial construction, the exhibition has torn down existing frames as a practice of its ecological worldview. The exhibition space uses no drywalls to prevent the production of industrial waste at the end of the exhibition period as well as to enable communication and interaction among the featured works. In place of drywalls, inflatable silver spheres, which can be reused in future exhibitions, have been arranged around the space to set the works apart and guide the flow of visitors.
The elimination of drywalls as a methodology allowed curator to escape the convention of dividing the exhibition into themed sections. The exhibition begins with works by Chung Soyoung and Hiroshi Sugimoto that demonstrate how people come to internalize a human-centric perspective. Visitors are next led towards works by Olafur Eliasson and Kim Juree that place them within the context of the earth’s timeline, throughout which organic and inorganic matter have cycled endlessly through existence and extinction, and remind them of how insignificant the time of mankind is as a blip in the extensive history of the earth. Two sculptures by Giuseppe Penone hint at new life sprawling from its time-condensed marble surface to emphasize life’s cyclical and interconnective nature. Seo Dongjoo examines the evolutionary process of human and animal visual cognition, heuristically rendering the commonality and individuality of life, and Jean-Luc Mylayne, who has spent his life communing with birds, documents moments of kinship from an avian perspective. Continuing this inquiry into visual perception, Beak Jungki’s natural dye photographs of natural landscapes question how we imagine nature and probe how such imaginations were formulated and learned. Na Hyun passes on wisdom from Taiwanese indigenous peoples who revere nature and protect each other’s territories to a world that is experiencing a climate crisis precipitated by rapid industrialization and civilization. Christian Boltanski’s spiritual bell sound teaches viewers that everything from people to the earth, sky, and even invisible elements are interconnected as one. Lastly, an interconnected and interdependent columnal structure by OAA(Jeong Kyudong) explores the architectural concept of causality to convey messages of harmony, balance, healthy tension, respect, and consideration.
A correlating archival exhibition surveying the evolution of Korean ecological art is also on view in the Main Hall. Archival records of a performance that represents Chung Kookkwang’s Horizon (1975; a representative work of which the original photograph is absent that epitomizes the Korean ecological aesthetic), the founder of Korean ecological art Rim Dong Sik’s painting, works by Gwacheon-based artist Jeoung Jae Choul that document Gwacheon’s redevelopment, boundary-expanding paintings by Kim Bojoong that explore humanity’s position in nature, and works by Lee Kyung Ho that bring awareness to the earth’s declining condition marked by climate change and rising sea levels are introduced alongside materials on various eco art-related organizations and activities.
Meanwhile, the MMCA continues to study and document the evolution of Korean ecological art, which emerged in the 1970s as artists sought alternatives to the dominant genre of modernism. This research, conducted in cooperation with team at the Ecological Aesthetics and Art Research Institute, will cover major ecological art exhibitions and projects by artists and art groups from the 1980s to date. The findings will be published as a sourcebook in December and discussed at a subsequent symposium.
Youn Bummo, director of the MMCA, notes, “This exhibition reflects upon current global crises, including the COVID-19 pandemic, from an ecological point of view instead of a human-oriented perspective. It will hopefully serve as an artistic opportunity to rediscover the importance of the coevolution of humans and nature.”