Sooyounlee/ National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea
Contemporary art has undergone constant renewal so as to become a conglomeration that encompasses politics, economy, and different societal generations. This phenomenon has brought a corresponding invigoration to international exchanges through which countries seek to use art as a means to better understand other members of the global society. These cultural exchanges come in many different forms, including a wide range of biennials, exchanges between museums, exhibition exchanges, and artist-in-residency exchanges in which, either according to contractual arrangements or mutual goodwill, various artists, curators, and institutions steadily make introductions, meet, and work together before finally parting ways.
In the midst of this situation, beginning with its inauguration in 2011 and continuing up to its final exhibition in 2013, Transfer Korea-NRW has represented a distinctive form of cultural exchange program grounded in continuity. In the process of selecting participating artists, engaging in residency exchange programs, and finally creating exhibitions, this project activated an open period spanning three years, during which curators from each institution were able meet in person on several occasions, mutually correspond by email, exchange opinions, and carefully observe the partner country’s artists’ works and the state of the exhibition process.
In 2013 Transfer Korea-NRW, curated by National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea, presents five Korean and German artists: Manuel Graf, Kyungah Ham, Jung Seung, Sascha Pohle, and Juergen Staack. Through the lenses of these five artists’ works, this exhibition considers the phenomena of contemporary society and the processes of resolving the issues tackled by the artists. Since the 1950s, when Marcel Duchamp’s ready-mades were re-ignited as a major discourse within contemporary art, contemporary art has continued to evolve at a high speed by means of juxtaposition beyond the context of daily objects and the instrumentation of the latest technology. With a characteristic structural openness, contemporary art has redefined the positions of formerly passive artists and audiences, and has actively repositioned artistic value and artistic methodology within contemporary society. Under these circumstances, and despite the disparate cultures and societal backdrops of Korea and Germany, the participating artists—all born after the 1960s—present works that share the value of contemporary art’s expanded awareness through the heightened status of daily surroundings and the evolution of technology.
Manuel Graf utilizes art as a materialistic tool for new ideas and actions. The artist expresses his philosophical and humanistic imagination in distinctive video, sound, and installation works that he presents in educational and provocative ways. In this manner, Graf boldly appropriates pop culture to realize humanistic value. Meanwhile, Kyungah Ham infuses her imagination into objects containing a sense of difference, desire, power, and individual wishes in the midst of society. For the artist, the process of transmitting her imagination is itself notably complicated and intimate, like that of a ritual, such that it at times becomes the core of her work. In particular, the objects and subjects that she selects for her work also act as yardsticks gauging the society to which the artist belongs. Jung Seung interprets the context of society through daily but commercial things. Jung’s ready-made objects, such as a felt object modeled on the shape of a car and a solar battery toy displayed in the likeness of an altar, are installed to be read as sculptures separate from their original functions. Ironically, the sculpturally arranged objects reveal, if anything, one of the inherent features of industrial production—one-off character and attendant weakness—while exposing the system’s characteristic production and consumption of those objects. Sascha Pohle steadfastly pursues the issue of commercial and powerful images in contemporary society. The issues of reproduction and appropriation intersect with the issue of the essential, and the artist poses questions addressing this convergence through the images and objects of old media that constitute the most modern and yet forgotten realm. The genealogy of the numerous medias that left genetic traces on media technology and disappeared due to the development of technology is both the source material for his work and its resulting product. Lastly, using sound and installation works, Juergen Staack poses a direct question to viewers regarding the parallax, interpretation, and understanding and misunderstanding of communication associated with the use and transmission of meaning between different languages. Although the language that the artist uses as a material is a universal medium, it offers a completely different breadth of understanding depending on the individual and society, and the sentiment and lifestyle. In the devices that the artist creates, this difference of understanding becomes even more magnified.
Through the artists participating Transfer Korea-NRW audiences can observe contemporary art’s diverse range of processes and results that “duplicate, change, transfer, and move.” In this exhibition, which has grown throughout three years of fruitful exchange, we hope that you too can discover a starting point from which to grow and expand together with contemporary art.