After greater than 5 a long time, the artwork world is correctly catching up with Sung Neung Kyung. The 79-year-old South Korean artist is included within the main group exhibition Solely the Younger: Experimental Artwork in Korea, Sixties–Seventies, which opened on the Seoul’s Museum of Trendy and Modern Artwork (MMCA), and is now on present on the Guggenheim Museum in New York (ultimately travelling to the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles on 11 February). Alongside this, he has a solo present in Seoul at Gallery Hyundai and is finalising plans for a New York solo exhibition at his different gallery, Lehmann Maupin, attributable to open later this 12 months—his first-ever solo present exterior South Korea.
Sung signed to each galleries solely previously 18 months, and was beforehand unrepresented. Certainly, for a lot of his life, he has flown within the face of each the federal government and the mainstream artwork world, embodying a counter-cultural spirit of a technology whose first a long time have been formed by Japanese occupation, the Korean Warfare and the next army dictatorship.
Sung’s physique of labor will be outlined by its use of mundane objects, corresponding to newspapers, in addition to acts of erasure and endurance. His work on the Guggenheim contains considered one of his best-known works, by which he hangs up pages from a Korean every day newspaper and removes sections with razor blades, to touch upon repressive authoritarian regimes, in addition to to query the facility and authority held by the media. Efficiency is a big a part of his follow too, and on the Guggenheim on 17 and 18 November he’ll carry out Aluminum-Foil Man (2001), by which he’ll assume numerous martial artwork poses whereas wearing underpants and swaths of aluminium foil.
At Gallery Hyundai you staged a newspaper studying efficiency by which dozens of members world wide will learn from native newspapers. Are you able to inform me extra about this and why you needed a world group of members? Is a world viewers one thing you might have at all times desired?
My Studying Newspaper efficiency idea ebook was acquired by Gyeonggi Museum of Trendy Artwork in 2019. In 2021, the identical museum staged the seven-person Studying Newspaper efficiency utilizing that idea ebook. The town of Ansan, the place the museum is positioned, had a big inhabitants of overseas labourers. I highlighted that attribute and requested two girls from Southeast Asia to learn newspapers or newsletters from their native nations of their languages; they learn and scrapped out supplies of their languages. Subsequently, this efficiency served the genesis for this collective Studying newspaper efficiency with 100 people from world wide.
Globalisation, which progressed since Alexander the Nice, has steadily elevated the variety of overseas immigrants in Korea to an plain quantity that immigrants who glad sure necessities got the fitting to vote. Studying Newspaper with 100 members confirms this social phenomena in Korean and concurrently amplifies the presence of overseas immigrants via their voices. I included a gaggle of residents from all world wide to attraction to Koreans that overseas immigrants, too, are accountable residents.
All these years later you’re nonetheless performing—do you propose to proceed?
In fact. Fortunately, efficiency just isn’t result-oriented. Even after I develop frail, I might be capable of present new representations of my bodily existence. Lovely our bodies and powerful our bodies should not the one our bodies. Emaciated our bodies and exhausted our bodies are our bodies, too. I intend to point out the method of decline, not the consequence, in my performances utilizing emaciated and decaying our bodies. It’s a path nobody has traveled but. Would there be discontent if I have been to comply with that path? Ranging from the efficiency I confirmed as a younger performer, in the direction of the efficiency of an aged performer, I hope to current new performances via that course of.
The importance of newspapers has modified loads because you started your artwork follow. To a brand new technology they tackle totally different meanings. Do you suppose this additionally adjustments the interpretation of your work?
The paper medium is in a predicament. This have to be the case in America as properly. In that respect, younger artists’ curiosity within the paper medium will doubtless diminish. The activation of digital will rework the concepts surrounding different media. One among today, printed newspapers will disappear. I proceed to make use of printed newspapers in my work, as I’ve nostalgia for that distinct odor of paper. Such traits endow a considerably totally different sensibility upon the digital technology. I don’t know if that may result in a unique interpretation. Nonetheless, do I’ve to care?
Sure there’s a totally different sensibility to newspapers in a youthful technology. That being mentioned, your work additionally attracts consideration to the automobile of content material, whereas destroying or obscuring the content material itself. In an age the place we’re subjected to fixed, usually banal, info, mediated by digital units owned by tech conglomerates that harvest knowledge and spy on us, this method additionally feels prescient. What do you make of this digital-era studying of your analogue work?
Newspapers throughout the time of my Studying newspaper had been managed by the authorities. Nonetheless even such newspapers had nonetheless endeavoured to report on the extreme travails of Korean society. For instance, editors headlined insignificant articles to ingratiate themselves with the authorities, whereas vital and unfavourable info have been tucked away within the margins of the newspaper. Those that acknowledged their effort have been the younger information distributors on the streets. They underlined these vital articles with a pink marker pen–although these have been promotional methods to promote newspapers–to emphasise their significance whereas demonstrating the braveness to re-edit the editor’s edits. In different phrases, the workplace chair and the road vendor’s stand collaborated.
Together with the democratisation of Korean society, publications in Korea steadily obtained autonomy. Nonetheless, the main conglomerates of “digital units” emerged quickly after, “the place we’re subjected to fixed, usually banal, info,” as you addressed. The rampant dissemination of “pretend information” has made it tough to find out the truthfulness of knowledge. In recognition of this, my idea ebook textual content at Gyeonggi Museum of Trendy Artwork specified that digital info on cell phones is “learn and deleted”–not “learn and lower out” as in printed newspapers–and executed in entrance of a display screen, permitting the viewers to witness the method. This has been carried out on the seven-person Studying newspaper efficiency.
I consider you’ll be able to perceive my intention, though not solely sure, to have interaction with considerations relating to the algorithms of the digital conglomerates in addition to the falsity and banality of knowledge. Nonetheless, within the Studying newspaper efficiency with 100 members, the act of “studying and deleting” digital info just isn’t included. That’s to focus on the voices of the overseas residents in Korea. If I’m given an identical alternative sooner or later, I intend to proceed with the efficiency of “studying and deleting” digital info. The assessing and “studying” of my “analogue” Studying newspaper by the “digital-era” is solely as much as the “digital period.” I’m humbled by their assessments and studying. The artist is the one who’s “doing,” and the “studying” is finished by others.
You may have discovered gallery illustration comparatively far into your profession — had you obtained gives beforehand from industrial galleries? Why did you determine to signal with a gallery now? And made you determine to signal with Gallery Hyundai and Lehmann Maupin?
In 1991, I had a solo exhibition entitled S’s Posterity: Botched Artwork is Extra Lovely at Samduk Gallery in Daegu. Samduk Gallery, nevertheless, was not a commercially energetic, or sales-oriented, gallery; it was extra like an exhibition house that organised reveals and displayed artists’ work.
The industrial gallery, which prioritises gross sales, was a newer growth. Up till that time, Korean artwork scene had not been professionally commercialised, excluding three or 4 main galleries. One among them within the Seventies was Gallery Hyundai, though I used to be not the gallery’s goal artist. No industrial gallery embraced experimental artwork at the moment, and the entry was difficult for artists like myself. Thus, I can say I by no means as soon as collaborated with such galleries.
It appears pure for me to recently start collaborating with and signing with galleries. I assume it’s the impact of the Guggenheim present. Guggenheim’s recognition of Korean experimental artwork as a big artwork historic motion has allowed many artists, together with myself, to be acknowledged with significance. In consequence, I consider industrial galleries have approached me with enlarged pursuits. All through that course of, naturally, I started working with Lehmann Maupin—a outstanding American gallery. I assumed my participation in Lehmann Maupin’s program could be a chance for Korean artwork, in addition to for myself, to broaden globally.
How did you maintain your self as an artist for therefore lengthy with out gallery illustration?
I continued my artwork practices, regardless of not having a gallery illustration, as a result of I used to be immature on the time, not realizing learn how to dwell on this world. I by no means considered making ends meet. My dad and mom, after I was younger; my older brother and his spouse, after I had grown; and my spouse, after marriage, nourished me. My spouse was a main faculty trainer. So, with none curiosity in learn how to make ends meet, or learn how to dwell life, I occupied myself with art-related ideas, from daybreak until nightfall, whether or not or not at work.
I by no means obtained grants; nevertheless, in 2001, I had a solo exhibition/retrospective entitled Sung Neung Kyung: Artwork is the Shadow of Distraction at Arko Artwork Heart. Then in 2009, Baik Ji Sook, director of Arko Artwork Heart, bought Newspaper: from June 1, 1974, on, which marks my first sale. Since Arko Artwork Heart’s acquisition, many museums have bought one or two work/s yearly as much as a latest date. The establishments which have acquired my work embody Nationwide Museum of Trendy and Modern Artwork, Gyeonggi Museum of Trendy Artwork, Seoul Museum of Artwork, and Daejeon Museum of Artwork. There has not been a non-public collector. The museums have approached me first with requests for acquisitions, with out the help of galleries.
You famously captured the political spirit of a repressive army dictatorship in Korea. Some folks view Yoon’s presidency as a reactionary shift that’s even threatening Korea’s cultural establishments. What do you make of this present political second in Korea?
It’s tough for me to reply since it is a somewhat political query. I consider the current administration is totally different from the repressive one which presided within the Seventies and 80s. We can’t repeat the previous.
The present authorities does recur to right-wing tendencies; nevertheless, I don’t see this as a return to the previous’s oppressive army dictatorships. Due to the right-wing tendencies of the present authorities, these with progressive views could also be dissatisfied. I perceive that. But, for the reason that administration is just a bit over a 12 months previous, I wish to stay impartial and assert that I’m who I’m. Departing from the political discourse, I wish to advocate for and respect my place. I’m who I’m. Nonetheless, I’ll roll-up my sleeves if a army authorities of the identical type units in.
Are artists in Korea nonetheless making work commenting on up to date politics? Or do you suppose the connection between artwork, politics and private life has now shifted, and that making explicitly political work is redundant?
Not too long ago, I watched many artist exploration applications on YouTube; it was a great alternative to come back throughout younger artists. It appeared they’d no aversion to promoting their work; their items have been apolitical, advancing their subjective
accounts within the realm of visible arts. So, whereas it was difficult to come across political tendencies, in some instances, a number of artists and galleries nonetheless keep that political engagement by selling political artwork. Nonetheless, these galleries are unable to seek out industrial success.
Nonetheless, I don’t consider that making explicitly political work is redundant. It, too, pertains to our existence. Whether or not apolitical or politically engaged, each are tied to our existence. By way of questioning my very own existence or how all artists contemplate their existence, artwork remains to be political. Whereas criticisms on real-world politics have diminished, in valuing existence, I view that every one artists, together with myself, have a political message. You’re nonetheless referred to by some publications as a “insurgent artist”. Is that this a time period you might have ever accepted or felt snug with?
I had not thought-about myself a “insurgent artist.” Nonetheless, the repressive political scenario within the 70s had stifled me a lot that I aspired to liberate myself from it via political art-making. As a result of that had outlined my existence. Is it not apparent to be sincere to my existence?
The time period “insurgent artist” doesn’t fulfill me, however I can’t reject it utterly. Actually, the phrase “insurgent” is unfamiliar to me, and I wish to change that phrase to “resistant.” My resistant political tendency was a barrier to coming into industrial galleries. There have been hardships due to that, however I by no means needed to alter that perspective. Discomfort is the driving drive of my artwork. It’s as a result of that defines my existence.
Your work has been described as an try and query the position of authority possessed by artists, and likewise by critics. Do you agree with this view, and do you suppose these energy dynamics have shifted because you first started making artwork?
After I hear the arguments of up to date artists, I can’t escape the sensation that they’ve all was critics and theorists. I, too, expend quite a lot of effort and time to supply discourse surrounding my work. I do not negate the importance of criticism and idea; in truth, it’s also true that the position of the critic or the theorist has been diminished. The authority and affect over exhibitions is given to many proficient curators at museums.
In consequence, the roles of critics and theorists have been transferred to the curators, which has shifted energy dynamics of their favour. I consider the system of artwork is being constructed in that path. Regardless, such transformative tendencies demand critics and theorists to reply severe questions on their methodology of survival and resolution. I don’t suppose, because the query suggests, that the “energy dynamics” have solely shifted. Nonetheless, they need to revive their earnestness about criticism or idea. Solely then, will they uncover their path ahead and broaden the sphere of criticism or idea. I consider the artist, too, should proceed to stroll the anxious tightrope between life and artwork.