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Flitting reflections (not a) flimsy review

Forum > Reviews

Alchemy of Daily Life

Korean Artists at Christchurch Art Gallery
20 Nov 2005 - 27 Feb 2006

by NN
17 Comments
Article of the Month February 2006
2006_02_07_719261

I was in Korea for about half year about eighteen months ago(...thought I'd just mention) How relevant  this is, is debatable. Maybe, it takes a great deal of time and luck to  feel with any justification that you've slipped beneath the facade of a  culture. ( I really should have tried to lean more than ten Korean words) Anyway . . . my flitting around on the surface. On reflection, I'm struck by parallel aspects of New Zealand and Korea; the pertinence of these characteristics to this collection... well ...maybe it'll just fill in a bit of space in this flimsy review.

Both are often plague to a parochial mentality; having an almost churlish self-consciousness about their national identity; a real sore spot about the ignorance and insensitivity (60 000 000 sheep, All Blacks/  M*A*S*H and dog eaters) of the greater global community in subsuming them with a more well known/popular  neighbour. (Japan and Australia).... Of course they have been invaded by Japan, more than once, with a history of unmentionable atrocities, which arguably  have still not been adequately addressed. So we can't really get too much mileage out this particular parallel. And both have abruptly found themselves in the wide modern world. On the upside Korea and New Zealand art often have a freshness and quality, out of keeping with their sizes. Maybe this is due in part to a certain isolationism, which allows for a percolation, and then the excitement of receiving the larger world in a more singular heady dose ( yeah ...well something like that) 

To be honest; for the above, I'm really thinking of film, more than anything. There is something really exciting happening with Korean film, right now, a real blush of life; something to be savoured for its genuineness and rarity. Contemporary art, particularly our own, I really don't care for. But who does... I  guess plumbers care about plumbing... people that make the stuff care..... but  rarely do I see anything that doesn't generate  a ho-hum reaction or "Is that all there is"( "and if that's all there is....... lets break out the booze")... sometimes infuriation; are they having a laugh.... and if they are it's a pretty pathetic attempt ( cracked smiles.)  I mean the free booze has far more substance and guts than anything hanging on the walls. Cretin, I may be, but the people I talk to seem rather tight lipped, Masonic like,  about what the virtues of the work are, or even for that matter what they are supposed to be. ( I don't revel in cretinism, without at least pangs of conscience) but I do get the general feeling that any attempt of Socratic method appears awfully gauche. At other times the work seems embarrassingly obvious and flimsy. ..Oh and that awful post-structuralist theory that they drip and splatter. A fetish for obfuscated and fashionable new-speak. These  sponges that  absorb and inflate, lacking the guts and the higher requisite functions to digest some of this stuff they've "read" , stroking themselves as they have another compulsive garbled sentence, emission which not only obscures their lack of idea, talent ...reason for being. Maybe it explicates something on a fishy subliminal level. ( At the risk of sounding paranoid; beware of those lifeless fish eyes.." they are everywhere; and "when you look into the abyss, the abyss....")


Review starts here (A.B.)

 

Anyway ( is anyone still reading this)  the collection. The first thing that greets, is a witty sculpture,  "Netizen", the title being an amalgamation of "internet and "citizen" by Jung-hyun Choi, keyboard keys transformed into the shape of an uncoiling serpent. Assemblage, Picasso like in that the objects of which the work is composed are still recognizably themselves, might be a more apt description. The tautness of the humour is likewise held by the work's elements, the keyboard keys, the mouse like a nest of eggs, maintaining their identity, unaltered or contorted by any overbearing frustrated idea of the piece.

Something of which I wish to make special note of is the Video installation ( sorry, I sure there is a more taxonomically correct title for these kinds of works) In-hee Lee Repaired  Daily Life. Does anyone ever enjoy video art. I can't help feeling that it uncovers a new nadir.  They always feel so showy ( like the interactive exhibitions at a museum) and their metaphors seem so crude and obvious. This one features a table of house hold items covered with fish scales; and projected against the wall is a... mesmerising? ..no, that's not right...,  rather ..a banal video projection of the table against the oncoming waves (ho hum). Apparently( I intersected a tour group)this represents the  instinct of the scaly objects to rejoin the sea again. Returning to the elemental ( Oh God, I can feel my mind starting to sag– I need fresh air)

Another work I feel compelled to talk about  is Sung-mook Cho's "Communication". Where the installation of a hotel room is constructed entirely of noodles, which is  intended to engender a prickly sense of dislocation that the artist feels by being a regular hotel room transient ...Oh, and to heighten the aforementioned dislocation, a noodle boat ( I intersected with the tour party again at this point, apparently its a boat, and I suppose they should know ) is suspended, above all this. Why a boat, why not a sign saying something like "This is a sign to accent the sense of dislocation"

I guess this is the sort of thing that infuriates me; where the work and its theme ..its raison d'etre ...whatever, are so distinct, so contrived,  so easily cleaved.... concept and work so rarely sublimate... the metaphor is blue-tacked on. (this seems a problem that dogs the art world to much greater extent than either music or  film. ...is there a off-shoot music/film basher site)

There's a kind of cuteness  that pervades modern Korean culture, not too dissimilar from that of the Japanese, I guess it's something of antidote to the industrial complex and insane Korean work schedule. I expected to quickly find it cloying, but... that really didn't turn out to be the case at all (fuck it, I was charmed).....and I  don't know... walking around Christchurch a bit fairy dust wouldn't go amiss; neither would some anthrax for that matter...  "abortion town"?..stillborn town?...the town nobody wanted. (The town I'm leaving )

There really is a lot varied work here worth seeing, if you enjoy wandering through contemporary art spaces, (For those of you who do, .. who are, what is you motivation. I 'm genuinely interested. I imagine that most of you went to arts school, that's understandable I suppose. If you do something for long enough you can't help having an interest, getting some of it on you- "If you look into the abyss... ") Lots of stuff I haven't talked about ...an installation with a black light-Cool!  The final work I want to  mention is Du-so Choi's "An Enchanting Breeze". In Korea two barbershop poles side by side indicate a brothel. (A weird history of sign and signifier slippage here for the old barber shop poll, from anatomical dissection and surgery, to hair cutting and then to this )They almost look like something from a circus, and on mass, they create a gentle breeze- and all that that contains; the compounded romantic and ethereal complexity held in solution by a gentle breath of wind, stirring the air with delicate whimsy and sentiment, which contrasts with that from which they were inspired: I couldn't help but smirk at the opposition ( if that is the right word?). For a work of similar, but maybe more aggressively cynical humour, check out Lee Dong-wok's "I Wished". Part of this miniature sculpture is a box of "Sun Maid Natural California" raisins from which a couple of naked female long haired hippies spill out.  There seems to be a similar kind of  wit to some of best works in this exhibition ( some of which I've mentioned and some I haven't) Kinda of zen like in its remoteness and irreverence, but with a large dose of pith and vinegar.

Anyway, I can say that walking through this exhibition my usual feeling of irritation, of bad spiritual hygiene,  the general ache for some fresh air and good rock music( absolution through endorphin producing noise scouring ) was somewhat subdued.  Its a recommendation.


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Comments:
1 to 17 of 17
John Hurrell
122 articles & 1507 comments since 2 Dec 2005
Good God ! Lordy Lawdy! Do my eyes deceive me? A contributor with

a real name? Netochka Nezvanova is February's quota of non-nom-de-plumes used up. [Shannon O'Brien was January's, I was December's]. Do I sniff a righteous trend developing here?
Lee-looking-profound-1
Artbasher
137 articles & 705 comments since 12 Feb 2005
Ha ha, "John"

"The name Netochka Nezvanova . . . can be translated roughly as "nameless nobody" - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Netochka_Nezvanova

If only your last name were Smith, your crusade would be even more comical.
John Hurrell
122 articles & 1507 comments since 2 Dec 2005
Curses AB, my heroic stance is foiled again!

Never mind, I shall march on to glory. I'll hold my noble banner high!
Firewalkwithme
3 comments since 11 Feb 2006
Mad bad and dangerous to know

Ha
I read this review and found completely incoherent, a veritable waste of space. I would rather have something a little more staid and sober thank you. I'm sure there is the odd basket case (maybe even made so by this fire-storm of words) that enjoys having sentences seared into their brain and feeling like they've had the national grid pushed through their nerves. Maybe he could come down a level or two and discuss the art with us?

While I can empathise with the general consensus that seeks to ignore this "nameless nobody" I implore that we don't be intimidated by this...this... I mean, sure everyone hears what that say on the street.."mad, bad and dangerous to know" but come on he is just a man after all. In fact I heard "he was born in a mental hospital and sleeps but one hour a night"
Esteemed members of the art community, we cannot idly stand by while he gouges and shreds our precious art scene; tears at the status quo We must must raise our voices and tell him what we think of him and his so called review.
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John Hurrell
122 articles & 1507 comments since 2 Dec 2005
What our Lynchean friend FWWM

seems to be saying is the same insult that William S. Buckley [the American arch conservative] once said in the sixties about Jack Keroauc: "He's not a writer; he's a typer!!"

So can Artbasher actually write? Or does he just ramble on incoherently saying the first thoughts that pop into his head, without any editing. Are these things worth spending time with? Or are they structureless?

Blimey!! Fiery stuff!...What do you think? Is there talent there? Is it writing?

And if it is, does it tell us much about Art; least of all, Art in Christchurch?

Lee-looking-profound-1
Artbasher
137 articles & 705 comments since 12 Feb 2005
?

I think this review is brilliant. I told the author so when he first showed me it and that's why I am so excited to have it on Artbash. It was not written by me. Perhaps coherence is overrated? Life is not necessarily an ordered experience. Should I be flattered that you hold Artbash to such standards, or perhaps disappointed?

What I particularly like about it, is it is intelligent, fresh and covers a whole bunch of interesting and relevant issues, but in a way that questions and even ridicules the art world and our attempts to rationalise it. No one else would dare publish it.
John Hurrell
122 articles & 1507 comments since 2 Dec 2005
Poor old Artbasher insists on walloping

himself into a spraying, bleeding pulp! Boof! Whack! Crunch!! In fact Basherbasher doesn't even seem to be generating any reader interest in his apparently boring, self-inflicted masochism.
Tut!Tut! What a yawn...Totally ignored!!
2006_01_23_806450
Tattler
6 articles & 50 comments since 19 Oct 2005
Sombre reckonings

My compliments on the review, the exhibition contains some very interesting ideas and unfortunately, because of the size of the show, one cannot give it adequate comment in such a short space and your comments were indeed thoughtful and in keeping with the themes of the exhibition.

Personally, I found the show to be a breath of fresh air. Far too much contemporary art tries to push boundaries that leave the viewer staring blankly at a wall of lost meaning and insignificance. However, it amazed me at just how appraochable the Korean art was, you did not need to be Korean or art educated to at least gleam some form of comprehension from the show.

My favourite piece was the Eagle by Choi (can't remember the name). In terms of signifier and signified this piece was a structuralists wet dream. Attacking the hot-headedness of industrial and Westernised America, Choi demonstrates just how simple ideas and actions can have cataclysmic repercusions on a global scale. In this piece, the might of the American Eagle is attacked silently and from behind by an off shoot of itself, America's technology and values become it's own downfall in a society of competing democratic and Islamic values.

Keep up the good work Netochka, I look forward to future reviews.
John Hurrell
122 articles & 1507 comments since 2 Dec 2005
Good to hear

your views, Tattler. You seem to be quite consistent in your tastes I notice - judging from your AB reviews anyway.
Two artists I asked about this show thought it shallow with no substance: full of one-liners only. I thought from Andrew's review in the Listener that it perhaps had more going for it. They thought not.
Chimp
39 comments since 27 Oct 2005
Yeah!

This review's cool... reads like someone who likes art visiting a gallery and telling you what they thought... nice. I'd rather read this than pompous art-historian waffle any day. Wish I could see the show now actually...
Lee-looking-profound-1
Artbasher
137 articles & 705 comments since 12 Feb 2005
One liners.

Well, a group show of this kind with so many artists and only one or two works each is bound to look like a bunch of one liners isn't it? Although maybe it's in the art. = surface problem with contemporary art, when it becomes so conceptual, it can easily look (if not become) illustration of a concept. - As NN points out above regarding the boat hanging over the noodle room. What about Sam Eng's new work at SOFA? They even have captions. Sometimes it seems contemporary art is no more than an elaborate *eh-em* graphic novel.
NN
1 articles & 2 comments since 7 Feb 2006
"I'd like to thank....." , but more importantly, one more recommendation

I sort of half-heartedly promised myself not to get involved in the inevitable downward spiral comment process. But this is my first review, so I getting a bit sentimental. Overcome with the miracle of birth
Artbasher, your kindness and loyalty... bordering on charity is misting up my vision. I wish I could maintain a greater degree of journalistic impartiality and not agree so vehementally with the cogency of your comments. ( it is all my composure will allow not to to say that i could not have said it better myself) And as for the complaints of John. I'm guessing he wants something a bit more robustly routine. The sort of thing that get a smiley face sticker from your tutor. I guess it's hard to get out of the school mindset, the gap fill exercises and alike(not to suggest that you are taking up space John; in fact without you that space wouldn't exist.)
Nobody ever has an easy time growing up and, some us never really get out of, free of.. the ( formative) events ( the event horizon maybe) of school and the playground. And as for those, such as that generous soul who is looking forward to more, and the rest of the saintly silent majority ( as i like to think of them) I would like to offer a tidbit to the less geographically challenged; there is what I believe to be an excellent exhibition at the spiral gallery up in Auckland titled Fierce and fancy: New Figurative Oil Paintings by Frances Mclean.[7th-18th February] An artist that resounding demonstrates that art is not necessarily dead, rather there is just a lot of cold stiffs and smaller than life people out there. Maybe you've meet and talked with some of them John
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John Hurrell
122 articles & 1507 comments since 2 Dec 2005
'Sentimental' is the right word.

The thing is NN that there are certain cliches for blog sites involving long rambling mouthings. It's easy to see why AB is attracted to your style as it is similar to his own. The problem is it is too 'routine' and not 'robust' enough -in the sense of structure. But there's no denying it is packed with pithy observations.
Great you are contributing to the site - the more participants the better - but the comments of Fire Walk With Me for example are very accurate.
Good writing is about editing and organisation.
Lee-looking-profound-1
Artbasher
137 articles & 705 comments since 12 Feb 2005
The JH theory of desire and writing

So I like things that are similar to what I make. Of course I would never write in a certain way because I have good and rational reasons for knowing it's better than other ways. I touch above on why I like this review. Rational and academic (and seemingly inevitably dry) "good" writing is over-rated john. It's also in oversupply and it's not my aim to create more of it on this website. I'm more than happy for poetry and prose to meet, which is what we're seeing here, aswell as in Mr. OBrien's review.
John Hurrell
122 articles & 1507 comments since 2 Dec 2005
Nice

point about poetry. Good thing to aim at. Some of the best art writers in the States are poets. Doesn't seem to happen so often here, though there are one or two.
NN
1 articles & 2 comments since 7 Feb 2006
In conclusion: ramble rant and oh the vanity and I walk with fire.

Thanks for the comments John, the gratitude for contributing...the smiley-face stamp. I shall earnestly try to make this my last comment on this thread; enough platting of my own navel fluff. (the shameless vanity of commenting critically on ones own review, and the intrigue and explosive excitement that has surrounded it...I'm going to get started on something new) I'd like to hold on to a general disregard that i've cultured for these type of things..chat rooms and alike. Something about chat room kinda "communication -in general- tends to make people seem less intelligent...not this site of course...like having plugged into talk-back radio ...Plus there's something morally unhygienic, unsettleing...damn it, unnatural about the whole thing. Like witnessing someone practicing their joke telling, or their taxi driver type speech in front of a mirror....Or ringing peoples doorbell and running away. And it feels almost as if people develop a persona as if they were seeing themselves as some kind of comic book action hero. I hold steadfast to the idea that computers rot your brain, or rather your personality...( yeah, the stereotype is accurate) the pre-frontal lobe...that part of the brain stationed at the front(line); the part of the brain taking the direct impact of the radiation that comes off of these glorified filing cabinets. The type of people that coin terminology like "blog" must have a bit of cerebral scar tissue. (It's so much nicer sounding than stream of consciousness). I rather resent the description of my review corresponding to the cliques of "blogging" ( that term again...it sounds like some disgusting male bonding ritual) In all honesty I don't subscribe to anybodies blog page, and am uncertain whether I've even read one. I know my piece rambles and is filled with "..." - I am hoping that my dots and dashes say more than real words ever could. The novelists Louis-Ferdinand Celine has always been one of my literary heroes. The original bloger?! In terms of coherence, a certain obligation might fall on the reader, to be somewhat cognizant of what he or she is reading. John, maybe you should look a bit more closely at the "very accurate comments" of fire walk with me...whose identity will have to remain nameless...( opps, nearly gave it away)I mean where he describes me personally, with the famous quote made about Lord Byron, as "mad, bad and dangerous to know", and where the writing is likened to having the national grid plug into your nerves: does this not sound a bit facetious.
Lee-looking-profound-1
Artbasher
137 articles & 705 comments since 12 Feb 2005
Key Bag

Here's a practical take on Jung-hyun Choi's Netizen.

Made By João Sabino.
Keyboard-Bag-black-final
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