EXHIBITION & PROJECT

Mass and Individual: The Archive of the Guyanese Mass Games




Exhibition Title: Mass and Individual: The Archive of the Guyanese Mass Games

Opening: Friday, October 21, 5PM, 2016

Exhibition Period: October 21 (Friday) November 27 (Sunday), 2016

Artists: Jungju An (Korea), Joonho Jeon (Korea), Yunjoo Kwak (Korea), Suntag Noh (Korea), Polit-Sheer-Form (China), George Simon and Philbert Gajadhar (Guyana), Diana Yoo (Canada)

Visiting Hour: 11:00-19:00 (Closed on Mondays, Opens until 21:00 on October 26, Wednesday for ‘Culture Day’)

Venue: Arko Art Center (Gallery 1 & Space Feelux)

Gallery Tour: 2pm, 4pm on weekday / 2pm, 4pm, 6pm on weekend

Contents: Archival material, photographs, installation, and videos.

Curated by: Wonseok Koh, Vicki Sung-yeon Kwon

Organized by: Arko Art Center, Arts Council Korea

Website: www.massandindividual.net, www.facebook.com/massandindividual

 

 

 

Introduction

 

 

While Korea experienced imperialist military competition, World War II, the Cold War, division, and political upheaval first-hand in East Asia, on the other side of the hemisphere, Guyana experienced a similarly tragic history of modernity in the Caribbean. During three hundred years of European colonization, Guyana saw the dislocation and extinction of Amerindian people and cultural heritage, and the division of their land. The newly independent Guyana underwent Cold-War ideological conflicts and the political extremes of a socialist regime and a pro-US neoliberal regime.

 

 

This exhibition consists of an archive collection of the Mass Games in Guyana in the 1980s-90s and contemporary artists’ works that explore the theme of “mass and individual.” The Co-Operative Republic of Guyana, a socialist regime in the independent Guyana, was fascinated by the collective identity portrayed in the North Korean Mass Games. Guyana invited North Korean artists to learn how to stage such spectacles. Guyanese artists incorporated their own cultural elements into the North Korean Mass Games and staged the event annually. The Guyanese Mass Games show interesting cultural elements: They manifest distinctive cultural codes of the postcolonial and the Cold War eras, critical aspects of collectivism in the performing arts, an alteration of Socialist-Realism by incorporating local elements, and the transnational exchange of art and culture via sharing an ideology.

 

 

The exhibition suggests that such a cultural spectrum was not simply a trend in the past; rather, it is still an ongoing issue in contemporary visual art. Participating artists Jungju An, Joonho Jeon, Yunjoo Kwak, Suntag Noh, Polit-Sheer-Form, and Diana Yoo demonstrate that such cultural elements are still influential in our contemporary life and culture. The exhibition presents the significant cultural implications of the Mass Games and the contemporary works and, in doing so, invites the viewers to think about the visual culture surrounding us today. We invite the viewers to encounter a unique intersection of history and reality as well as the disparate geographic spaces and times presented together in the exhibition space.

 

 

 

ARCHIVAL MATERIAL

 



Jaguar, Schematic Painting for the 1987 Mass Games Backdrop

Gouache and watercolour on paper

21.8 x 80.5cm

Repository: Unit of Allied Arts, Ministry of Education of Guyana

Digital image © Unit of Allied Arts and Asia Culture Institute

 

 

Amerindian artist George Simon and students of the Burrowes School of Art, including Philbert Gajadhar, designed numerous backdrops for the Mass Games between 1980 and 1992. Each grid in these drawings was painted onto a piece of card. Held aloft by a thousand performers sitting in the backdrop stage, the cards collectively created gigantic images of the animals, plants, and fauna of the Amazon and of the multi-ethnic people and culture of Guyana. Students turned the page at the signal of George Simon and created hundreds of gigantic murals for an hour-long event.

 

The exhibition displays schematic paintings created for the 1987 Mass Games, chapter 1. “Flowers of Guyana” and chapter 4. “Our Wild Life.” Others were lost due to torrential rain. Guyanese Amerindians believe that the wildlife of Amazon has a auspicious power of keeping the Amerindian land from foreign invaders and communicating only with the Amerindians. Jaguar, the national animal of Guyana, is believed to be the guard of the native land and it appears in Amerindian literature as a symbolic creature. The schematic painting of Jaguar represents the auspicious creature in a slender body with lively eyes, mouth and tail.

 

 



“Mass Games,” Guyana Chronicles, February 29, 1980, 14-15.

Reproduction of a newspaper, digital c-print

Original copy of newspaper © Guyana Chronicle

Digital photograph © Vicki S. Kwon

 

Guyana’s biggest newspaper corporate Guyana Chronicle featured the inaugural Guyanese Mass Games on February 23, 1890. The displayed pages show 9 photos of performers and viewers, as well as the ad-balloons from North Korea sent as a gift for the event. Photographer Winston Oudkerk took the most photos of the Co-Operative Republic of Guyana, and provided Guyana Chronicles with his photos.

 

 



1986 Mass Games Photo Album, Amerindians in the Chapter 4, Our Culture and Our Heritage

Photo album, photographic prints, gouache and watercolour on paper

38 x 31.5 cm

Repository: Unit of Allied Arts, Ministry of Education of Guyana

 

Each year, the Mass Games Secretariat of the Ministry of Education and Social Development produced a commemorative photo album. The album shown here contains glued-in miniatures of the backdrop card section designs (4 x 24 cm) and photos of the games as they are being performed. It is organized sequentially: starting with an introduction, then presenting visuals of chapters 1 to 7 and, eventually, the finale. These photo albums are the only remaining visual resources that allow us to trace the storyline of each year's Guyanese Mass Games.

The displayed page shows a miniature of the backdrop that presents Amerindian people standing in front of a barren landscape. The image is included in the chapter "Our Heritage, Our Culture" and was presented together with scenes of festivals and rituals of other Guyanese ethnic groups.

 

The Guyanese Mass Games in the early 1980s emphasized the socialist regime’s propaganda and displayed somewhat obvious influence from North Korea. In contrast, the Games in the late 1880s and early 1990s highlighted the identity and culture of Guyana. They presented the Guyanese sports, CARIFESTA, and slogans of “No to Apartheid.” In the chapter 6 of the 1986 Mass Games, images of modern military equipments seemed to show similarities with the military performance of North Korea and China; however, the texts accompanied with these images read “Stop the Arm’s Race.”

 


 


The 1983 Mass Games Choreography Instruction Book, Chapter 3

Pen on sketchbook

Artist Unknown

30.5 x 43.5 cm

Repository: Unit of Allied Arts, Ministry of Education of Guyana

Digital image © Unit of Allied Arts and Asia Culture Institute

 

On the first page, the Korean letters “3 ” ( tr. Chapter 3) are written in pencil in the top left corner. The similar handwritten Korean letters appear again in the instruction book of the chapter 4, “4.” According to Desiree Wyles-Ogle, who was a dance instructor of the Mass Games and the current director of the Unit of Allied Art, two female Koreans, both named Mrs. Kim, visited Guyana in 1983 and worked with her to create choreography. The Korean handwriting seems to written by one of the two Mrs. Kim.

 

 



The 1983 Mass Games Choreography Instruction Book, Chapter “Congratulations”

Pen, gouache, watercolour on a sketchbook

21.1 x 36 cm

Repository: Unit of Allied Arts, Ministry of Education of Guyana

Digital image © Unit of Allied Arts and Asia Culture Institute

 

The theme of the 1990 Mass Games was "The Rainbow." Newspapers praised that the 1990 event displayed the most splendid colours ever. The choreography instruction of the chapter Congratulations describes fan-dance, which seems to be an influence from Korean fan-dance.

While the choreography instruction of the 1983 Mass Games describes gymnastic performance, the choreography of the 1990 Mass Games demonstrates a variety of group formations using props to enhance the visual pleasure of the event.

 

 



Kaie: Living Images of the Sun 1981. CARIFESTA No. 17. Georgetown, Guyana: Ministry of Education, Social Development and Culture. 1981

Book

22.8 x 15.4cm

21.8 x 30.8cm (open)

Repository: University of Guyana Library

Digital image © University of Guyana Library and Asia Culture Institute

 

The book KAIE was published to commemorate the CARIFESTA, Caribbean Festival of Arts, held in Guyana in 1983. As an international multicultural event organized by the Caribbean nations, CARIFESTA brings together artists, musicians, authors and exhibit folkloric and artistic manifestation of the Caribbean and Latin American culture. The 1983 Mass Games seems to be considered as an event of CARIFESTA in Guyana. In the book, a chapter of 1983 Mass Games was included with a text written by Jean Persico, Mass Games coordinator, and a photograph of the Mass Games. This book is the only remaining publication about Mass Games in Guyana.

 

  



Korean artists with Adolphus Sukhai, mass game administrator of Guyana

Photographic print, colour

c. 1980 or 83

8.8 x 12.5 cm

Repository: Unit of Allied Arts, Ministry of Education of Guyana

Digital image © Unit of Allied Arts and Asia Culture Institute

 

The date of this photo is presumed to be 1983, as the reddish hue and the handwriting in the rear side similarly appear in other photographs from the 1983 Mass Games. In the picture, North Korean mass games instructors appear in a t-shirt that has the national emblem of Guyana. Seven members of the North Korean team including art director Kim Il-nan, an interpreter, painting instructors, and dance instructors arrived in Guyana in July 1979. They undertook two months of training to learn the history and culture of Guyana and then taught the Guyanese artists and instructors how to stage the same kind of mass game already being performed in North Korea. Having successfully staged the inaugural Guyanese Mass Games in 1980, the Korean instructors returned to North Korea. They soon re-visited Guyana in 1983 with new members. In an interview with art historian Vicki S. Kwon, George Simon recalled a Korean phrase “kuri kuri kapsida” (Yes, yes, go ahead). He said that the speedy work process and the efficiency of his “Korean friends“ were very impressive. Dance instructor Desiree Wyles-Ogle also recalled that their speed and efficiency in creating such a mega-scale work in a short time was a shocking but great learning experience.

 

 


The President and a Performer

Photographic print, colour

Dates unknown (c. 1986-1992)

8.8 x 12.5 cm

Repository: Unit of Allied Arts, Ministry of Education of Guyana

Digital image © Unit of Allied Arts and Asia Culture Institute

 

Each year, Mass Games ended with the final chapter that glorified the PNC party and the president. After the finale, the president came to the stage and greeted key persons of the event. In the picture, a representative of student performers is giving a bisou to Desmond Hoyte, the president of the Co-Operative Republic of Guyana from 1985 to 1992. Yolanda Mitchell, former top performer of the Mass Games said that she was also on the stage and kissed the president, and that it was an honourable opportunity only allowed for the top performer.

 

 



View of the 1990 Mass Games

Photographic print, colour

8.8 x 12.5 cm

Repository: Unit of Allied Arts, Ministry of Education of Guyana

Digital image © Unit of Allied Arts and Asia Culture Institute

 

The theme of the 1990 Mass Games was “The Rainbow.“ Newspaper articles reported that the 1990 event was the most colourful, splendid, and beautiful. In the picture, the backdrop represents a construction of a dam. Such hydraulic construction sites often appeared in the Guyanese Mass Games as a representation of the national economic development. On the stadium ground, white line and dots are painted on the floor to help the performers stay in line. The backdrop and the banner in the stadium presents a phrase “the 20th Anniversary of the Co-Operative Republic of Guyana.“

 

 



Mass Games Instructors In Practice

Photographic print, colour

Dates unknown

10.1 x 15.1 cm

Repository: Unit of Allied Arts, Ministry of Education of Guyana

Digital image © Unit of Allied Arts and Asia Culture Institute

 

Mass Games were presented by not only young students, but also teachers. Each year in October, teachers across Guyana gathered at the Teachers’ College in Georgetown to create and practice the performance. From January of the next year, they taught students in local schools until February, when the teachers and students gathered at the National Park in Georgetown for co-rehearsal.

 

 



George Simon, Philbert Gajadhar, and Anil Roberts, Palace of the Peacock: Homage to Wilson Harris. University of Guyana. Mural. 2009

Acryl on Wall

200 x 500 cm

Original Mural © University of Guyana Division of Creative Arts

Digital Image © Vicki S. Kwon and Heather Leier

 

George Simon painted Palace of the Peacock: Homage to Wilson Harris, a mural painting at the University of Guyana in collaboration with Philbert Gajadhar and Anil Roberts in 2009. They represented Guyanese surrealist writer Wilson Harris’s poetic novel Palace of the Peacock, which illustrates a story of expeditions who explore the hinterland of the Guiana Shield. The foreigners encounter symbolic animals such as a jaguar, owls, and pythons, and end up dying at Kaieteur Falls, the spiritual spring of the Guyanese and Amerindians. Harris’s poem gives a strong alert to the invaders to the hinterland, which is only accessible to the Amerindians because of their ability to spiritually communicate with the nature. (For more detail, please refer to the exhibition catalogue.)

In the mural Palace of the Peacock: Homage to Wilson Harris, wild animals such as jaguar, peacocks and eagle appears dense in a jungle in a surrealistic overlapping juxtaposition. Surrounding Kaieteur Fall is geometric motifs from Timeri rock paintings, Amerindian stone drawings that Simon found during his archeological survey in the Amerindian land Berbice. Countless numbers of eyes are floating on the mural looking toward the left, where a man, with long braided hair and two red strips of camouflage face paint, enters the forest by opening palm tree leaves with his left hand. His right hand holding a candle irrationally appears in the middle of the painting. As Wilson warned the invaders the mortal failure, Simon restates that only Amerindians can reach the hinterland, because they are protected by the wildlife connected with special spirituality that others do not possess.

 

The Amazonian wildlife, pants and fauna appears in the mural had similarly appeared in the 1986 Mass Games backdrops.

 

 



“Civil Disobedience” A View of the 1988 Mass Games

Photographic print, Black & White

Photographer: Nicholas Norville

Repository: Guyana Chronicle

Original print © Guyana Chronicle

Digital image © Vicki S. Kwon

22.4cm x 15.24cm

 

The Guyanese Mass Games were meant to be educational for students to learn the history and culture of Guyana. This particular backdrop of the 1988 Mass Games with a phrase “Civil Disobedience” teaches young performers and viewers about the Civil Disobedience, an event of Guyana’s independent movement.

In 1953, People’s Progressive Party (PNC), the first Guyanese political party formed by Cheddi Jagan and Forbes Burnham, won the first general election over the British elites held under the universal adult suffrage. Then the British Government suspended the constitution and established an interim government. As a resistance to this interim government, Jagan, who was the most influential politician of the Indian origin, launched the Civil Disobedience movement and was imprisoned for 6 months. During this time, Burnham launched a new party People’s National Congress (PNC) with his Afro-Guyanese fraction. Burnham made his famous speech, “The masses are prepared to support us whatever line of resistance we propose to take.” From this point, the ethnic separation of the Indo-Guyanese and the Afro-Guyanese populations became the political separation of the Indo-Guyanese-dominant PPP and the Afro-Guyanese PNC.

In the picture “Civil Disobedience” A View of the 1988 Mass Games, performers are up on the long poles supported by other performers. This is a youth sport called “Stilt Man” and Guyanese youth play this in competition. Similar performance was shown in the 1970s National Sports Meet in South Korea. (Please refer to the Mass Games Chronicles in the exhibition catalogue.)

 

 



A Panoramic View of the Mass Games

Personal Collection of Artist Philbert Gajadhar

Date Unknown

Photographic colour print on a album

Photo: 8.8 x 12.5cm

Paper: 18.2 x 27.5 cm

 

Philbert Gajadhar is a renowned Indo-Guyanese artist. He was one of a few students who were paid to paint the backdrop images of the Mass Games. He was commissioned to paint portraits of political leaders including the then-president Desmond Hoyte in the Mass Games backdrops. Gajadhar’s paintings after the Mass Games explore cubism and abstraction to illustrate stories of immigrants from East India to Guyana, incorporating them with the Indian mythic motifs. Currently he teaches at the University of Guyana and is a committee member of the Castellani House, the National Gallery of Guyana.

The displayed photograph is from Gajadhar’s personal photo album. He cut the page from his album and lent it for the exhibition. In the picture, Mass Games are being performed under the cloudy sky. Almost every year, newspaper articles reported that the Mass Games were interrupted by heavy rains, which soaked the books for backdrops and troubled performers turning the pages. Weather was a big challenge for the Guyanese Mass Games. Parents were concerned about their children's health as they practiced under the sizzling sun and humid air. The scene in the picture seems to be a moment of the Mass Games resumed after a rain, as puddles remain on the ground.

 

 

 

 

 

Joonho Jeon, The Statue of Brothers, 2007. Digital animation, 53 sec. © Joonho Jeon.

 

Joonho Jeon (b. 1969, Busan/Seoul)

Joonho Jeon was born in Busan and studied at Dong-eui University and Chelsea College of Art and Design in UK.

Jeon had solo and two person shows in multiple venues including the Korean Pavilion for 2015 Venice Biennale, Migros Museum in Switzerland, School of the Art Institute of Chicago in US (2013). He also exhibited in Fukuoka Triennale (2014), Singapore Biennale (2013), Gwangju Biennale (2012), Kassel Documenta 13 (2012), Yokohama Triennale (2011), LACMA and The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston in US (2009), Mori Art Museum, Japan (2007).

Jeon has been recipients of major prizes such as the ‘Noon’ Art Prize from Gwangju Biennale (2012), ‘The Korea Artist Prize’ from the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea (2012), Grand Prix of the 27th Biennial of Graphic Art in Ljubljana(2007), and Prize at the Gwangju Biennale (2004).

 

 

This work has been taken from the sculpture The Statue of Brothers, installed in The War Memorial of Korea in Seoul. Based on a true story, The Statue of Brothers symbolizes the pain and sufferings of the division between North and South Korea. This sculpture, which is also a subject of an animation, is a figure of a South Korean army officer and a North Korean soldier, embracing each other instead of pointing guns at each other. While this sculpture seems strange to the people living in the age of division, it was produced on the basis of a true story in which the older brother, a South Korean army officer, and the younger brother, a North Korean soldier, reunite on the battlefield.


To the postwar generation in Korea, the problem between the South and North Korea no longer involves ideological or political conflict; rather, people are either indifferent towards it all, or are more concerned about economic loss and social instability upon reunification above anything else. The reunion of separated families of North and South Korea no longer make the headlines or special TV broadcast. It's been long since the traffic news has replaced the broadcast of displaced people bowing and wailing towards the North Korean side of the DMZ on New Year's Day. The issue of reunification between South and North Korea is no longer a passionate issue for people, but a topic that is tossed around like a hot potato quietly behind the super nations.

The North Korean defectors who risk their lives to escape to South Korea are no longer treated as heroes. They are but as unwelcomed nuisance, becoming an airborne dust in the South Korean society and perpetuating the sense of difference and otherness. Where can we find the brotherly love that blossomed in the middle of the battlefield?

The brother figures in the statue in The War Memorial of Korea are reproduced in this work, but the embracing brothers are taken away from each other, rendered into plastic toys, and made into 3D animation. The countless number of brothers in the white infinite space reflect people today who embrace emptiness having lost the other to embrace. (Joonho Jeon)

 

 



Suntag Noh, Red House re-editing, 2000-2016. An arrangement of 48 photos 
(6 of 75 x 50 cm and 48 of 50 x 35 cm), Inkjet pigment print on paper. © Suntag Noh.

 

Suntag Noh (b. 1971, Seoul)

 

I learned photography on the streets. I may have learnt it, but I don't know much about it since it wasn't anything formal. I decided to study, but I felt lost again because I didn't know what to study. Having heard about the North Korean communist group tirelessly in my student days, I have always been curious as to who they are. Once I got older, I became even more interested in who we are, so eager to devour the North Korean communists. I collect scenes of operations and malfunctions of the divided system. Although I collected them through my camera and with my hands, I didn't know about what I had collected and thus have to think about them. My solo exhibitions, as well as photograph collections in the same titles, include: Smells like the Division of the Korean Peninsula, Strange Ball, Red House, Really Good Murder, State of Emergency, and Forgetting Machine.

 

 

The Red House series reflects the three points of view on the North Korea. Chapter 1 'Open up: Other side of Order' attempted to capture how North Korea sees itself. The look of power, solidarity and untouchable bravery are images which North Korea has wanted to show the outside world for a long time. The mass game 'Arirang' which North Korea boasts to the world is the quintessence of such desires. 'Arirang' opens up the half a century grand epic of North Korea, from the mass and the dictator, the history of armed struggle against Japan, the founding North Korea, and hopes for the future. But is it really how it seems? What exactly lies on the other side of the unbreakable order? Chapter 2 'Permeation: Exclusion and Absorption' captures the incidences of meeting between North Korean people which increased explosively during the administration of Kim Dae-joong and Noh Moo-hyun, focusing mainly on happenings and visual compulsions that take place when South Koreans visit North Korea. Chapter 3 'Entanglement: Subverted Self-Contradiction' sheds light on how North Korea has been represented in the South Korean society. Just as the late poet Kim Nam-joo cried out "DMZ is not just at the DMZ", North Korea is not just in North Korea. South Korea has the most of North Korea in the world (except for North Korea itself). We even hold North Korea in our hearts. This chapter captures the presence of North Korea in South Korea, from Baekryeong-do to Jeju-do, from Imjingak to Ttangkkeut Maeul, and from Yeouido to far corners of the countryside. Chapter 3 shows how South Korea loathes North Korea and at times how they are like each other.

The works in this exhibition reorganizes images of North Korean crowds and individual people in Chapter 1 of Red House, and images of North Korean crowds and individual people in other categories.

How are we the same and different? We are definitely different; unfortunately, however, we are becoming alike.

 

 



Jungju An, National Ceremony, 2012. Single-channel video, 3 min 50 sec. © Jungju An.

 

Jungju An (b. 1979, Seoul)

Jungju An majored in East Asian Painting at Seoul National University and received his master's degree in Media Art at the School of Communications at Yonsei University. An's work subverts regimented structures like standards and systems that control the individual. An's solo exhibitions include Chain Letter (Doosan Gallery, Seoul, 2015), Ten single shots (Gallery Zandari, Seoul, 2014), and Honest Person (Project Space Sarubia, Seoul, 2012), and has participated in many group exhibitions including Fukuoka Asia Triennale (Fukuoka Asian Art Museum, Fukuoka, 2009).

 

 

An's work questions the social structure in which individuals blindly follow fixed ideas and thoughts taught unconsciously through conventional education. The basic moral knowledge everyone knows is ideal and lofty propositions that are removed from reality and cannot be kept in the actual society. However, even though we proclaim such infeasible ideas to others with ease, the inability to abide by them is treated with insignificance under a collective silent agreement. And such incidences take root in our life in such a familiar but structured way that they often go unnoticed. An collects such incidences from our lives, and re-presents them through his own way of editing.

 

An's work does not have a biased opinion or tendency. As an individual living in this society, he looks around him through a calm and quiet demeanor. Therefore, his work is not provocative nor is it charged with a strong tone of argument. Rather, his work is like a storyteller who chatters stories, leaving the viewer with a comforting smile rather than a burdening subject. However, this doesn't mean that the narratives in his work are by any means insubstantial. An creates video and sound edited to his own rhythm, like a storyteller who draws in people with words. And such characteristic of his work invites the audience to listen, communicate and connect.

The work description is an excerpt from an essay by Seung-Oh Shin, Director of Perigee hall and gallery.

 

 



Yunjoo Kwak, Triumph of the Will_1, 2006. 123 x 200 cm, Lambda print. © Yunjoo Kwak.

 

Yunjoo Kwak (b. 1977, Amsterdam)

Kwak's work mainly focuses on modern traumas, omitted histories, otherness, and misfortunes. She has shown her work in numerous photography and photographic installation exhibitions including Gallery 175, Brain Factory, Seoul Museum of Art, the Museum of Photography, Seoul, Youngeun Museum of Contemporary Art, and French Cultural Center, Seoul, Korea.

Since moving to Amsterdam in 2009, Kwak has engaged in video essays, lecture performances, archiving and publications based on her long-term research project. She was an artist-in-residence at The Otolith Collective, London, UK, and has participated in various exhibitions and screenings at Studium Generale Amsterdam, Rietveld Academy, Punt WG, Reykjavik Museum of Photography, and the Korean Cultural Center, UK. Her major video works include Café Downey’s (2013) and A Chronicle of Plan van Gool (2014).

 

The dancer Choi Seung-hee (1911-1969) who was defected to North Korea after the independence of Korea taught Korean fan dance to his student Kim Baek-bong (1927- ). The Korean fan dance was first performed at the present-day National Theater of Korea in 1954 as a solo dance. It was modified into a group dance at the Olympic Games in Mexico in 1968 during the times of Park Chung-hee administration, and since then, it is widely conceived as a 'traditional dance' of Korea. From proclaiming statehood in various international events and being institutionalized as a foundation course in art schools in Korea, the grotesqueness of modernity which passes down the myth of successful reconstruction of Korea after Korean War is reflected in the expressions of the young dancers. - Yunjoo Kwak

 

In Triumph of the Will, there is no specific subject of the ‘will.’ It can be a young girl who stands on stage as a training to be a perfect dancer. Or, it also can be the director (or photographer) who controls and directs dancers in traditional costume as he moves checkers on the chessboard. Here, we can find the crossing point between the title of the work and the original documentary film, Triumph des Willens (1935). (..omitted..)

At the time when the war clouds hung heavy over Europe, the film carries the will of political leaders and their party. Repeatedly showing the troops lined up in perfect four rows, the film shows the mankind who become the part of general public giving up one’s own individuality, hypnotized by the irrational nationalism. Therefore, the four rows are perfect in forms, but imperfect or even grotesque from humanistic point of view. Like this, the angles of arm positioning and the direction of gaze of dancers in Kwak YunJoo’s Triumph of the Will are unified. The work has the stiffness of the group photo.

 

* The second paragraph is an excerpt from Art Critic Ban E Jung, ‘Silent Reflection of Scars on Group Photos’ (exhibition catalogue, Gallery 175, November 9th 19th, 2006)

 

 



Polit-Sheer-Form, Do the Same Good Deed (Beijing), 2014. Single-channel video, 8 min. © the artists and BANK | MABSOCIETY.

 

Polit-Sheer-Form (b. 2005, China)

Polit-Sheer-Form (PSF) is a China-based art collective founded in 2005 by artists Hong Hao, Xiao Yu, Song Dong, Liu Jianhua, and curator/critic Leng Lin. For a society that has moved far away from communal ideals, PSF imagines a new Socialism based on the expansive possibilities of shared experiences. The group’s multi-disciplinary projects address the idea of ‘we’ in a ‘me’ world; and their activities of talking, traveling, eating, reading, and playing together form the basis of their attempt to transform political, cultural and spiritual life for 21st century mankind. Through their work they articulate politics as pure forms.

 

PSF’s video installation, Do the Same Good Deed Beijing, features fashionably-clad youth with bright blue buckets of water against the backdrop of a bus, a symbol of a collective society, on the streets of Beijing. The slow-motion, high-definition post-production video serves to accentuate the joyful play of people and the elegance of splashing water, accompanied by a rap rendition of the PSO slogan. The piece at once draws attention to the vibrancy and social tension of our rapidly changing era while reflecting the transition of collectivism as a social order to its current form of expression.

 




Diana Yoo, J&P, Convenience Store Counters Series, 2016. 149.84 x 60.96 cm, Digital colour print on matte vinyl. © Diana Yoo.

 

Diana Yoo (1981, London/Ontario)

Diana Yoo is a photography, installation, new media, and performance artist. She received her Masters of Fine Art from Western University and her Bachelors of Fine Art (Honours) from York University. Yoo's art practice investigates first and second generation, Korean-Canadian diaspora identity to contemplate autobiographical memory, the nostalgic present and the duality of place. Her work has been exhibited throughout Ontario at Koffler Gallery (Toronto), John B. Aird Gallery (Toronto), Art Lab Gallery (London), The Art Gallery of Peterborough (Peterborough), and CONTACT Photography Festival (Toronto).

 

 

Like many Korean-Canadian immigrants in North America, my parents owned and worked at convenience stores. In Convenience Store Counters, I utilize the image of the variety store counter as a way to reflect upon my youth growing up in Canada. Similar to my parents’ convenience store, the chocolate bar counters I photographed throughout central Ontario, Canada, represent how so many Korean-Canadians struggle to earn a living in Canadian capitalist society. (Diana Yoo)