On one corner of room 5, a pianist playing the piano grabs visitors’ attention. A peculiar thing about the pianist is that he plays the same music at designated times, without minding the tuner who continuously gets rid of the hammers one by one. While the once perfect harmonious music loses its melody and fades into complete silence, both the player and the listeners experience devastation, and even a feeling of suffocation. It is the feeling aroused from getting out of order and control. As the tuner starts to restore each note back, the listeners finally set their hopes for harmony again. There are seven more pieces that provide people with a chance to contemplate the absence of things that seem trivial, but are really priceless.
Invisible Land of Love by Ahn Kyu Chul was planned as a long-term project, with the intention of revitalizing modern art by presenting his unique, exclusive works of art. The title of the exhibition was cited from a poem written by Mah Chonggi, and its implication is to discover and meditate on the things that are absent at the moment. The artist attempts to uncover thoughts that are hidden behind sensational stimulus of images, and invite the audience to the Invisible Land of Love by naming the things that they are missing out on.
The artist is well-known for bringing up questions about the perspective through which people view art, by using every day materials. One of his features is that he had a rebellious spirit against Korean sculptors who used to focus on monumental sculptures and decorative art. Thus, he would transform objects such as a hammer, a bag, and a door into utterly different, metaphysical objects in his works. Ahn has refused dividing genres, and ceaselessly ponders on the border between art and non-art. Along the same lines, in this recent exhibition, he presents works that transcend fields of fine art, literature, architecture, music, and publication.
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Ideas from Ordinary Objects
When visitors walk into the exhibition room, they will soon see a structure that looks similar to a pond. The structure creates a silent and lonely atmosphere. Nine fish are all in the same big circle, but they cannot meet because of the partitions. They can only swim through the designated route alone, and they are not able to swim in a group. Viewers can hardly find any vigor from the pond, and one might feel as if it presents the lives of people these days. Like those fish, people live in the same world, but hardly connect since they are obsessed with heading their own direction.
As viewers take a further step, there is a gigantic hanging mobile in the air. Plants in pots are hung at each end of the mobile. It is a strange scene because plants are in the air, when they are supposed to be rooted inside the grounds. The plants may seem stationary at first, but they actually are moving in a very slow and subtle motion. This slow movement is in contrast to the speed at which people live their lives these days, and even more tension is created because of such slow speed. Each plant leans on each other, keeping balance between harmony and incongruity.
Fine Art to Five Senses and Architecture
Right next to the giant mobile, visitors are invited to the world of mystery and darkness. As viewers walk into the 8×8-cube structure surrounded by thick, deep blue velvet fabric, they get to explore the narrow rooms as if they are soaked in deep, dark sea. When they finally succeed in making their way to find the exit, a big white wall welcomes them, no matter what exit they come through.
When the viewers go deep inside the exhibition room, they find a separate room that seems to be filled with a mysterious vibe. There is a circular structure, a white empty room. As people go inside, they will be stunned by the marvel that occurs. Whatever sound they make inside the vacancy are echoed along the curved walls of the vacant room. If they speak, it feels as though the room is speaking back to them.
This gives an illusion that they are not directly speaking to one another. It seems that even though people are moving their lips, they are muted. In this odd room of silence, any form of communication or relationships disappears. This raises a question about what kind of meaning people should generate and relate to each other when emptiness is the only thing left.
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Letting the Audience Play an Active Role
A peculiar feature of this exhibition is that it lets its audience participate not only by being there, but actually by being co- creators. “The Book of 1000 People” and “The Wall of Memories” are completed by unfamiliar co-creators. Visitors have a chance to write on a piece of paper about what they miss the most and stick it on the wall. They reminisce valuable memories that they might not always think about. Also, they can be more immersed in the exhibition since they are creating part of it.
Speaking of “The Book of 1000 People,” it is another piece that is created by audience participation. People who have registered in advance go inside a white, narrow room and transcribe in a designated book for an hour. Completed transcripts are distributed to the participants, and the fact that they form some kind of community when they are not acquainted with each other makes this project special.
Like the artist commented on his own exhibition, his works are full of blanks that the audience should fill in on their own. He asks numerous questions about things that compose our lives. While the audience tries to come up with their own answers, the exhibition turns into art, rather than remaining a mere collection of stationary works. The audience is to be the subject, not a passive bystander, who actually forms a community of empathy and solidarity. The exhibition guarantees people, as guests of Invisible Land of Love, a memorable experience of ruminating on the meaning of transitory or absent concepts that make up a part of their lives.
Exhibition Information Artist: Ahn Kyu Chul Date: September 15, 2015- May 22, 2016 Location: Exhibition room 5 of Seoul National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art Exhibition Fee: 4,000won
(Age under 24 can watch for free with identification)