‘Rehearsals from the Korean Avant-Garde Performance Archive’

Korean Cultural Centre UK, 1-3 Strand, London, WC2N 5BW
Dates: 27 June – 19 August, 2017

The Korean Cultural Centre UK (KCCUK) is pleased to announce Rehearsals from the Korean Avant-Garde Performance Archive running from 27 June – 19 August 2017, as part of the 2017-2018 Korea/UK season. The exhibition explores the development of South Korea’s performance art scene during the late 60s and 70s. Fostered in an atmosphere of rebellion against an unyielding political regime, and a social order which sought to restrict and control the body and conscience of its citizens, artists turned to performance as a medium for creative expression. Rehearsals from the Korean Avant-Garde Performance Archive focuses on how to engage with a non-Western history of performance art through live events, archival material and contemporary artistic practices.

Archival material – sourced from the Asia Culture Centre (ACC), Gwangju – anchors the exhibition, whilst work from five contemporary Korean artists present a “historical rehearsal” of these events; a term coined by the curators to emphasise the re-staging, re-framing and reinterpreting of the archive, and to reconsider how performance may provide a space for historical mediation. In addition, KCCUK has invited Kun-yong Lee (b. 1942) and Neyung-kyung Sung (b. 1944) – pioneering forces of the Korean performance scene – to re-present key works within this context.

The exhibition takes a non-linear approach to chronicling this period of artistic experimentation, instead drawing on pivotal moments in Korea’s performance art history as a framework to engage with contemporary practices today and as a method in exploring the development of a specifically Korean performance history. These moments include: Happening with a Vinyl Umbrella and a Candle, 1967 (Script by Kwang-soo Oh);Transparent Balloons and Nude Happening, May 30, 1968 (Kuk-jin Kang, Kang-ja Jung, Chan-seung Jung); Funeral Ceremony of the Established Art and Culture, 1970 (Ku-lim Kim, Chan-seung Jung, Kang-ja Jung, Son Il-gwang); Wind-Folk Amusement, 1971 (Seung-Taek Lee); Bar in the Gallery, 1973 (Kang-so Lee); Newspapers: From June 1, 1974 (Neyung-kyung Sung) and Snail’s Gallop, 1979 (Kun-Yong Lee).

These performances have served as inspiration to a generation of contemporary artists. Included in the exhibition are new commissions as well as existing works from Kyung Roh Bannwart, Zadie Xa, Suki Seokyeong Kang, Christine Sun Kim and Lee Bul. Bul’s endurance work Abortion (1989) is presented in relation to Transparent Balloons and Nude Happening (1968), the first nude performance in Korea. Both works challenge the subjugation of women in society, and use the naked body as an expressive and visceral means to undermine conventional notions of female nudity. The archival performances provide a backdrop for the contemporary roster to assess the possibility and importance for artistic action during periods of suppression and political turmoil.

Mirroring an archive, Rehearsals from the Korean Avant-Garde Performance Archive will unfold and develop over time with a number of live events. A significant point during the course of the exhibition is Kun-yong Lee’s re-enactment of his 1979 Snail’s Gallop performance. The event sees the artist repeat simple lines of 1 and 0 – to a seemingly unending point – interrogating the process of mark making and gesture, and evaluating the use of the body for communicating and manifesting artistic, political and social thinking.

The exhibition is curated by KCCUK’s in-house curator Je Yun Moon, independent curator Victor Wang and ACC curator Ah-Young Lee, and is co-produced by ACC Archive and Research.

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