S. Korean media artist Yook Keun-byung returns
By Lee Woo-young
October 30, 2012, 12:13 am TWN
SEOUL--South Korean media artist Yook Keun-byung, once acclaimed as "the next Paik Nam June" in the global media art scene, has not held an official solo exhibition for 14 years in Korea.
After a huge success at Kassel Documenta in 1992 and other major international biennales, he chose to stay overseas while participating in exhibitions from time to time in South Korea.
Yook, now 55, who seemed to have been forgotten by the South Korean audience, has returned with his signature pieces that once shocked the world and new works for his solo exhibition in Seoul.
"I had this huge burden that I should achieve something bigger so I tried to establish a firm position overseas," said Yook at a meeting with Korean reporters last week at Ilmin Museum of Art in Seoul, where his exhibition started on Oct. 18.
People may already have encountered a long cylinder-shaped frame that has a screen with the image of an eye as they passed by the Donga Ilbo building in the Gwanghwamun area.
First introduced at the 1995 Lyon Biennale, the eye image installation piece titled "Survival is History" has a video screen showing historical events and another video screen showing an eye to view them.
"It consists of events from 1945-95 around the world. And I wanted to talk about what makes history and when is the survival moment," said Yook.
The events playing on the screen include the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the democracy uprising in Gwangju, a long line of refugees during the Algerian War of Independence and natural disasters.
Eye has been a core theme in Yook's works. It was the immense video eye showcased at the Kassel Documenta in 1992 that captured the world's attention. Yook also plans to do another huge "eye" project at the U.N. Headquarters building in New York next year. Eyes of children from the 193 member countries of the U.N. will be projected on the wall of the building.
Yook has brought works outside of his eye theme for the solo exhibition including videos taken from his studio and nearby area in Yangpyeong.
Yook focuses on flowers and plants that are neglected by hikers on mountains and ordinary people in his installation piece "Transport."
Two container boxes with screens attached in the front play scenes Yook shot while hiking in the mountains of South Korea — wild flowers, trees and rain.
"It reflects the feeling I always had living and working overseas. Being at the center of my exhibition or in life, I always felt I was a supporting player in foreign countries," said Yook.
Another screen features 12 everyday people talking about ordinary things in life.
"We see people who are under media spotlight that stand on top of a pyramid. But the people standing at the bottom of the pyramid are also important and meaningful," said Yook.
The audience will encounter another striking piece on the second floor of the museum where an 11-minute video featuring flames of a bomb titled "Messenger's Message" is played.
Two videos featuring a white curtain moving with the wind showing glimpses of the background landscape is a calm piece that contrasts with other strong pieces.
Yook ponders on life in the video work titled "Apocalypse," in which two screens show people walking backwards and a powerful stream of flowing water.
"The water flows because according to the rule of the nature. But people sometimes head the opposite direction thinking they are smart," said Yook.
"I recommend people sit on a chair, watch the film in a quiet state and think about the core value of life."
The Yook Keun-byung's solo exhibition "Videocracy" continues through Dec. 9 at Ilmin Museum of Art in Gwangwhamun, Seoul.