Text by Maria Nitulescu, art editor
Photo courtesy by Andrea Rossetti
Works by Pak Sheung Chuen, IM Heung-soon, Tao Hui, Minjung Kim and Prabhavathi Meppayil and curated by Shi-ne Oh
Gallery Esther Schipper presents The Mulberry Forest Becoming Ocean, a group exhibition with a title inspired from a Chinese proverb about the constancy of change brought by time.
The curator Shi-ne Oh brings together five Asian artists who deal with the notion of time, not strictly in linear terms, allowing distinct philosophical and artistic narratives of development, evolution, and recuperation of the past.
The exhibition highlights a unique approach to the current effects of colonial experiences through a formal and conceptual vocabulary, addressing an expanded present with distinct temporalities, histories, and experiences of time.
As you enter the gallery, in the first exhibition room the youngest of the five artists, Chinese Tao Hui, is showing two pieces entitled Excessive and Talk about the body. Excessive focuses on the story of a girl born with a sixth finger, emphasizing her family’s disgrace and their prejudice on abnormality. The black and white video is a form of social critique, combining dramatic acting and aesthetics recalling the traditional Chinese TV dramas and movies.
The second video, Talk about the body, creates a scenario in which the camera is pointed on the speaker who is sitting on a bed surrounded by several people, invoking the image of the sick or the deathbed of a loved one. The central figure’s monologue, of the artist himself, is about corporeal and genetic heritage associated with regional typology. The work ends with a dramatic spoken resolution “to give up all of my prejudices and create my body by natural facts”.
As you go to the right, in the next room you can see new and historical works of Pak Sheung Chuen, addressing the question of identity, place and political conflict. As an example, he places himself in situations of otherness during his travels that alter the perception of one’s own identity.
The exhibition continues with Minjung Kim’s delicate work on semi-transparent Korean paper, also known as hanji, a material that last up to two thousand years.
Inspired by traditional the Korean process-oriented art, Kim combines former traditions of ink calligraphy with 1970s monochrome art form known as Dansaekhwa.
The works can be seen as a meditation on fragility and strength, chaos and order. The artist burns abstract patterns on mulberry paper, allowing the destructive power of fire to draw in a mark-making manner on the paper surface, very controlled, yet essentially arbitrary.
The last exhibition room is dedicated to the artist and filmmaker IM Heung-soon, who presents Bukhansan/Bukhangang, a two-channel video screened simultaneously. This is a contemplative work about politics, suffering and displacement, and about the division of Korea, social roles and living condition. The ideas and subjective experiences are converted into art: in Bukhansan the story follows a woman and her autobiographical monologue while climbing the mountain Bukhansan, describing her grief of not being able to return home and her hope for the unification of Korea.
On the other screen Bukgangang focuses on the name of a branch of the Han River, which flows between North and South Korea, crossing the demilitarized zone.
The five participating artists explore the common idea of time through a diverse range of media – film, sculpture, and work on paper – depicting philosophical and conceptual ideas specific to their representative traditions in a global discourse.
The Mulberry Forest Becoming Ocean is seeking to bring the viewer closer to the artist’s concerns on temporalities and the form of personal experience through art.
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