Deoksugung is greeting contemporary art in its palace. To celebrate the 120th anniversary of the declaration of Korean Empire, National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (MMCA) and the Cultural Heritage Administration have designed an exhibition, Deoksugung Outdoor Project: Light • Sound • Landscape.
The exhibition brings the modernization of Korean Empire in the limelight. Inside the palace, visitors can find art pieces by 9 Korean artists who reinterpreted vestiges of the empire that lasted from 1897 to 1920.
Gojong, the first Emperor of Korea, is at the center of the exhibition. Artist Jeong Yeon-doo’s work Prism Effect displays a multi-dimensional illustration of Gojong and his young daughter Princess Deokhye. In four separate photographs, the two are holding hands, standing on the terrace of Seokjojeon in Deoksugung. Each photograph projects the father and daughter from a different angle. What is interesting about Jeong’s piece is that the four photographs convey different atmosphere, in spite of the object that stays the same. Through the difference, the artist emphasizes the symbolic meaning of buildings surrounding Seokjojeon.
In one of the photographs, contemporary audiences enter into the frame. This doesn’t only reminds that the piece is a fabricated creation of the past event, but also connects past and present.
“Korean Empire is the blind spot of Korean history,” says Jeong. “While it is a dishonorable period of time when the national sovereignty was lost, it also is a preparatory period when we started to make a step forward to modernity.
Emphasis on the modernization grows even clearer on Kwon Min-ho’s drawing, Landscape of the Starting Point. The work draws Seokeodang’s front outline, which contains contemporary landscape of industrialization as well as modern times.
For instance, the very first steam locomotive of Korea from 1899 and KTX from these days run side by side. Projection of animation on monotonous drawing also is an interesting combination.
Ondolyahwa installed in front of Joonghwajeon shows modernity even more colorfully. The work crops and expands original photos taken about 100 years ago and projects them with music. Co-produced by artist Jang Min-seung and musician Yang Bang-eon, the work is placed inside a tunnel-like installation, simulating an experience of walking inside an old camera.
Deokhongjeon, which was used as a reception room in the palace, is decorated like a library. Artist Kang Ae-ran presents Shining Days of the Korean Empire in the space. Historical records of the Joseon Dynasty, diplomatic documents, as well as the books Gojong used to read, are placed on the shelves.
Gojong demised in 1907 in his bedroom, Hamnyeongjeon. Artist Lee Jin-joon displays his piece Insomnia and Fireworks in the space. His work, in addition to Kim Jin-hee’s Deep-Down Boo-Yong, put much emphasis on the sound effects. Oh Jae-woo’s Dream in a Dream utilizes virtual reality, collaborating the inside and outside landscapes of Deoksugung and a performance.
Deoksugung Outdoor Project: Light • Sound • Landscape is the second attempt to collaborate the old palace’s historical meaning and the contemporary art’s formativeness, following 2012’s Deoksugung Project. The exhibition opens everyday except Monday, from 10AM to 7PM. Extension applies on Wednesdays and Saturdays until 9PM.
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Original article by Lee Hoo-nam