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Translating the information age in the art gallery: Exhibits explore how contemporary art talks about technology

Apr 24,2019
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Two exhibitions that explore the relationship between contemporary art and the information age are currently ongoing. The “Vertiginous Data” show, left, runs through July 28 at the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (MMCA) in central Seoul. Chris Shen’s installation “Phase Space” and Rachel Ara’s “This Much I’m Worth” (on the wall) are both part of it. The other is “Web-Retro,” which runs through June 9 at the Buk Seoul Museum of Art, the northern branch of SeMA. [MMCA, SEMA]
Two exhibitions that explore the relationship between contemporary art and concepts from the information age - such as the internet, virtual reality (VR), big data and blockchain - have opened in Seoul. One is the “Web-Retro” show at the Buk Seoul Museum of Art, the northern branch of Seoul’s municipal museum SeMA, and the other is the “Vertiginous Data” show running at the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (MMCA) in central Seoul.

With works by 13 teams of artists, “Web-Retro” looks back on the history of new art that used the internet as a social platform, artistic medium or source of inspiration over the last three decades since the World Wide Web was launched. In accordance with the theme, most of the artworks on display at the museum can also be viewed online by clicking the links to each work on the exhibition’s web page (http://web-retro.kr).

Yet seeing the exhibit in person adds elements of fun because the audience can operate and view each artwork on a personal computer monitor from the time each artwork was created. For example, the viewers will be led to test the 1997 work “The Web Stalker” by the London-based artist group I/O/D on an old CRT monitor. The work is a free software application that reads and manipulates information on the World Wide Web. On the other hand, visitors will experience the famous “99 rooms” by the Berlin-based artist group Rostlaub, a web-based artwork in the format of the room escape game, on a flat display.

Among the exhibits is also the upgraded version of “Artsolaris” by Korean artist group Mioon. When the work, which is similar to a data visualization, was unveiled for the first time in 2016, it both created a sensation and controversy because it was about networks and influences of artists and other players in the Korean contemporary art scene. The show also presents the chronology of internet art, which can be also viewed on the web page.

“This exhibition not only hopes to provide an important starting point for art historical research on internet art that is yet to be established in Korean contemporary art, but also to address the issues of its conservation and collection,” said Kwon Hye-in, curator of the exhibition.

Meanwhile, the “Vertiginous Data” exhibition focuses on data, “which is the most familiar form of digital information and which seems to be neutral but is in fact not neutral,” according to the MMCA. Ten teams of artists show their different approaches to data in this show.

Forensic Architecture, a team of artists, scientists, journalists and others based at Goldsmiths, University of London, presents video pieces, which are part of the team’s ongoing project that traces and reconstructs the history of violence on a Palestinian Bedouin village with all kinds of data and information it has collected. Danish artists’ group Superflex shows a gigantic text art piece that reads “All data to the people” in Korean.

A work by British artist Rachel Ara, titled “This Much I’m Worth,” shows her work’s changing value in neon depending on the number of viewers in front of her work taken by a web camera attached to the work, mentions of the work on social media and other data. The artist has been exploring the relationship between gender, technology and power over her career.

The exhibition also includes a dreamy, visionary film-installation by Sylbee Kim and a sort-of sci-fi film by Woonghyun Kim, which both contemplate our information, data environment and its future.

BY MOON SO-YOUNG [symoon@joongang.co.kr]



“Web-Retro” runs through June 9. Admission is free. Visit sema.seoul.go.kr or http://web-retro.kr for details.

“Vertiginous Data” runs through July 28. Admission is 4,000 won ($3.50) for adults and covers other exhibitions at the MMCA Seoul. Visit www.mmca.go.kr or call (02) 3701-9500.