In 2005 I curated an exhibition "Incongruent: Contemporary Art from South Korea," which originated
from St. Lawrence University and subsequently traveled to the Liebling Center of Film, Photography &
Video at Hampshire College and Hartnett Gallery at University of Rochester.
Artists: JOO Jae Hwan, JO Seub, KIM Sang-gil, KIM Yong-tae, KOH Seung Wook, Yong Soon MIN, PARK
Chan-kyong, ROH Jae Oon, YOON Joo-kyung
Incongruent introduces some of the sociopolitical forms of South Korean art made since the 1980s.
Centered on a small contingent of artists who have been sensitive to the collective memories and
social upheavals in recent decades, the exhibition probes the Post Cold-War politics that still grip
the peninsula. Specifically, two key figures, Kim Yong Tae and Joo Jae Hwan, from the Min Joong
(People’s Art) movement of the ‘80s, are juxtaposed with seven younger artists.
The exhibition is thus based upon the historical events that are fraught with violence, tension, and
uncertainty, such as the disasters of the Korean War, the Gwanjgu Uprising in 1980, the aftermath of
military dictatorship, and the relationship between two Koreas and the U.S. The artists’ comments on
hegemony and ideology are grounded in everyday life in South Korea, and despite the generational gap,
they share a critical understanding of modernism, Western culture, and the intervention of the US in
The artists are committed to the task of recuperating both collective trauma and individual and
collective memories. Their works refuse to turn the ruptures of modernity and history of oppression
into oblivion. Rather than seeking consolation, empathy, or closure, they are instead inscribing a
new history through questioning, investigation, and analysis. In light of the current US foreign
policies toward Iraq and North Korea, the exhibition provides a context for discussion and
understanding of the critical issues from their local perspective.
The exhibition was made possible by the grants from The Freeman Foundation and Arts Council Korea;
the exhibition catalogue was funded by Arts Council Korea and published by Hyunsil Cultural Studies
Press, Seoul, 2006.
© Images the artists 2008