40 Artists Examine Ideas of 'Family' as Modern, Traditional, Idealized or Broken

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40 Artists Examine Ideas of 'Family' as Modern, Traditional, Idealized or Broken

Why "Family," some people will find themselves asking after hearing the title of the new exhibition at the Seoul Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Han Mi-ae, the curator of this ambitious and compelling group exhibition, says that "through family, one can view the most accurate reflections of the time in which we live." The museum's first major exhibition since last year's blockbuster show "Media City Seoul 2000," "Family" examines a variety of issues from the context of contemporary family life in Korea.

Featuring a total of 40 artists whose media range from painting to multi-media installations, the exhibition begins with a look at traditions. In the main exhibition hall, the works of art displayed evoke nostalgia for traditional values and suggest a longing for home. Yun Seok-nam, who is mostly known for her crafted wooden dolls, presents "Mother 2: Daughter and Son," which represents both a longing for and a sympathetic understanding of the artist's mother. A notable feature in this section is the frequent appearance of the subjects home and mother together.

Nostalgia for the past lingers as the show takes the viewer into the next section, which deals with breakdown of the family and the crises faced by the contemporary home. Here, the artists pose questions about violence, family headship, domestic labor and role-playing.

The artist Kim Ok-seon talks about how race and gender can function in inter-racial marriages in her "International Marriage." Married to a German, the artist presents shots of three different couples pairing Asian women and Caucasian men, suggesting that their relationships cannot exist outside of their social context.

Kang Seung-hee presents a compelling look at pedophilia through confessions made by teenage girls who were involved in such relationships. Kim Ki-ra, a video artist, playfully depicts being a parent in Korea in his "Super Father, Wonder Mother."

In the final part of the show, "Rethinking Family," the artists explore different alternatives to the contemporary home. Though their approaches to issues vary, they agree on methodology by unflinchingly confronting social realities.

Through staged photographs and documentary-style videos, the artworks in this section zoom in on people in private spaces and encourage the viewers to contemplate their images. This is something that the show does very well, and walking through it the viewer encounters both a reflection and a reconciliation with the idea of family, which invariably influences our lives.

The exhibition "Family" runs through May 18 at the Seoul Metropolitan Museum of Art in Kwanghwamun. For more information call 02-736-2025 (English service available).

by Park Soo-mee

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