A Gap in the Show About CensorshipCensorship touches even shows about censorship. The Gallery Savina, in central Seoul, features some works that were once impounded by local police and some that were simply rejected from the mainstream art world. Titled "No Cut," the exhibit, which opened Wednesday, includes the works of 13 visual artists whose works deal with explicit depictions of sexual and political imagery.
But one of the works intended to be included in the exhibit for the moment cannot be seen. Park Pul-tong's critique of past Korean military dictatorships, titled "Get This Knife" is currently the subject of a dispute with the District Public Prosecutors' Office. The painting is a haunting depiction of the severed heads of three former Korean presidents, done in by chef's knives.
Notable features of the exhibition are works that deal with sexual politics. Paintings by Choi Kyung-tae and Jo Kwang-hyun challenge society's conflicted views of sexuality through explicit representations of female genitalia. Sung Dong-hoon contributes "Flower Panties," a sculptural snake biting a pair of feminine panties as a metaphor for sexual intercourse.
Song Pil-young's painting depicts a scene from the 1980 Kwangju democratic uprising of civilians getting beaten by local troops. Along the same, perhaps dogmatic, theme is Ahn Sung-keum's work. She digitally manipulated the Korean flag by overlaying it with an American flag in her photo montage, representing the spread of American capitalism in Korean society. A woodcut print by Shin Hak-chul, illustrating soldiers pointing guns at civilians, was once impounded by the National Security Planning Agency.
Lee Hee-jung, the curator of the exhibition, said the show is not just a retrospective, romantic reflection of past concerns.
"The censorship issue continues to this day － both external and internal censorship," she said. Ms. Lee also noted that the gallery has been getting threatening calls over the past few days, particularly concerning its portrayal of military violence.
Though thought-provoking, the exhibit tends to reiterate old ideas and fails to take the censorship debate further. The depictions of female sexuality often slide into material for male voyeurism, and even the works that style themselves as "political" show no signs of reappropriating the motifs.
The show runs through March 26. For more information, call 02-736-4371 (Korean only).
by Park Soo-mee