Art you can really sink your teeth intoWIth fast food joints like McDonald’s and KFC on nearly every street corner in Seoul, and every third corner in smaller cities like Busan, Daejeon or Gimcheon in North Gyeongsang province, the eat-on-the-run chains have become global symbols of convenience.
Terms like the “Big Mac Index” have even entered the normally stodgy lexicon of economists.
The display art exhibit “Fast-Food Republic,” by the all-female art group Non-Stop, explores the prevalence and influence of fast food in modern society.
“We do not attempt to criticize today’s fast food culture, but to show how deeply embedded it is,” says Yoo Han-dal, one of the artists who helped plan and create the exhibition.
As you enter the glass-enclosed exhibit hall at Gwanghwamun Gallery, two giant photos ― one of a woman wearing clothes imprinted with a french fry pattern and another of a shirt sporting a KFC corn salad motif ― catch your eye. The contrasting faces, one forlorn and the other jubilant, along with a sofa built of thin iron rods and plastic food wrapped beneath the photos, conveys a sense of artificiality in the setting.
A large display area with colorful sofas also features a TV screen that shows nothing but fast food commercials from Japanese, Chinese and Korean television. Here gallery visitors can sit and chat as the ads flash by.
Rows of closet-sized rooms fill another section of the gallery, each housing an individual display. In one room, a large see-through plastic garbage bag is filled with disposable fast food wrappers, cups and tray papers with ketchup smeared on them. Another room decorated with hundreds of beondaegi (boiled silkworm pupa) stuck into the walls with sewing pins is as alarming as it is fascinating. The most striking room features a sink filled with real apples that have electric cords dangling from their cores. It represents the processing of natural foods for mass consumption, drawing a corollary between fast food and its consumers.
The group Non-Stop was founded 10 years ago by alumni of Kyung Hee University’s art department. The eight artists work in the fields of painting, sculpture and display.
The exhibition runs through Tuesday at the Gwanghwamun Gallery, located behind the Sejong Culture and Performing Arts Center. Admission is free.
For more information, call the Gwanghwamun Gallery at (02) 734-5118.
by Choi Jie-ho