Artists park their latest in order to contemplate public space

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Artists park their latest in order to contemplate public space

Maronier Park has an unfixed identity. What this small space in the northeastern corner of downtown Seoul means to you will depend on when you paid a visit, and why.
The park, located at the heart of the Daehangno district ― teeming with students, people-watchers, theater groups hocking their performances ― is always packed with a constant blur of human traffic. A homeless man downing hard liquor on a bench. A couple waiting to buy play tickets. A preacher competing with a street performer for the attention of passersby. Political protesters turning back the clock to an earlier part of Korea’s history, when, during the democracy movement, student activists once gathered en masse.
What the park has always been is open; inviting; often embracing.
At the park’s edge, the Maronier Museum stands for everything contrary to the park’s welcoming nature. The building is confined, distant; its walls are white, divided into utilitarian squares. The park’s natural surroundings slam up against the museum’s staid walls.
It is exactly this contrast that the Maronier Museum ― run by the Korean Arts and Culture Foundation, an institution considered in art circles a heavily bureaucratic organization ― is playing with in its exhibition “Park, Pause, People.”
Featuring six local emerging artists, with sound work by Siegfried Koepf, the exhibition uses Maronier Park as an entrance point to understand the role of the museum situated there, forcing artists to interact with the lives of the park’s denizens. As a gesture of “openness” to mirror that of the park, every part of the museum will be accessible to the public during the show, down to its staff offices.
Kim Seung-young, one of the six featured artists, spread a stretch of lawn throughout the entire second floor of the museum, complicating the viewer’s perception about the notions of inside and outside, private and public, museum and park.
The artist Jung Jung-hwa focuses on fluctuations in the park’s myriad visitors by projecting a video loop taken of the park at the same time every day for three days. Ms. Jeong mixes the sequence of these images and projects them onto three separate walls, making it seem that the footage was shot by the same revolving camera. The park and its visitors fragment and shift, kaleidoscopically, in front of the viewer.
Yang Ju-hye stretches the concept of a “park” by suggesting that a similar public phenomenon occurs in cyberspace. Her “Strolling” projects onto the museum’s outside wall a list of art-related Web site addresses. Visitors, in order to see what is being projected, are forced to wander and rest, interact and observe, an experience the artist parallels with surfing and communicating on the Internet.
The exhibition shows how parks and museums differ, but also shows their commonality ― for the coupling of a museum and a park is a relationship as old as time.


by Park Soo-mee

The exhibition “Park, Pause, People” will continue through August 30. For more information, call 02-760-4726.

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