Two duelling realities at Seoul art biennale explore cyber issues

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Two duelling realities at Seoul art biennale explore cyber issues

Since it was launched in 2000, “Media City Seoul” has walked a fine line between warring factions from the arts and sciences. On the one hand, the event was seen as a project sponsored by the City government to help define Seoul as a hub of information technology. By contrast, Seoul’s art world argued the event should be a celebration of visual art.
Until this year, the battle produced fairly even results, with guests including media artists, gallery curators, philosophers and IT executives.
During its first year, the show invited celebrity artists like Matthew Barney, Stan Douglas and Bill Viola. French theorist Jean Baudrillard made a cameo appearance at the symposium’s opening. Yet the emphasis, at least in the show’s presentation, seemed to lean more toward an audience interested in cutting-edge technology.
“Game/Play,” the title of the 2004 show, focused extensively on online digital interfaces and marked a step away from artistic content.
Things have changed this year after a reduction in government funding shifted the emphasis toward the arts. The official name of the event has become “The Seoul International Media Art Biennale: Media City Seoul” and it focuses on young Asian media artists, especially those working across a range of cyber mediums.
“Dual Realities” is the title chosen for this year’s event, which has been organized by a team of multi-ethnic curators and media theorists who work both inside and outside the art scene. It deals with the dramatic gap between concrete and cyber reality, analyzing various media trends in visual art, with the hope of posing creative suggestions for today’s cyber culture.
The show pays special attention to the cyber environment in Korea and artists try to deal with issues ranging from cyber invasion of privacy to “augmented reality,” as urban citizens build new identities and new ways of communicating through new technologies such as text messages, the Internet, instant messaging and other new “ways of speaking” within the langauge of cyber space..
A number of academic symposiums and projects are part of the biennale. One symposium this year, named “New Physicality and Virtuality,” will deal with issues within the changing media environment. Leading media theorists such as Lev Manovich ― the author of “The Language of New Media” ― and Peter Weibei have been invited as speakers to discuss the aesthetic, philosophical and scientific aspect of the two realities.
As a satellite project, “Matrix S” will feature site-specific works that deal with local issues. “Life in Media” is a media workshop which will offer a series of hands-on sessions where participants get to try out different media techniques within the new technoligies.

by Park Soo-mee

“Dual Realities,” Seoul International Media Art Bienniale: Media City Seoul, at Seoul Museum of Art, opens on Oct. 18 and runs to Dec. 10. For more information call (02) 2124-8949
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