Diverse themes on display at feminist art exhibits

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Diverse themes on display at feminist art exhibits

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Among the works on display in the “East Asia Feminism: FANTasia” show running at the Seoul Museum of Art, Korean artist Airan Kang’s media installation work “Re-Voice” lets visitors listen to the voices of victims who were forced into sexual slavery by the Imperial Japanese Army during World War II. [SEOUL MUSEUM OF ART]


In two ongoing exhibitions in Seoul, artists tell the story of women from the feminist perspective.

One exhibit, “East Asia Feminism: FANTasia,” is ongoing at the Seoul Museum of Art (SeMA) in central Seoul. The show features 14 artists: 12 East Asian women, one Indian woman and one Singaporean man.

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As for Chiharu Shiota’s “After the Dream,” some may view it as illustrating “the absence of the (real) women and suppression of them,” as the SeMA web site explains. [SEOUL MUSEUM OF ART]

The moods of the artworks on display are quite diverse.

Korean artist Airan Kang’s media installation work “Re-Voice” has a somber air, featuring the voices of Korean and other Asian victims who were forced into sexual slavery by the Imperial Japanese Army during World War II - euphemistically referred to as comfort women -in a darkened room, where related images are also projected.

On the other hand, Japanese artist Chiharu Shiota’s “After the Dream” is aesthetically pleasing with an aura of Gothic romance. The installation work consists of several long, white gowns, which are the typical symbol of “innocent women,” and intricately woven black threads that surround the gowns and fill the space ominously.

Some may interpret the piece as “the absence of the (real) women and suppression of them,” as the museum says on its web site. But others could interpret the cobweb-like threads as female power that challenges the ideal female image in the patriarchal society represented by the pure-white gowns, as spiders often symbolize powerful femininity.

Regarding the intention of the exhibition, the museum explains, “From a Western-centric and patriarchal perspective, Asia and women both fall under the category of ‘invisible other.’ This category is also the realm of fantasy.”

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Korean choreographer Ahn Eu-mi’s video piece “A Dance Homage to Ancestors” shows the rhythmic gestures and dances of ordinary Korean elderly women, who have lived lives of suffering and patience, and ends with their performances. [COREANA MUSEUM OF ART]

The museum added the show would help the audience “heighten their understanding of feminism and learn about the current status of East Asian women’s art.”

Still, the works in the exhibition are not focused on East Asia only. Most of the artists touch on feminist issues that are prevalent globally.

Among them, Korean artist Geumhyung Jeong deals with women’s independent sexual fantasies through performances, installation works and a video.

Another video from Jeong is part of the second ongoing feminist art exhibition, “Dancing Mama.”

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Bahamian artist Janine Antoni’s “Honey Baby” is a video performance in which a male performer experiences a cave-like space, which symbolizes a woman’s womb. They are part of the “Dancing Mama” exhibition at the Coreana Museum of Art. [COREANA MUSEUM OF ART]

Running at the Coreana Museum of Art in southern Seoul, the exhibition has clearer theme of women’s bodies and, sometimes, men’s bodies viewed from the women’s perspective, and expressed through video and photographic works.

Among the 13 Korean and foreign artists participating in the show, Jeong presents a short film in which the object of voyeurism is no longer a woman but a male doll combined with a camera that symbolizes the man.

Korean choreographer Ahn Eu-mi’s video piece, “A Dance Homage to Ancestors,” shows the rhythmic gestures and dances of ordinary Korean elderly women, who have lived lives of suffering and patience, and ends with their performances.

Bahamian artist Janine Antoni’s “Honey Baby” is a video performance in which a male performer experiences a cave-like space which symbolize a woman’s womb.

The curators said the exhibition focuses on women’s bodies - not as the object of suffering and suppression, which was often the theme of earlier feminist art, but as the subject that reviews its own history and power through aesthetic or humorous performances.


BY Moon So-young [symoon@joongang.co.kr]

The “East Asia Feminism: FANTasia” exhibition runs through Nov. 8 at the SeMA. Admission is free. The museum is closed on Mondays. Go to Seoul City Hall Station, line No. 2, exit No. 10 and walk for five minutes.

For more information, visit sema.seoul.go.kr or call (02) 2124-8800.

The “Dancing Mama” show runs through Dec. 5 at the Coreana Museum of Art. Admission is 3,000 won ($2.64) for adults. Go to Apgujeong Station, line No. 3, exit No. 3 and walk for 10 minutes. For details, visit www.spacec.co.kr or call (02) 547-9177.

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