Even for artists, art can be a real drag — but not these pieces

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Even for artists, art can be a real drag — but not these pieces

Artist Lee Kwang-ho’s “Obsession Series” (2020-21) [NATIONAL MUSEUM OF MODERN AND CONTEMPORARY ART, KOREA]

Artist Lee Kwang-ho’s “Obsession Series” (2020-21) [NATIONAL MUSEUM OF MODERN AND CONTEMPORARY ART, KOREA]

 
Creating art is often associated with the hard labor or even agony of artists toiling for long hours. But what if creating art was playful and fun?
 
The National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (MMCA) Gwacheon, Gyeonggi, presents the exhibition “Switch Things Up” in its Circular Gallery 1, which opened June 10 and will run until Feb. 27, 2022.
 
The exhibition highlights the process of creating art, depicting it as a fun, enjoyable process during which artists can fully express their creativity. It was inspired by Dutch historian Johan Huizinga’s concept of humans as homo ludens — ludens meaning "to play" in Latin — which addresses the innate human desire and ability to play.
 
View of the "Switch Things Up" exhibition [NATIONAL MUSEUM OF MODERN AND CONTEMPORARY ART, KOREA]

View of the "Switch Things Up" exhibition [NATIONAL MUSEUM OF MODERN AND CONTEMPORARY ART, KOREA]

 
Seven artists and one group consisting of three artists participated in the exhibition. The day before the exhibition, on June 9, the artists were present at the gallery to explain the inspiration and process behind their works.
 
The exhibition starts with artist Lee Kwang-ho’s “Obsession Series” (2020-21), which resembles a messy living room.
 
“I was inspired by children playing with their toys and not tidying up afterward, leaving toys scattered all across the living room floor,” Lee said.
 
“I didn’t make any new works specifically for this exhibition. I just enjoy making a lot of random objects with various materials, and I brought as many of them as possible to display at this gallery to create the imagery of an untidy living room.”
 
Artist Seo Jeong-hwa’s “Structure for Use” (2021) [NATIONAL MUSEUM OF MODERN AND CONTEMPORARY ART, KOREA]

Artist Seo Jeong-hwa’s “Structure for Use” (2021) [NATIONAL MUSEUM OF MODERN AND CONTEMPORARY ART, KOREA]

 
Artist Seo Jeong-hwa’s ironically titled “Structure for Use” (2021) consists of a number of aluminum benches geometrically stacked together.
 
“I usually make furniture for practical use, but this artwork has no practical use because I made it for fun,” said Seo. “I used the same structure and method I normally use, except this time I stacked them up like Lego blocks. Although this work has no practical use, unlike my other works, I wanted to try creating something that makes me happy while I make it. So I did just that.”
 
Metal artist Shin Hea-lim’s “As Time Goes Rain Falls” (2021) [NATIONAL MUSEUM OF MODERN AND CONTEMPORARY ART, KOREA]

Metal artist Shin Hea-lim’s “As Time Goes Rain Falls” (2021) [NATIONAL MUSEUM OF MODERN AND CONTEMPORARY ART, KOREA]

 
Metal artist Shin Hea-lim’s “As Time Goes Rain Falls” (2021) and other metalwork are so elaborate that it is difficult to imagine the creation process was fun, but Shin shared her personal definition of what it means to play.
 
“Yes, it was a stressful process. But to me, ‘to play’ means to satisfy my desire to continue making art,” she said. “My art career came to a halt after marriage and childbirth. So simply being able to resume making art made me happy. You can still find enjoyment even when you’re in pain [while creating art].”
 
Metal artist Lee Sang-min’s “Nutcracker 2” (2013) [NATIONAL MUSEUM OF MODERN AND CONTEMPORARY ART, KOREA]

Metal artist Lee Sang-min’s “Nutcracker 2” (2013) [NATIONAL MUSEUM OF MODERN AND CONTEMPORARY ART, KOREA]

 
Metal artist Lee Sang-min says he has enjoyed making various toys and objects since childhood. After majoring in metal art, he became torn between making decorative artwork and metal items for practical use.
 
“I wanted to merge both fields,” he said. “So I made ‘Nutcracker 2’ [2013], which is a contraption that drops a metal weight to crack open walnuts. I also made a device that pours wine when you lay a bottle on it. These may be somewhat silly and not super practical, but I think it’s a fun combination of practicality and enjoyment.”
 
Lee then demonstrated cracking open a walnut with “Nutcracker 2” on the spot.
 
Artist team NOL decorated the walls of the gallery. [NATIONAL MUSEUM OF MODERN AND CONTEMPORARY ART, KOREA]

Artist team NOL decorated the walls of the gallery. [NATIONAL MUSEUM OF MODERN AND CONTEMPORARY ART, KOREA]

 
Artist team NOL — formed by artists Namkoong Kyo, Oh Hyun-jin and Lee Kwang-ho — was in charge of decorating the walls of the circular gallery. The team completely covered all of the temporary walls with aluminum foil-like material, lighting up the gallery and also giving off a futuristic vibe.
 
“We wanted something different from regular white gallery walls,” said Namkoong.
 
“The foil absorbs or reflects light, depending on how it’s crumpled,” Oh said. “We liked that effect, and think it helps the works of art stand out. We’re happy with how it turned out.”
 
BY HALEY YANG   [yang.hyunjoo@joongang.co.kr]
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