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Uproarious, Heated, InundatedCommemorative Exhibition of the 70th Anniversary of Liberation:The Great Journey with the Citizens

 

The year 2015 marks the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II. While there are many celebrations around the world commemorating this special point in time, this year is even more significant in Korea as it also honors the 70th anniversary of Korean Independence. Uproarious, Heated, Inundated was organized to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the liberation (Gwangbok (光復): reclaimed light) of Korea on August 15th, 1945 from the Japanese occupation. This exhibition, however, does not regard the liberation of Korea as a concluded historical incident but as an ongoing event which still continues on today 70 years later. This is because the nation’s division into North and South still affects the very core of our everyday life, preceding any other ideologies or values. While the exhibition focuses on historical events of a generation or two before our time in the present such as the Korean War, industrialization and democratization, the intention isn’t to just chronologically outline Korean modern history through art. Rather, the exhibition hopes to discuss the diversified and unsettled life in the contemporary times. The tragedy of Japanese occupation, absurdities of the Korean War, hope and despair of rapid economic growth, and passionate hunger for democratization are not the issues of a bygone past but are on-going issues that still resonate with us today.

 

In this context, the exhibition title Uproarious, Heated, Inundated reflects the characteristics of each period presented in three sections, while this title -consisted of three adjectives enumerated unstably without any noun that is being modified- symbolizes the uncertain life of contemporary times that cannot be defined with a single word.

 

The exhibition is largely divided into three sections. Section 1 focuses on the postwar life of people whose country has been torn apart, and their longing for their home and family. Section 2 sheds light on the period from the 1960s to 1980s, the growth spurts of industrialization and urbanization, as well as democratization which attempted to overcome the reactionary modernization. Lastly, Section 3 captures the kaleidoscopic life of globalization in the present.

 

The exhibition space (designed by the artist Choi Jeong-hwa) starts off with dark colors in section 1 then gradually lightens up in color and mood in sections 2 and 3. The walls capture the aura of each period through the use of different materials including wire mesh, plywood, aluminum and vinyl. The exhibition perpetually reminds the viewer that the contents in sections 1 and 2 are not of a finalized past but of the various aspects of the contemporary period. It also suggests that reflecting on the past doesn’t mean just recalling and restoring the no-longer existing past as it is, but constructing a ‘site of memory’ where multiple, diverse, and different memories are reconstituted in the present. Each section is filled with multiple voices of the artists, both those who actually experienced the period and those who indirectly experienced the age through records and documentations. Of particular note, section 2 offers an special experience of the period through popular music and sounds (arranged by singer and poet Sung Ki-wan) from the time which would allow the audience to not only feel nostalgia of the past, but also reconstitute the fragmented pieces of memory both aurally and visually.