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Choe U-Ram: Little Ark at National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Seoul

September 9, 2022–February 26, 2023

This show is intended to reconstruct the reality that we are currently living in while highlighting the issues raised by Choe Uram’s well-known works. An opportunity to reconsider and reevaluate long-held beliefs has arisen as a result of the extraordinary crisis that is threatening humanity’s survival. The worsening of fear and polarization brought on by sociopolitical and economic crises, as well as climate change, paints a clear picture of an age marked by confusion. In response, the artist created the show with the “Ark” as its central topic and juxtaposed the conflicting wants that characterize the modern day, giving the audience a space to reflect and pose queries about our ultimate fate.

The Seoul Box’s center features a black Round Table that is supported by 18 straw headless figures, and the table’s top is topped with a rotating round head. This is an allegory for the ferocious struggle for control of the one head, and the system in which it is impossible to escape from this conflict even if there is no desire for the head. Three Black Birds, made from recycled cardboard box parts, are circling above. They slowly revolve around the tall ceiling while they keep an eye on the conflict below. Who will seize control of the skull? Who will suffer a loss? Who will manage to flee this conflict?

Little Ark is a symbolic ark made of heavy iron and recycled cardboard boxes with cutting-edge technology. Where do we stand in this era where the exploration of outer space is accelerating, while simultaneously aggravating the crisis of the Earth’s ecosystem? 35 pairs of oars stand erected like a wall that alienates us, then begin a majestic dance as if spreading wings. Lighthouse placed on top of the ship, Two Captains and James Webb facing opposite directions, Angel with a feebly slouching body, Anchor that makes it difficult to tell if the ark is docked or sailing, and Infinite Space which is a metaphor to mankind endlessly chasing desires even in a time of crisis; these works all maximize the ambivalent reality alongside Little Ark while drawing our eyes to Exit. This video, in which a door opens but then a closed door repeatedly emerges, is in harmony with the ambient sound that fills the exhibition space, inviting us to delve into our desires, reflect on the present, and raise many questions. What is the purpose of this voyage? Where is the destination? Is there really an exit? Where is the end to this desire?

Crimson, on the other hand, continuously blooms and withers in a corner of the exhibition area while shining a bright red light. Red represents how we must still make an effort to move forward as well as the cycle of life itself. If One, a giant white flower at the entrance to Gallery 5, is a commemorative wreath fashioned by the artist for the suffering of his contemporaries who have endured the recent pandemic. Instead of adhering to the ultimate or the aspirations of others, one must always question and seek explanations in pursuit of invisible underlying ideals in order to effectively manage one’s own voyage. Important things aren’t always visible to the naked eye, and the real significance of life is not always clear-cut, as the sketches that serve as the foundation for Choe’s artwork show. We believe the audience will traverse their own personal universes while moving through the well-lit hallways beside URC-1 and URC-2, who were reborn as stars by joining the headlights and taillights of junked cars.

National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Seoul
30 Samcheong-ro, Jongno-gu
03062 Seoul
South Korea
Hours: Tuesday–Thursday 10am–6pm,
Friday–Saturday 10am–9pm

T +82 2 3701 9500
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