Once again, the Venice Biennale exhibition makes its self known in a big way. Pavilions from all over the world demonstrate a particular area of culture that's keyed into the social interest of the day. With all eyes on Korea this time around, it's no wonder that their given selection of art is raising some eyebrows.
During the 1960s, Korean homes were designed by a state agency called the Korea Engineering Consultants Corp. They designed many items for Koreans to use in their daily lives. This communist style expression of government took away the plethora of choice we are so often bombarded with, and left citizens with few options in way of style and expression. When we rely on the state to do things for us, we lose our liberty in the given area.
The Korean Pavilion contains four archive projects designed by the agency themselves. These have in turn been used as foundation and inspiration for more modern and expressive interpretations of the design ethic. Influential is an understatement, the state department in question had a massive monopoly on Korean infrastructure though the industrialisation period of the 60s. In fact, at the Expo '70 in Osaka, the KECC showcased a whole range of projects in order to establish the nation state in the global scene.
Echoes of these days are perhaps best studied from a historical and detached point of view. Many Korean people will remember the communist era and the transition into democracy. It's still touchy ground and we all have our egg shells. Touching on this recent time frame is perhaps a brave but worthwhile venture for art.
Included in the showing is a film called Fantastic City by Hyun Suk Seo. This documents the direct experiences of those touched by the KECC in their area of work and life. Also is an installation of photography called Reference Points. Kyeongtae Kim set up the exhibit to showcase the architecture from a human eye's perspective, again, allowing us to examine the soul rather than the form.
A work of fiction is also on show in the Korean Pavilion. Light From Anywhere by Jidon Jung describes the job role of a guide at the Osaka Expo in 1970. This puts readers into the mindset of those trained to highlight Korea's cultural significance. The keystone to this array of experiences is perhaps the work called Spectres of the State – Avant-garde. This collation of essays and correspondences outlines the relationship between designers and the government. The tenuous connections and desires, motives, and methods of both parties have to find common ground. Maybe there are lessons to be learned from this material no matter what we do for a living.
Perhaps with the hum drum aspects of our lives seen to and catered for on a huge scale, it gives us more time to experience life on a deeper level. It's difficult for me to say as I've never experienced a communist lifestyle. Maybe some Alternative Fruit readers can enlighten the rest of us in the comments?
Via E-Flux Architecture
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