Conference : Home That Never Was: On Anxiety and Nostalgia of Korean Contemporary Artists, 25 octobre 2013

Friday, 25 October 2013
Dr Jung-Ah Woo (Pohang University of Science and Technology, Korea)
G50, Ground Floor, Main Building, SOAS, Russell Square

This study investigates the works of four Korean artists: Suh Do-Ho, Kim Sooja, Lee Bul, and Yang Haegue. Since the early 1990s, Korean artists have emerged as visible figures in the international art scene, especially under the euphemistic rubric of nomadic identity and hybrid aesthetics. In other words, the body of their works was immediately embraced by the rapid influx of “postmodern” discourses to the Asian continent at the end of the century. Yet, at the turn of the century, the military crises and financial catastrophes engulfing the entire globe complicate the understanding of such celebratory discourses of hybridity and nomadism. For the individuals living in this epoch of uncertainty, being hybrid and nomadic might invoke the fundamental anxiety of loss: loss of identity and original space.

The artists in this study have presented disparate modes of dealing with this sense of anxiety and nostalgia. I will argue that Suh generated nostalgia for his childhood home in Korea through architectures in fabric; Kim created an imagined location of origin in her video and performance; Lee demonstrated her conscious rejection of melancholic attachment to organic body by offering cyborgs and monsters; and finally Yang, the later generation than the previous three, offers a possibility of an artistic community with a contingent duration. These works clearly address the artists’ privatized memories, yet the individual processes of remembrance and representation offer a deeper understanding of the lost histories, as well as histories of loss in modern Korea.

Speaker Biography

Jung-Ah Woo is Assistant Professor at the Division of Humanities and Social Sciences in Postech, Korea. Woo earned her Ph.D. in art history from University of California at Los Angeles, and her MA and BA from Seoul National University. Her research area is the postwar art of East Asia and the United States with particular interests in collective memory, historical trauma, and identity politics.

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