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Trying Past Catastrophe for Clues to Up to date Life


SEOUL — At a time when artists can promote work and sculptures for dizzying sums, Jeon Joonho and Moon Kyungwon embody a considerably opposite strategy.

“We don’t need to make simply paintings,” Ms. Moon mentioned in an interview at their studio, which was designed by the Japanese architect Toyo Ito in Seoul’s Seochon space. “We attempt to hearken to different voices to rethink our place.”

Over the previous decade, Ms. Moon and Mr. Jeon — or Moon and Jeon, as they’re extensively recognized — have established a multifarious creative partnership that continuously includes collaborations with architects, vogue designers, actors and scientists, amongst others.

Dreamy, meticulously crafted quick movies are their trademark, and so they do typically make discrete objects, however their endeavors have additionally taken the type of dialogue sequence, books and design. Each 52, they’ve turn into stars on the worldwide artwork circuit, and represented their native South Korea on the 2015 Venice Biennale.

Their newest present alights on the twenty first Century Museum of Up to date Artwork in Kanazawa, Japan, in Could, and it encompasses video installations in addition to an ongoing city regeneration venture within the close by seaside village of Kanaiwa. That venture contains the redesign, with the architect Yuji Nakae, of a dilapidated wall that shields the realm from wind, sand and marine particles. A brand new video will observe a person looking for survivors on a lifeboat in a post-apocalyptic, digital actuality world.

Such futuristic, post-disaster settings have turn into a recurring curiosity for the pair, a way for addressing modern points from indirect angles. “Moon and I don’t like to present some message to the viewers,” mentioned Mr. Jeon. “We need to give a key —”

“— or a clue of our concepts,” mentioned Ms. Moon, ending his sentence, as they typically do for one another.

William Morris’s 1890 novel, “Information From Nowhere,” has served as an inspiration and a title for his or her work. In Morris’s universe, a person falls asleep and awakes greater than a century later in a socialist utopia. The settings of Ms. Moon and Mr. Jeon are typically far darker. Civilization has crashed; people are attempting to maneuver ahead.

The centerpiece of their current present on the Nationwide Museum of Fashionable and Up to date Artwork (MMCA) right here was a two-screen video born of their analysis on Taesung Freedom Village, which is within the Demilitarized Zone and guarded by the United Nations Command. Its roughly 200 residents obtain particular tax breaks however are topic to a curfew and carefully monitored. (The pair weren’t capable of get permission to shoot there.)

On one display, an area man wanders by a forest, catalogs vegetation and sends samples aloft by way of balloon. Mysteriously, its contents seem on the second display in a hermetically sealed high-tech chamber inhabited by a lone man. He’s underneath video surveillance and fed by pouches that his computerized dwelling delivers. He examines the specimens, secretly vegetation a seed and decides to don a masks and enterprise exterior.

The piece, deliberate earlier than the pandemic, has taken on new resonance. “The Freedom Village, itself, presents us now,” mentioned the MMCA curator Joowon Park, who organized the present. “We’re totally remoted — bodily, as a result of we’re sporting a masks daily, but in addition mentally.”

Many years-old images of Taesung that the artists subtly altered, shielding individuals’s identities, hung close to the movies, and Ms. Park mentioned that many younger individuals who visited have been “confused about whether or not this village is actual or not.” Its 70-year estrangement is a results of the Korean Warfare, however “these sorts of tales are all over the place on the earth,” she mentioned, drawing analogies to Kabul, Hong Kong and Taiwan, all locations with fraught borders or constrained motion.

The Freedom Village video will probably be in Kanazawa with the duo’s first movie, “El Fin del Mundo (2012),” which additionally makes use of a twin construction that spans time. On one display, a person in a rundown studio is at work on a ramshackle sculpture; within the different, a girl in a viciously commercialized future visits the room, research his supplies — now artifacts — and turns into entranced.

It’s a “philosophical-social Korean reflection on the long run — or the current sooner or later as a previous,” mentioned Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, the director of the Castello di Rivoli artwork museum in Turin, Italy, who invited them to take part in her 2012 version of the vital Documenta exhibition in Kassel, Germany.

One would possibly take the piece as an allegory for his or her enduring religion in making experimental artwork. Mr. Jeon mentioned they goal to ask, “What’s the that means of latest artwork?” They reveal that it may be a discussion board for uniting disparate inventive forces.

In a 2013 Chicago present by Ms. Moon and Mr. Jeon, the Dutch structure agency MVRDV provided renderings of inhabitable, biodegradable “bubbles,” responding to a dystopic situation from the artists. For a 2015 Zurich present, the 2 labored with the Swiss design group City-Suppose Tank to design a “Cell Agora,” movable seating for discussions amongst individuals in numerous fields.

Due to the pandemic, “Their philosophy as artists, which is to rethink the social position of artwork, is required,” Koichi Nakata, senior curator on the Kanazawa museum, mentioned in an e mail.

Their deal with such core points dates again to their first assembly, in 2007, on an airplane to a biennial to indicate their work. Intense discussions ultimately led to their partnership, although they each proceed to make solo works. “We talked rather a lot about learn how to survive as an artist within the artwork market,” Ms. Moon mentioned.

Surviving as artists at the moment — making their bold movies — means attracting financing from sources like museums, foundations and companies. “You can’t think about what number of displays we do to companies,” Mr. Jeon mentioned.

Oh Jung-wan, a Korean movie trade veteran, serves as their producer, and main galleries in Seoul and Tokyo promote their works, together with their movies in restricted editions. Nonetheless, it’s not at all times a simple course of.

“We’re dreamers,” Mr. Jeon mentioned emphatically at one level. “We’re dreamers.” There was a quick pause and Ms. Moon let loose a glad snigger.

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