Now What?, SeMA, Buk-Seoul Museum of Art, Seoul, KR, 2023

Group Show | 25 April - 09 July 2023

Participating Artists: Riar Rizaldi, Sam Barlow, Half Mermaid Productions, Theo Triantafyllidis, Jaewon Kim, Internet Mountain Club, Yoon Jeewon

2023 marks the tenth anniversary of SeMA, Buk-Seoul Museum of Art. With its mission to build sustained connections to the local community, the museum has experimented with a variety of exhibitions and programs. It is in this context that the museum presents NOW WHAT?, an exhibition that requires a deeper level of engagement from the museum, artist, and the audience.

In our contemporary digital media environment, new media is the medium enjoyed by most people. Yet, even such attributes of new media started to stutter and did not work very dramatically as they entered the format of the white cube. It happened since the new media were not inherently unilateral. Historically, attitudes toward art exhibitions have evolved to emphasize the importance of experience and interaction. Yet, there are still some points that leave something to be developed. In particular, the video art that we want to examine in this exhibition has not escaped the limits of receiving the audience on a white wall like an old painting, even in an explosive circulation of the media ecosystem. The experiential layers of video art must be presented in a more complex and autonomous way. Therefore, we materialize the numerous elements that make up their works in a “game-like scenography.”

We invited artists who work with new media in various ways such as film, documentary, interactive video, and live simulation. We then focused on researching their works that resulted in the single-channel video format. First and foremost, Sam Barlow, Half Mermaid Productions is a filmmaker and game developer who created IMMORTALITY (2022), a game that raises questions about the nature of video art by deconstructing the unidirectionality and monolinear structure of traditional cinema. In IMMORTALITY, the player sits in the editing room to unfold and reassemble all the scenes of the three unmerged films to infer the unfilmed events. It is an important and inspirational example that is closely connected to how the exhibition came about. Jaewon Kim talks about the lives of queer people, those infected with HIV/AIDS, and his relationship with his lovers. His works are composed in the form of letters to lovers through the fragmentation of images or reconstruction of memories. We transformed these works into a performative dimension and placed devices for pseudo-emotional experience. Riar Rizaldi focuses on individuals and specific groups in Indonesia and Hong Kong who are marginalized from a socio-economic perspective. In the exhibition, the audience will become marginalized individuals or particular groups in no time through spontaneous performative acts. The mountaineering documentary True of Landscapes (2023) by Internet Mountain Club allows us to take a closer look behind the scenes of the mountain that was not visible to the eyes of mountain hikers. They tell the holistic story of our time—ethnicity, identity, culture, generation, climate—on the actual topographic map of a “mountain”and ask the audience to be witnesses of the times. Taking on the determination of this video work, we concretized our actions and experiences as witnesses. In the meantime, Theo Triantafyllidis creates a live simulation in which an autonomous ecosystem operates. This work in the exhibition space becomes an object of observation and exploration by itself. The intention is to have this work interact with the audience with a sense of observing an ant’s nest as we did as homework when we were young or with an intention to have it as a mirror to reflect on reality. Finally, artist and filmmaker Yoon Jeewon presents a new video work A VERY ABSOLUTE EFFECT ON THE PERCEIVER (2023). It is hoped that the audience will appreciate the exceptional golden ratio and infer the rules that constructed the work. The best way to watch the video works with the most delicious taste might be to learn the rules and connect what is possible within them for an emergent viewing. 

We prepared game-like texts to facilitate the interaction between the interpretive layers of the video works and the fragmented experiences. Among the various formats of games, we focused on “immersive simulation”games. While the player’s actions were limited to essential actions in the early games, it is possible to interact with almost every element of the environment in immersive simulation games. Players can have autonomy and thus practice emergent gameplay in a given environment regardless of their original obligations. In addition, the proficiency accumulated through trial and error creates a deep understanding and immersion in the game’s worldview. 

Taking this into account, the scenography of the exhibition is set in the gray area of the city, which also happens to be the psychological background of the uncertainty of our time and the participating artists. In particular, the exhibition houses an “underpath of an imaginary bridge.” The underpath is a limbo-like space where the audience’s failures return not as defection but as experiences and skills. Here, artists and curators talked about what it would take for an individual’s media experiences and subjective memories to move beyond mere appreciation and become part of a collective experience, memory, and language. The process devised in the underpath has become an activity sheet and is given to all players. While the placeness of this exhibition primarily gives a sense of déjà vu, the activity sheet works as a tutorial and a list of tasks that help the artists to master the experiences and languages they want to deliver through the live action. Now, with the list of missions in hand, the audience (player) will be able to recall our question. 

The exhibition expects that the audience to become the player, and determine their own path at will and absorb the rules or languages of artworks through their explorative interaction at the experiential level. We hope the audience to get deeper into the pleasure of watching video art and the essence of what the artists tell in their works.