Seminar I - Sohyun Ahn
In the first seminar of 2020 DOOSAN Curator Workshop, Sohyun Ahn, the director of Art Space Pool, focused on the individual cases of exhibitions she organized as a museum curator, independent curator, and director of an alternative space. Through the lecture presentation based on Ahn’s experiences, the workshop participants had the chance to listen in detail to the practical problems that were involved in the planning process which weren’t apparent in the exhibitions, as well as the exhibition engineering meanings that were pursued.
Through the medium of the exhibition, Ahn throws questions on the diverse sociocultural issues and the politics of art. For example, one of her recent exhibitions, The Sea Will Not Sink (2019), was a memorial exhibition for the 5th anniversary of the Sewol ferry disaster. This exhibition reflected on the meaning of commemorating through a ‘pilgrimage-like’ movement throughout the exhibition. Degenerate Art (2016), a past exhibition that kept on being recalled, had invited works that stirred up controversies in terms of the subject and expression. By juxtaposing the works with text that criticized them, the exhibition paradoxically visualized the prejudices within the society.
On the other hand, exhibitions held at Nam June Paik Art Center such as Nam June Paik on Stage (2014) and X_sound: John Cage, Nam June Paik and After (2012), demonstrated the role of the institutional curator, whose role it is to bring out flexible agreements among the personnel at the art institution, such as archivists and space management team, etc. Despite the unavoidable restrictions of the institution that deals with narratives centering on a particular artist, Ahn coated other layers over the exhibition through her strategy of subverting typicality, including playing variations on elements of exhibition display such as colors, walls and lighting.
Overall, it was impressive to see how Ahn’s curatorial process sharply responds to the social trends and turns the exhibition into a kind of gesture. It showed that, although all the conditions of the exhibitions which an independent curator and institutional curator face are different, what they have in common might be that their goals as a curator are connected. Taking this further, the workshop participants took the time to think about the role of the curator as an ‘acting creator’.