Seminar VIII - Gahee Park, Jinshil Lee
Simple Questions of “What” and “How”
Sunjoo Choi (DCW 2021)
At the eighth seminar of the DOOSAN Curator Workshop, we talked with curators Gahee Park and Jinshil Lee, focusing on how curators can develop their own perspectives and standards within the scope of an exhibition.
Gahee Park started the seminar by saying that institutions no longer establish directions for curators, who must therefore find their own methods and set their own standards. The simple act of curating is an essential technique and a prerequisite for creating an exhibition, but curatorial work involves a more cognitive approach and a practical attitude. Park pointed out that a curator’s job is not simply to create an exhibition, and when asked about the role of exhibitions, she emphasized that they must trigger “an incident of realization” that may not be visible to the naked eye. She stressed that curators must pose incomplete questions that change over time, communicating with both the artworks and the audience.
Looking at some case studies, we learned how curators devised questions for their respective exhibitions. Regarding Malfunction Library (2016), Park talked about running a student “malfunction study group” to demonstrate the potential of alternative ways of knowledge production. In SeMA Exhibition Archive 1988-2016: Reading Writing Speaking (2016–2017), the focus lay not on representing history, but on the process of writing history and evaluating the potential of multilayered historical writing. The Art of Dissonance (2017), whose curator was tasked with using artworks from the British Council’s collection only, used art and text to mediate the two different societies of the UK and Korea. Lastly, Park referred to the importance of a system that allows people with different responsibilities, such as supervising, programming, and publishing, to work together in one network.
Jinshil Lee explored what curators must focus on between the twin responsibilities of writing and directing. Today, curators are required to play a dual role of a “solitary agent” who writes from a critic’s perspective and a “mediator” who translates the visual language of art. However, writing can also make visual art more abstract, which is why it is important to find a balance between the artwork and the audience in the curatorial process. Curators must refrain from adding too much meaning to artworks in their writing and avoid copying other critical reviews and artists’ statements.
Lee introduced two exhibitions held at Hapjeongjigu—Read My Lips (2017) and Mirrors of Mirrors of Mirrors (2018)—using them as examples to explain how the art sector is responding to current-day queer politics and radical feminism. Disappointed by the lack of heated discussions about feminism in the art sector, she emphasized the need to create an environment in which curators can freely choose and present certain attitudes. In Between the Lines (2019), the feminist activist group Femidangdang was brought to the center of the exhibition as a way to rewrite past mistakes instead of simply paying homage to them. This exhibition was tied into Femidangdang’s recent archive exhibition at Post Territory Ujeongguk.
As Gahee Park said, exhibitions are a medium for triggering incidents in the audience over time. For an incident to occur, there must be an accompanying program that cooperates with the exhibition as well as writings that reflect the curator’s research and understanding of its material. It is also important to remember that all exhibitions develop under different circumstances. Just as how plants change with the conditions of the soil, curators must be able to change the soil they stand on. Listening to the two curators’ experiences, we were able to think about the unchanging role of exhibitions and the questions posed by curators.