Andrew Russeth from The New York Times published an article introducing the South Korean artist duo Moon Kyungwon and Jeon Joonho, better known as Moon and Jeon, and their upcoming solo exhibition at Kanazawa’s 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, one of Japan’s largest contemporary art museums. The exhibition will be taking place in May, 2022.
Moon has been working on narratively elaborating the problem of existence, focusing on the relationship between individual and society, as well as ideal and reality. Jeon’s artworks tell stories that can be generally shared and sympathized with through particular political and social phenomena and circumstances happening in South Korea.
Through their long-term project, News from Nowhere, the two artists began collaborating in 2009 to explore questions about the essential meaning of contemporary art and to reflect on the various contradictions and ambivalence that emerge in the art world.
News from Nowhere is a project that has been going on for over 10 years and is based on the novel of the same name by William Morris (1834-1896), a textile designer, author, and thinker who led the late 19th century Arts and Crafts movement in England.
The series has evolved as a set of work to assemble numerous stories that reflect different parts of the world, working with professionals from various fields such as architects, fashion designers, industrial designers, actors, and scientists.
The pair is best recognized for their video work, but they have also developed installations, archives, interdisciplinary research, workshops, and publications as part of the series.
The centerpiece, News From Nowhere: Freedom Village, which was exhibited at the MMCA Hyundai Motor Series 2021 at the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea, (MMCA), will be presented at the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art.
The video put its set in Taesung-dong Freedom Village, the sole civilian house in the Demilitarized Zone of South Korea (DMZ).
The armistice agreement between the two Koreas in 1953, which agreed to preserve a single town on both sides in the demilitarized zone, allowed Taesung Freedom Village, which is under the jurisdiction of the United Nations Command in South Korea. Inhabitants are strictly regulated when entering and exiting the town. However, the village is exempt from military duties and national income tax.
Moon and Jeon, who saw the existence of this town as a place that somewhat blurs the boundaries of reality, were unable to film this village due to restrictions, but made works based on archive materials.
Two different people appear in the two-screen video work. On one screen, a man from Freedom Village categorizes the plants collected from the forest and attaches the seeds to a balloon. On the other side of the screen, another man, who appears to be from a distant future, is under video surveillance isolated in a room with cutting-edge technology. The man who somehow got the seeds secretly plants them and decides to venture out of the room.
In 2012, News from Nowhere received its first award at the 13th dOCUMENTA in Kassel, Germany. In the same year, the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea, (MMCA) and the SBS Cultural Foundation recognized the duo as the ultimate winner of the Korea Artist Prize 2012. They also received the grand prize of the Noon Award at the annual Gwangju Biennale.
The two represented the Korean Pavilion of the 56th Venice Biennale in 2015, and the works of Moon and Jeon were also introduced in many internationally renowned art institutions; their work was exhibited at the Sullivan Galleries, School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2013; Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst, Zurich, in 2015; and Tate Liverpool, United Kingdom, in 2018.