As the impact of Asia on the global art world is rapidly growing, South Korea’s National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (MMCA) has been carrying out the long-term research program ‘MMCA Asia Project’ every two years since 2018 to shed new light on Asian contemporary art from various angles.
This year, the MMCA Korea worked with Indonesia’s Jatiwangi art Factory (JaF) to present the 2022 MMCA Asia Project in Seoul & Kassel: Terracotta Friendship, a virtual exhibition and forum program as part of the third MMCA Asia Project and part of JaF’s Terracotta Embassy project.
The joint program, which opened on July 27, 2022, with an online forum, is presented as part of the international art exhibition documenta 15, lumbung. The virtual exhibition connecting Seoul and Kassel will run through September 25, 2022, and can be accessed through its website (www.asiawithoutasia.com). The online forum held on the opening date can be viewed on the MMCA’s YouTube channel.
By presenting “friendship” as its core concept, the program aims to imagine a better life and society. This is to seek sustainable solidarity and community through contemplating the true meaning of ‘friendship.’
Within the virtual space, the participating artists travel between Seoul and Kassel and the virtual “terracotta city” built based on the artists’ imagination.
The MMCA, which represents Seoul, features artists Kang Seung Lee, Dew Kim, Yuri An, and WORKS (LEE Yeonjeong, LEE Harim) at four different meta pavilions to present the various perspectives and interpretations of ‘friendship.’
Representing Kassel, the JaF brings together contemporary art and cultural practices as part of the local life discourse in a rural area. The artist community will be carrying out its Terracotta Embassy project, which is based in Jatiwangi, one of the largest roof-tile-producing areas in Indonesia.
Kang Seung Lee is an artist who works on drawings and installations to visualize minority communities who are excluded from mainstream narratives. In Lee’s works, he often brings the image of a cactus that originally belonged to Harvey Bernard Milk (1930–1978), the first openly gay man elected to public office in California. Milk’s roommate bred this cactus and passed it out to friends. Julie Tolentino, a fellow artist of Lee, shared a part of it with Lee, and he planted the cactus in soil collected from important LGBTQ+ movement sites in various locations, such as Tapgol Park in Seoul. By embodying the image of this cactus in the metaverse exhibition, the artist attempts to imagine the future by looking at the solidarity between various communities and generations through friendship.
Dew Kim, who works in sculpture, installation, video, and performance, talks about the LGBTQ+ communities, feminism, and sexuality through the forms of religion, shamanism, history, and K-pop. Kim built an alternative temple called the Metatemple in the virtual space to create a haven where people who often fall into categories outside the norm can coexist. Through this temple, the artist tries to break down the dichotomous structure of the society we live in.
Yuri An interprets friendship from a linguistic perspective. The moving text Whispering Molecules embodies the whispering voices of various people. An was inspired by the concept of ‘molecules’ created through the chemical bonding of several atoms.
Just as different molecules are made depending on how atoms are combined, the work is based on the possibility that meaning and interpretation can change according to the combination of different languages and speakers. In this project, An suggests and imagines a world where people live together beyond the limits of identity, such as nationality, ethnicity, or race, regardless of individual choices.
WORKS is a design team consisting of two members, Lee Yeonjeong and Lee Harim. Based on their experience working together and collaborating with others, the two present a manual called “How to Manage Friendships by Working Together” for this project.