Being political popular: South Korean art at the intersection of popular culture and democracy, 1980-2010
by Sohl Lee
For three decades, South Korean society has experienced a dramatic political paradigm shift from an authoritarian regime to a democratic polity. During this time, art was a productive site of social imagination, giving tangible form to the seemingly universal notions of democratic participation, public culture and civil society. Being Political Popular: South Korean Art at the Intersection of Popular Culture and Democracy, 1980-2010, showcases 17 artists and collectives who investigate the questions of politics, collectivity and social engagement through a range of mediums, including comics, painting, woodblock print, collage, photography, installation, performance and video. Specifically, the exhibition situates art within South Korean popular culture – a discourse that came to maturity alongside the country’s democratization – now touted as the Korean Wave (hallyu) due to its status as a global cultural phenomenon. The artworks’ interaction with popular culture is clearly demonstrated here – on occasion art both drove and formulated the very cultural ethos of the time. While complicating the division between political resistance and popular entertainment, Being Political Popular seeks to recuperate the aesthetics of humor, satire and pleasure latent in examples of the most radical Korean political art.