Information & Reality: Korean Contemporary Art

“This publication focuses on the development of contemporary art in Korea since the 1970s. The 1980s was a decade when tradition and the avant-garde were the subject of a heated aesthetic debate as the pervasive influence of Western culture was challenged. Many factors affected this process; political upheaval, the emergence of a new consumer society, and the fact that Korea remained a divided country. Other factors were the movements in other countries of the Far East for the restoration of an independent Eastern culture.

The 1980s was a decade when the boundaries of cultural structures shifted most dramatically and such words as supremacy, peripherality, popular, aesthetics and legitimacy were in abundant use. It was also a time when the art world was inundated with words with the prefix post-; post-modernism, post-structuralism, post-humanism, post-communism, post-Marxism, post-communications and post-information. These words were used to attack the contradictions inherent in the age of Modernism. The issue of the legitimacy of culture debated today in Korea, Japan and China may be said to have its roots in the pluralism of the 1980s, and has an overtone of wariness against the expansionist tendency of Western culture. This may be an encouraging sign for the enhancement of the uniqueness of individual cultures, but it may also augur the emergence of a different kind of superiority complex and of regional expansion in art.

Today, the issue of art is not limited to form or concept. Twentieth century art has experienced a far-reaching process of diversification, and is now returning its attention to what society, science and morality imply for it. Politics in art is now trapped in the vastly expanded boundaries of culture, to be criticised or praised.

Information in the global village is clearly beneficial to the advancement of civilization, but there is a danger of its use being distorted. Information, as a system of knowledge, is clearly productive, and its productivity is in direct proportion to the volume of its flow. It is further enhanced by the right knowledge and by receptivity. Korean modern art of the 1980s provides abundant proof of this.”

Excerpt from Foreword