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Power Play – Part One, Seoul 2018

2 weeks ago

Power Play. 30 August – 1 December 2018, SongEun ArtSpace, Seoul

“Power Play” is a group show of former Delfina Foundation resident artists about the complex nature of friendship and the power dynamics at play within relationships between individuals, institutions and the state.

Seoul (15 – 26 September, 2018) is the artists’s whatsapp group chat; a place to discuss art, friendship, the past, the present and the future..

[18/09/18, 10:44:57] Soyoung Chung: how do you feel about the statement “O, my friends, there is no friend” that Derrida borrows from Aristotle.

[22/09/18, 13:06:05] Jungki Beak: I feel that if we define ‘friend’, there is no friend any more.

[22/09/18, 13:06:49] Jungki Beak: Defining the meaning of friend blocks many meaning behind of friendship.

[22/09/18, 13:08:35] Jungki Beak: Just like defining ‘love’. If we define ‘love’, it is not live any more.

[22/09/18, 13:08:48] Jungki Beak: It is not love any more.

[22/09/18, 13:14:10] Jaebum Kim: 🌹

[22/09/18, 14:23:56] Lantian Xie: Yes, certainly. I don’t know much about Derrida or Aristotle, but I remember that when Aaron first called about this show some time ago, he said that Jaebum, who overlapped briefly with me whilst in residency at Delfina, had requested specifically to collaborate with me. I hadn’t spoken to Jaebum in years, and yet he had asked to include me in this opportunity without my prior knowledge. I want to say emphatically that this is a sort of extraordinary kindness and generosity that I have rarely experienced in the contemporary art world, much less in life. After arriving in Seoul for our site visits, Jaebum and I met and spoke with a kind of easy candor that was possible not because we were the best of friends but precisely because we were in a way more strangers, as well as fellow artists and former neighbors. In one of our conversations, Jaebum referred to a work of his in which a figure seen in silhouette holding a hammer approaches a grand old statue as if ready to usurp its daunting, stoney demeanor. Jaebum spoke of this as metaphor for working as an artist, and as a person navigating the ebbs and flows of community, personhood, motivation, and history.
My deepest impression of this whole experience has and continues to be the candor and generosity of everyone involved, and the many many mutual efforts to lend each other a hand in lifting each other’s spirits—that even people whose lives are far apart in every way can sometimes have occasion to stand next to each other holding hammers together ready to stare down even the most intimidating of statues. I think of beer, barbecue, train rides, Uno, parting dinners, uneasy farewells, and many many cigarette breaks that played host to some really small and yet really significant conversations.
Oscar has a wonderful work in the show that involves him carrying a mouthful of milk and delivering it from one stomach to another, one stranger to another, tenderly, across a long distance. I think about this work a lot, and I think it speaks well to a kind of sympathetic magic that I am unable to articulate here.

[22/09/18, 17:44:01] Jasmijn Visser: Attachment 1

[22/09/18, 17:49:26] Jasmijn Visser: I like the word candor you use here Lantian. I think it is a true key in the connecting to friends. Feeling the freedom to be candid, but also the freedom to unmask any insecurities, weaknesses and fears.

[22/09/18, 17:50:58] Jasmijn Visser: Space is important, during the walky talky’s in the mountains the landscape functioned as a space for both Jungki and I to unfold in. There was enough room for a conversation in many layers.

[22/09/18, 17:51:02] Bona Park: Maybe my answer for friendship?

 

[22/09/18, 17:52:49] Jasmijn Visser: Also the stream of consciousness between Lantian and I was able to exist because of the space allowing it. And the freedom to be candid.

[22/09/18, 18:25:48] Oscar Santillan: I adore the romance-style of short-lived artistic communities. Indeed one day this very whatsapp group will be a silent cave.

[22/09/18, 18:27:37] Oscar Santillan: There is a wonderful schizophrenia that happens in this type of temporary communities that get formed in the art world. We all get truly close to each other in an environment that is better than a family (as it doesn’t bear the traumas inevitable to one’s upbringing), so close to each other and then the next day everyone takes off, and that part is worse than a family (as we usually see our family in some sort of periodic basis) since we don’t know if the beauty of those encounters will reoccur.

[22/09/18, 18:28:08] Oscar Santillan: A certain tension between romance and permanence.

[24/09/18, 12:55:32] Jaebum Kim: Perhaps what Oscar said could be that Derrida borrowed from Aristotle. And I felt that line is like a dialog in the play which is not a same space as Jasmine’s.

[24/09/18, 12:56:09] Jaebum Kim: “O, my friends, there is no friend”
The words in the play are inactive words that are far from the world of the audience.

[24/09/18, 12:57:03] Jaebum Kim: Performers in the play, always remain faithful to their roles. They had to be in that play for maintains play. That can be one of the reasons what family carve trauma that Oscar mentioned.

[24/09/18, 12:58:04] Jaebum Kim: So key in that dialog is to do as a friend begin to propel one’s own candor imagination and, in turn, to persuade others to imagine along with others, not as a way of generating power or gaining access into friendship.

[24/09/18, 19:23:25] Jasmijn Visser: ‘Bliss’ is described as a state of perfect happiness, oblivious of everything else. In order to reach a state of bliss, in a way, the world has to dissolve beneath you. This could relate to the ‘romance-style of short-lived artistic communities’, each artist is thrown out of his/her own world and able to shed off ‘worldly stickiness’ for a few weeks. South Korea is perfect back-drop for bliss.

[24/09/18, 19:23:38] Jasmijn Visser: Lantian and I spoke of the stickiness often.

[24/09/18, 19:25:03] Jasmijn Visser: Friendship, however, exceeds bliss.

[25/09/18, 01:48:32] Bona Park: For me, art world is often full of competition and stress asking me prove my ability and position. However this time the collaboration and exhibition were the process to share and understand, which was quite new, impressive and touching, so I thought ‘friendship’ can be more powerful than any other social and political strategies methods, and relationship.

[25/09/18, 01:49:38] Bona Park: Futuristic!

[25/09/18, 02:59:19] Soyoung Chung: As working alone beside you pairs, I could observe how each of you started to form complicity through time, I felt sometimes a slight bit of ‘jealousy’ of not having my own collaborator, which could have involved me more deeply in this ‘short-lived-romantic’ community. However, this experience with you pairs offered me an opportunity to think over what this human relationship passing beyond geographic boundaries and genders could effect each other’s work. In this age where people can easily connect and travel, for me, I sometimes feel that practicing ‘contemporary art’ creates a strong bond with other artists, as we share similar passion as well as agony, I even sometimes think we are from one race or a species. The feeling of belonging is often absent in the art world where each of us are asked to perform as a mighty wholeness with amazing capacity of speaking several languages, being smartly sociable and subtly demonstrative, but for a short but intensive period of time – this shall continue though- belonging in one species made me happy.

[25/09/18, 03:05:47] Soyoung Chung: Friendship has to do a lot with similar tastes, interests, feelings.. what about your relationship with food, for example? Do you eat together and love the same kind of food or restaurant? Any marginalised vegan? Do you share food?

[25/09/18, 03:06:17] Soyoung Chung: (I see Lantian’s craving for Korean bbq) 😜

[25/09/18, 03:07:02] Soyoung Chung: Are you planning on doing something together in the future? Do you think this experience will change your life personally on top of your career?

[25/09/18, 03:09:03] Bona Park: I think at least Oscar and I had similar tastes about art and animals. But friendship does not happen only between the totally same taste people. We are different but similar at the same time, so it was more interesting.

[25/09/18, 03:11:33] Bona Park: Everything is in fog but why not and who knows? Big change does not mean much to me. It was more than enough as it was.

[25/09/18, 06:05:24] Jaebum Kim: Hey XIe.
I found amazing Korean Barbecue house in the TongIn market (traditional market in Seoul). I have never experienced such a taste in my life. Name is ‘Kimjinmoksam’. Let’s try!!

[25/09/18, 14:40:24] Jasmijn Visser: 💙

[25/09/18, 14:45:07] Jasmijn Visser: Jungki and I are certainly planning to do more in the future. Because of the exchange we jointly made an artwork none of us would have arrived at individually. For me personally, it opened new routes of thinking. These paths will definitely come back in my future works.

[25/09/18, 19:43:31] Oscar Santillan: I totally see Bona’s point, at the same time I gotta admit that one of the many reasons why I’m based in Europe (rather than in Ecuador) is because of competition, as being in a competitive environment also means a certain dynamism. Think of every object around you in your room, in your kitchen, the way magically water comes out of the tap, music comes out of a speaker, the light on your street, the transport system, the internet; neither you nor I know how to make any of the hundreds of pieces that make a simple toaster; even in our deep ignorance we have access to a huge amount of material and intellectual capital, which is almost a given in many societies around the world. All of those things are available to us from the complex dynamic entanglement of science, technology, industries, designers and, yes, overall, markets. Objects as much as ideas circulate through markets. I advocate for friendship as much as I advocate for the magic of the impersonal relationships upon which all that material and intellectual capital around us is built upon.

[25/09/18, 20:52:40] Jasmijn Visser: I see your point, I guess it differs if you are overexposed to a competitive environment or not. Often, I experience competition as a short term issue, and working through friendship as a long term investment. Incidentally today I had a meeting with a German and Swedish artist. All three of us are working on long term projects on crowd simulation algorithms. With these very specifically similar projects we are in direct competition, but we chose to have a coffee, exchange, with the intention to build a relationship for future endeavors. By foregoing the competition, and supporting each other, probably we stand much stronger in bringing these projects forward. Maybe more important: all of us felt excitement, fulfilled and challenged by the conversation, which will undoubtedly have effect on the resulting work.

[25/09/18, 22:37:40] Oscar Santillan: Agree, at the same time I don’t think we should see “competition” as a merely predatory relationship. Even the toughest corporations have “strategic partnerships” and they “negotiate” and make “concessions” in order to get a way to their goals. Perhaps the opposite of friendship is not selfishness, but rather mathematics. One expects reciprocity from friendship, a certain sort of balance in the interaction, but one knows that has become friends with someone when you don’t need any longer to keep track of that balance, when the math of it becomes irrelevant.

[25/09/18, 22:47:59] Jasmijn Visser: I see what you mean with the going away from ‘predatory relationship’ , there is of course different layers and interpretations of ‘competition’. I reacted more to the experience that Bona spoke of ‘For me, art world is often full of competition n stress asking me prove my ability n position’. I guess we all experience that all too often, no?

[25/09/18, 22:55:34] Oscar Santillan: Yes, of course. I’ve rather been trying to explore other meanings of the term “competition”.

[25/09/18, 22:59:37] Oscar Santillan: Moving to another potential aspect of the conversation. I have to admit that I’m having a bit of trouble with what seems to be some sort of communal agreement surrounding the term “friendship” as something merely positive. I cannot word it yet, it’s more of an intuition that the same term has to contain tension in itself, rough edges as much as softness, many colors and surfaces, without this tension I imagine the term to carry little meaning. Do others feel that way?

[26/09/18, 01:07:44] Lantian Xie: Totally. I think ‘friend’ is also capable of holding much of the same trauma as family. Others in this conversation have also pointed / alluded to insufficiency of the term, so it seems to me that there is in fact some shared suspicion of the generic expectant positivity that often accompanies the term. There is a kind of playground anthropology about it too, like arriving for your first day at school and being told or feeling a need to “make friends” such that that becomes a default currency or indicator of worth. That said, admittedly, I do recall being the last to arrive on our first visit and feeling some type of way at first—some playground anxiety of not being liked or not being admitted in to something already in motion. What I think happened then, which I noticed happening many times over, was how readily people would recognize and affirm entry of another person or persons without policing arbitrary borders. In fact,
I often noticed efforts to welcome, invite, attend, participate, and generally make provisions for people. There were so many of these instances that were not anything more than invitations for one more ice cream, or one last round of drinks, or one last round of Uno, or one more topic of discussion. I remember a conversation early on between those of us that are not Seoul based that we should be mindful not to exclude because of language and that English is only a medium language and not the only tongue used by anyone in this group. Also, I think one aspect of the temporary-ness of such formations is that they render quite useless their own boundary policing, since those borders are already known to be temporary. Also, I think something really important and healthy that happened quite intuitively about locating disappointment in borders themselves as opposed to locating it in whoever is making border crossings, no matter what scale that crossing happens at. Also maybe worth thinking about the music video for moonlight by Jay-z, which parodies Friends the sitcom, which in fact came up in conversation a few times!

[26/09/18, 01:28:14] Lantian Xie: I’m thinking also about Bona and Oscar’s procession of raucous howling farm animals, and whether that may work as a metaphor here. It did occur to me whilst watching the performance that we may in fact look not so different lol.

[26/09/18, 01:45:47] Lantian Xie: Elsewhere in the show there is Yasmijn & Jungki’s stream of a stream—thinking about this leaking tap tapping away in Jungki’s studio, where a machine seemingly working in solitude extends itself everywhere, and into the exhibition space where it produces occasion for a beat, against and on top of which other works are able to syncopate or harmonize. There is a multiplication or amplification that the procession or the many are able to produce here that I find quite captivating.

[26/09/18, 02:33:33] Bona Park: Isn’t it like the concept of ‘gift’ Derrida talked? Gift is free given so it can break the circle of capitalism market. Relational art took it for the concept to have a political voice. However, it stayed only in the gallery. ‘Friendship’ seems similar. It breaks the tiresome competition of neoliberalism but if we talk in the gallery the term seems quite idealistic n small. Out of the gallery, ‘friendship’ is more colorful n cubical.

[26/09/18, 02:42:18] Bona Park: Sure, I need to push myself hard to make a friend n to keep the relationship. In this exhibition, as it included our residency experience, collaboration was more about between friends. For example, I pissed off at Oscar n he soothed me with the coolest wolf cap, even complaining I am not wearing it. Our those small arguments are both as friends n as collaborators. If he were just a collaborator n made me pissed off, I would just drop the work instead of being mad n compromising with the cute gift.

[26/09/18, 02:45:58] Bona Park: Ah also, when I work with the performers, I feel like they are my friends as well. Oscarito was jealous about it, so said he would like to be my performer. 🐺

[13/10/18, 09:08:36] Lantian Xie: Attachment 2

[13/10/18, 09:21:42] Oscar Santillan: Attachment 3

[13/10/18, 09:25:43] Bona Park: Attachment 4

[13/10/18, 09:25:49] Bona Park: Busan

[13/10/18, 09:30:02] Soyoung Chung: Attachment 5

[13/10/18, 10:45:40] Jaebum Kim: Attachment 6

[13/10/18, 10:48:57] Jasmijn Visser: Attachment 7

 

TO BE CONTINUED…

Claudia Malfitano

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