Drawing attention from the Korean contemporary art scene starting late 1990s until now with works such as the current Pop Song series and solo exhibitions on various subjects Bae Young-Whan has been dissolving a unique authorial attitude and world view in his works. After four years since Song for No-Body (2012), initiating public art and having major exhibitions internationally, “Pagus Avium” consists of new works that reference and transgress his previous artistic trajectory in order to explore the conceptual dimensions. It will serve as an opportunity to partake in the artist’s oeuvre that opens up to a new level of conceptualization. As the title Pagus Avium implies, the bird as a subject is frequently found throughout Bae Young-Whan’s works. Bird is a metaphor that projects the lives and desires of contemporary human being, including himself.
This is witnessed in examples such as December, where an owl made of broken glasses is presented, or Albatross, where a bird made of sawdust is locked up in a wooden, square bird cage. Max Weber once used the image of a bird kept in a metal cage as a metaphor for the fate of mankind facing modern capitalistic society. Bird is a self-portrait of the contemporary man, tamed by language, system, and nation and degraded to subjects of control and surveillance. On the other hand, in collective imaginations like myths and folklores of civilizations, transcending language and race, birds also have been a symbol of an intermediary, a medium that connects earth and heaven.
As such, “Pagus Avium” is a double metaphor that at the same time symbolizes the reality of life and a distant land where boundaries are blurred. The artist has been working on topics that contribute to reflecting on the theory of civilization, such as limitations of formative representation, arbitrariness of every symbol that represents the world, and the possibility of thinking through language and letters. He believes that situating himself somewhere in between apathy and passion is the sole passage that would lead him towards healing and salvation from the existential burden of individual lives, and from pain and melancholy of the social reality. Employing all medium of expression, such as painting, sculpture, installation, and video installation, the exhibition will be setting a distinct milestone on a highly complex creative territory of Bae Young-Whan.