By Maxime Hanchir
IFA, the Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen (Institute for Foreign Cultural Relations) has been created to promote artistic exchange and dialogue between civil societies. The IFA Gallery Berlin has featured design, architecture and contemporary from all around the world while always pursuing a free minded approach about art and culture. The current exhibition “Seoul: Spaces, People” presents different artists, writers and filmmakers selected for their works widely influenced by the vertiginous expansion of the city and the sociological impact it has on people.
143, Linien Strasse, Mitte.On the little street, the IFA Gallery is surrounded by private galleries. Inside, a lot of documentation flyers and magazines about artists and galleries and some governmental documentation. Would there not be the exhibition, the IFA Gallery could seem a place as many but the staff is exceptionally friendly and professional and one can immediately notice the seriousness and engagement reigning here.
In the center of the main room, the sculpture of GWON Osang, Red Sun (2005/2006), partly figuring a man wearing an “Emporio Armani” underwear, stands as a first evocation of the impact of consummation life in modern Seoul. The rest of the room is well organized and even if one can feel a strong unity in the works of the artists, each of them owes his own space and atmosphere in the exhibition.
Attracting my attention with their intriguing and purposely useless mechanic sculpture Iron cloud (2006), the artist collective FlyingCity illustrates with poetry and by the medium of schemas, photos and digital animations how some little family business organized themselves to survive the “Post-Fordist” industrialization in the iron products domain.
In a more intimate atmosphere, I noticed the works of HONG Jae Hee (from the artist collective Indie Story) and KIM Jung Wook. The first one focuses on the condition of women in the short movie Dust (2004, 36 minutes). In this movie a young mother in her everyday life submission to codes and to her husband illustrate the challenge of modern Korean women in front of a conservative but changing society. A challenge that the pictures of the young and disabused girls of KIM Jung Wook express in the vacuum and darkness of their looks.
Another artist, PARK June Bum put in her accelerated videos her feelings about speed in urban lives and sceneries. In Making an apartment (2005, 3 minutes) one can see her realizing in a collage a huge grey apartments building. The linearity and quickness of the scene is impressive and leaves to the viewer a great feeling of powerlessness.
I’ll pass over the description of every works of every artist but many other themes are evocated in the exhibition, as the problem of expulsion (MixRice), solitude (YANG Haegue) or propaganda (PARK Chan Kyong with an interesting video room combining two screens to mix science-fiction and facts). All these works put together lead the viewer to understand better a confusing city where paradox and changes are everyday facts, and leaving the place, stepping back into Berlin, I realize I’ve a song in mind: a hectic little song with Seoul’ stream for lyrics.
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Maxime Hanchir is a writer from Belgium living between Brussels and