Counterbalance: The Stone & The Mountain

Korean Pavilion

About the Exhibition

Counterbalance: The Stone & The Mountain, curated by Daehyung Lee, brought together three Korean figures from three different generations to consider the ways in which individual stories relate to national histories and what the rest of the world might come to understand from how this plays out within Korea.

The first generation was represented by the late journalist Kim Kimoon. The installation “Mr. K. and the Collection of Korean History” presented 1,412 photographs from Kim’s personal collection, discovered by artist Lee Wan at an antique market and purchased for approximately $50. The photos follow Kim’s personal life as it unfolded within the arc of 20th-century Korean history, from Japanese colonial rule to the Korean War and subsequent division of the Korean Peninsula, the establishment of the Republic of Korea, and the country’s more recent exponential economic growth and democratization. Lee Wan’s curation of Kim’s photographs stood in contrast to his own collection of artifacts, which made explicit commentary on global economic realities. Here, the presentation of Kim’s photographs offered a more poetic reading of the ways in which lives are layered, complex, and in ever-evolving relationship with the surrounding political circumstances of one’s life.

Cody Choi, representing the second generation, was born in 1961 and lived through the rapid growth of the Korean economy in the 1980s before moving to the United States at age 22. As an immigrant to the United States, Choi was among a generation of Korean diasporic artists who employed parody and appropriation as ways to process culture shock and mediate Eastern and Western backgrounds and art. His practice often considers identity and dislocation in the context of global, neoliberal politics and economics. Among Choi’s contributions to Counterbalance: The Stone & The Mountain was “Venetian Rhapsody,” presented on the roof of the Korean Pavilion and borrowing from the aesthetics of the neon jungles of Las Vegas and Macau in order to critique global capitalism.

Like Choi, Lee Wan—born in 1979 and representing the youngest generation in the exhibition—is interested in the ways in which external political and economic forces shape individual lives. For his presentation here, Lee spent five years traveling throughout Asia and working in different locales to produce the raw goods required for a typical local breakfast. “Proper Time” is one product of that research. The installation consisted of 668 clocks, each one engraved with the name, birth date, nationality, and occupation of an individual worker who was interviewed by Lee. Each clock moved at a different pace, determined by the amount of time the individual whose name is on the clock must work in order to afford a meal.

In the story of a life, the interplay between personal and political is sometimes indistinguishable—in the same way a stone may at first be indistinguishable from the mountain of which it is a part. Counterbalance: The Stone and the Mountain took this opportunity to make apparent these differences and the ways in which decisions and policies that may seem general are in fact highly personal.

About the Artists

Cody Choi (b. 1961) has been active as a practicing visual artist and cultural theorist since the 1980s, exploring ideas of cultural identity and relationships to authority within contemporary society. Choi touches upon topics of cultural maldigestion, third-culture created by the clash of different cultures, the beauty of such hybridism, and simultaneously occurring new social phenomena—all of which Choi experienced as a foreigner in the US. Choi gained his stature as a world-renowned artist after participating in a solo exhibition at Deitch Projects (New York, USA) in 1996 and an inaugural group exhibition at the Musée d’Art Contemporain de Marseille (Marseille, France) in the mid-1990s. From 2015 to 2017 he had a retrospective traveling show at Kunsthalle Düsseldorf, Musée d’Art Contemporain de Marseille, Kunstsammlungen Chemnitz organized by art historian John C. Welchman. His work has also been presented in publications including Topography of 20th Century Culture (2006) and Topography of Contemporary Culture (2010).

Lee Wan (b. 1979) examines contemporary social structures and reinterprets them through various visual media, with a focus on contemporary political and socio-economic problems in Asia. Lee was recognized with the first Art Spectrum Artist Award by Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art in 2014. He has had solo exhibitions at 313 Art Project in 2015 and 2017 and at the Daegu Art Museum in 2013. His work has been presented in group exhibitions at Galleria Continua, Les Moulins (2017), Les Moulins (2014, 2015), Buk Seoul Museum of Art, Seoul (2015), and the Gwangju Biennale (2014).

About the Program

The Korean Pavilion at the Venice Biennale

Hyundai Motor has been the main sponsor of the Korean Pavilion for four consecutive exhibitions, including the 2015, 2017, 2019, and 2022 Venice Biennale, reaffirming our ambition to connect more deeply with audiences from around the world and build on expanding exchanges. Founded in 1895, the Venice Biennale is one of the world’s most important international art exhibitions, taking place in national pavilions throughout the city and the Central Pavilion every two years. Since its inception in 1995, the Korean Pavilion continues to receive honorable mentions for presenting outstanding works by artists from Korea and broadening perspectives on Korean art across the global landscape.

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