Stephanie Seungmin Kim
‘Curating’ has evolved to reflect changing artistic practice. Having worked as a curator, which means operating in a complicated net of roles as producer, mediator or translator, I think critically in this research about the limitations and challenges of the curatorial praxis through the representation of Korean art. The research focuses on artists reshaping history, and their artistic strategies bringing up the voices of once suppressed and excluded groups and invites readers to reconsider the familiar notion of our past through the combination of the film and the written thesis.
Artists turning to historical subjects have sometimes encountered, sometimes contradicted the complex of institutional efforts to enforce nationalistic narratives. Artists thus have revealed suppressed voices in various ways. Sometimes the artist turned to popular culture or reappropriated media footages that could have influenced the subconscious of the people. Therefore, although discussion of how much information artworks should be accompanied by is complicated, I argue one needs to have a context and history to understand the fuller meaning of the artwork. I have paid attention to two decisive periods – the 1980s and the late 1990s of Korea – which provided ‘ruptures’. These ruptures revealed Korea’s oppressed tradition and historiography and paved the way for the gradual reception of Korean artists in the international art scene.
This exploration of ‘what it means to curate contemporary art on historical subjects’ was brought forward by an ongoing question. As founding curator of the Korean Cultural Centre UK, 2007–11, I curated more than 80 exhibitions. Curating public exhibitions continued and, to this date, I have worked with over 450 artists in exhibitions such as the Liverpool Biennial 2012 and Jikji Korea International Festival, UNESCO Paris, Seoul Architectural Biennial and the Venice Biennale 2015’s collateral exhibition. How the public encounters history through art was a strong interest for me, and professional and personal background can provide useful transnational, inter-generational discussions. Also, because these exhibitions were international, there were complexities of translation in cultural, linguistic and political contexts. The differences are not just in the languages but also in the different roots of the originating concepts. I look closely at how the artists tackled such complexities through artistic strategies, and the skills learnt are applied to the practice part of this research – my film Fragments.
The chapter 'Context' chronicles the placing of my research in a wider web of disciplines. The chapter 'History' develops the discussions of translation in a postcolonial framework, examining artists’ works closely. I look at the artists CHOI Jeong Hwa, PARK Chan-kyong, CHANG Jia and Kira KIM closely, and suggest a paradigm of ‘oppression’ to decipher their representations. The film interweaves the stories of these artists with diverse cultural participants who form significant parts of the entangled memory. The chapter 'Medium' demonstrates how the differing concepts of ‘memory’ and ‘religions’ in the East have influenced artists’ choice of medium. This discussion is connected directly to my own choice of film as a curatorial medium, and self-reflexivity, autoethnography and personal/public memory were considered, learned from artists.
Fragments is a ‘curator’s film’ – inspired by artists but produced by a curator as an extension of the curatorial practice. The thesis reflects on interrogations associated with research-led curatorial projects and asks whether, as artists are shaped by history, artists become narrators of history.
School of Arts & Humanities
Curating Contemporary Art, 2016–
The thesis is an exploration of how curating makes it possible to demonstrate and theorise the collective memory and partial amnesia of specific cultural and regional groups. I employ a specific mode of practice—the making of a documentary film about curating itself – as the methodology of my PhD research.
Curating since 2004, Stephanie Seungmin Kim specialise in directing multi-national exhibitions. Her curated shows include Liverpool Biennial City States Terra Galaxia (Liverpool, 2010 & 2012), A Soldier's Tale (London, Asia House, 2013), Sleepers in Venice (Venice, 2015), Heritage Unesco (Paris, 2014), Singapore Open Media Festival (Singapore, 2015), Jikji Korea International Festival (Cheongju, 2016), UNCCD COP 13 exhibition (Ordos, 2017), Seoul Biennale of Architecture & Urbanism (Seoul, 2017).