Ungmang: Banner

Photo by Kim Sang-tae, courtesy of Ilmin Museum of Art

Site banner for Sasa[44]’s solo exhibition Ungmang, Ilmin Museum of Art, 2018. Digital printing, 5.85 x 15.4 m.

Ungmang was Sasa[44]’s solo exhibition at the Ilmin Museum of Art, Seoul. It showed vast archives of artifacts and records related to the artist’s own everyday consumption, interpreted and presented with strategies drawn from both contemporary art and pop music production: sampling, remixing, appropriation and re-appropriation. The work asked questions about the nature of contemporary culture and the artist-as-consumer’s agency. According to the request of the anonymity-concerned artist, his name was omitted from the promotional materials: only the title and the dates, along with the logo of the museum, were shown.

The title — suggested by the artist and may be translated to “mess” or “wreck” — both reflected and contradicted with the actual exhibition. It resonated with the show in the sense of being “completely drunk and not in one’s right mind,” one of the meanings of the Korean word; but the almost hygienic and systematic way in which the work was presented was far from being messy. The title lettering reflected the ambiguity: the form is vigorous yet a little clumsy, sweet but slightly impish. In order to fill any given space with the two Korean characters, sometimes by compressing or extending their proportion, a system was developed by which the skeletons of the characters from an existing typeface could be freely transformed while keeping a certain stroke width.

The enormous banner on the facade of the Ilmin Museum of Art in the congested Gwanghwamun area came to work as am unwitting piece of public art. People variously reacted to the familiar word made unfamiliar on a huge banner without much specific information, creating their own stories about it and sharing them on the social media. One certain right-wing journalist, for example, took is as a critical message to the liberal government. (And he could not seem to hide his disappointment at the scene of numerous empty bottles instead of political slogans when the exhibition actually opened.)