Being Political Popular: South Korean Art at the Intersection of Popular Culture and Democracy, 1980-2010

Image, Being Political Popular, Installation Detail

Seung Woo Back, Blow Up (2005-7), digital photographs

For three decades, South Korean society has experienced a dramatic political paradigm shift from an authoritarian regime to a democratic polity.  During this time, art was a productive site of social imagination, giving tangible form to the seemingly universal notions of democratic participation, public culture and civil society.  Being Political Popular: South Korean Art at the Intersection of Popular Culture and Democracy, 1980-2010, showcases 17 artists and collectives who investigate the questions of politics, collectivity and social engagement through a range of mediums, including comics, painting, woodblock print, collage, photography, installation, performance and video.  Specifically, the exhibition situates art within South Korean popular culture - a discourse that came to maturity alongside the country's democratization - now touted as the Korean Wave (hallyu) due to its status as a global cultural phenomenon.  The artworks' interaction with popular culture is clearly demonstrated here - on occasion art both drove and formulated the very cultural ethos of the time.  While complicating the division between political resistance and popular entertainment, Being Political Popular seeks to recuperate the aesthetics of humor, satire and pleasure latent in examples of the most radical Korean political art.


Artists include: Choi Byung-soo, Kim Dong-won, Labor News Collective, Park Jae-dong, Kim Min-gi, Hong Sung-dam, Hein-kuhn Oh, Minouk Lim, mixrice, siren eunyoung jung, listen to the city, Chan-kyong Park, Seung Woo Back, Park Bul-dong, Nam Gung Ho Seok, Sangdon Kim, and Minari & Hack.


This exhibition is part of the conference Political/Popular: Intersection of Democracy & Popular/Public Culture in South Korea organized by Kyung Hyun Kim and David E. James.Co-sponsors: Academy of Korean Studies (AKS), Arts Council Korea (ARKO), Critical Theory Emphasis, and Department of East Asian Languages and Literatures at University of California, Irvine.

Sohl Lee
University Art Gallery
Exhibition Dates: 
Sep 20, 2012 to Nov 20, 2012
Friday, September 20, 2013 - 6:00am to 9:00am