11/01/17: South Korea
 
Column: States of the Arts

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Cittadella
by Haegue Yang
Installation art, sculpture

View an image of the artwork

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Giving solidity to shadows and form to bouncing rays, Haegue Yang’s Cittadella is a sculpture constructed from Venetian blinds. Rather than hugging a window in rigid horizontality, the slats are suspended centrally from the ceiling, their tiered arrangement redolent of scaffolding. Hanging half-unfurled, the blinds do not block out light, but instead sift and scatter it, as if to filter the surrounding atmosphere. Demolished and reconstructed several times, from Seoul to Austria, Cittadella has proven as prone to movement as the ever-shifting curves and wisps of light that it commands.

Words by Elizabeth Brown

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More to discoverA catalogue of artworks by Haegue Yang, along with essays about these works, can be found at the artist's official website. Two articles not listed here are MutualArt's overview of Haegue Yang's retrospective at the Leeum in Seoul, for Huffington Post, and a brief introduction to Yang's art by Kyuhee Baik for The Creators Project. If you would like to hear more from Yang herself, the artist has spoken to Anna Dickie for Ocula.

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Oldboy
directed by Park Chan-wook
Feature film

View a still from the film

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Fifteen years after being drugged and imprisoned by an invisible captor, Oh Dae-Su is released without explanation. Unsure of the motive for his kidnapping, he sets about seeking justice, aided by a young sushi chef. The cinematography's erratic pacing lends the unfolding narrative a sustained menace. Details go unnoticed before being dragged mercilessly into the foreground, as if dark secrets pulled to the surface. Unease gives way to horror, within a twisted, violent revenge tragedy. In Oldboy, love is a means of torture, and suffering is an unavoidable fate.

Words by Elizabeth Brown

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More to discoverThe trailer for Oldboy is available on YouTube. There are several excerpts that can be viewed online, but some of these include spoilers. Ryan Hollinger has analysed its acclaimed (and spoiler-free) corridor fight sequence for Ryan's Theory. Another video essay, albeit one that does include spoilers, is Lewis Criswell's 'Oldboy - Resurrecting the Greek Tragedy', for Channel Criswell. There are also plenty of articles written on the film, such as Boris Trbic's post on 'The Subtext of Cinematic Space in Oldboy' for Korean Film.

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Drifting House
by Krys Lee
Short story collection

View the book cover

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The nine stories of Drifting House centre on national identity, and the muddying pressures of travel and migration. ‘A Temporary Marriage’ depicts a Korean diaspora in Los Angeles, beset by the memories of home that linger after relocation. The title tale sees three children traipse across North Korea, hoping to find food and a new life in China. The eldest brother feeds and bathes his siblings; he is the ‘drifting house’ that they depend upon. This sense of change pervades the entire collection. Home may be where the heart is, but it is harder to pinpoint if body and mind are in transit.

Words by John Wadsworth

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More to discoverYou can read the title story of Krys Lee's Drifting House in its entirety on the Granta Magazine website. If you would like to know more about the author, she has been interviewed by Micah McCrary for Bookslut, and by Natalie Baszile for The Rumpus. If you are interested in Drifting House's exploration of identity and diaspora, Bethan Morgan considers these themes in a short article for The Culture Trip.

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Fxxk U
by Ga-In
Song

View a still from the music video

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K-pop is often stereotyped as glossy bubblegum electronica, packaged with marketable love-story lyrics and a meticulously choreographed MV. But this is one mode of many, in a genre that encourages experimentation and sonic shapeshifting. Ga-In’s ‘Fxxk U’ is a case in point. Its restrained texture hinges on a basic beat, soulful backing harmonies, and a handful of major and minor seven chords, ‘played’ on a synthesised guitar. The bellow-like sounds that underlie the chorus’s expletives are suitably oppressive; the track’s text and video tackle the rarely aired issue of domestic rape.

Words by John Wadsworth

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More to discoverThe controversial music video for 'Fxxk U' can be seen here. There are few articles written about the song in English; one example can be found on the Seoul Beats site. 'Fxxk U' is included in Jakob Dorof's compilation of '20 Essential K-Pop Songs' for Pitchfork, which acts an effective introduction to some of the genre's biggest stars.

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Today's questionWhich South Korean artworks would you recommend, and why? Let us know on Facebook, Patreon, or Twitter.

Snowpiercer, a film directed by Bong Joon-ho. A critique of capitalism set on board a hurtling locomotive, its momentum maintained by a series of unsettling shifts in tone. ()

– John Wadsworth, Silent Frame's Editor-in-Chief