Jae-Min Hyun

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Jae-Min Hyun's MPhil/PhD Art research project

A Search for a New Paradigm in Korean Contemporary Art A proposal for an Exhibition ‘Beyond Surface Culture: The New Grammar of Korean Contemporary Art (2010)

This thesis examines the character of Korean contemporary art. I argue that an intense time-space compression produced by communication technology and the information revolution of the late 20th century has meant that Korean society has experienced the symptom of ‘schizophrenia’, as theorized by Fredric Jameson, which understands the modern capitalist world as being a perpetual present and characteristically depthless. Facilitated by this flourishing media culture and the rapid diffusion of digital technologies, I claim that a new ‘surface culture’ emerged in Korean society as Korean society became accustomed to identifying information through images and adopting the concomitant superficiality that this engenders.

The Korean art world has also been heavily affected by Western artistic and cultural content through various media and exchanges with the international world, largely as a consequence of the nation’s ‘globalization policy’. I assert that Korean artists have experienced a new type of visual sensation and stimulation amid the torrent of information and started to understand the world as raw material by registering the received content based on its surface and turning it into modules.

However, instead of looking at the current situation in a negative way, I argue for a positive evaluation based on Mario Perniola’s philosophy of the present, as the basis to propose a new paradigm in Korean contemporary art. According to Perniola, contemporary society is a full world where everything is available, and what is important is to manage the data and use it appropriately.

I argue that one-way communication and the actuality of mass media influence in Korea has reached its peak, and that Korean artists have begun to develop a new paradigm of accumulating data and have begun arranging it according to their own criteria throughout the last decade.

In conclusion, I propose an exhibition featuring the art practices which embrace this new paradigm, and which explore innovative ways if making inventories and classifying history and culture.