“Urban Ritornello: The Archives on Community”

Ilmin Museum of Art
139 Sejongno, Jongno-gu
September 15, 2017–December 3, 2017

View of “Urban Ritornello: The Archives on Community.” Front: Yi so-ra, Folk song Researcher’s Archive, 2017. Back: Kim Soyoung, Performing Diaspora Archive, 2017.

Curating a strong thematic exhibition often demands archival research on said theme—and if that theme is the wide-ranging and multilayered concept of “community,” the curator’s research likely extends into cross-disciplinary scholarship on history, sociology, philosophy, ethnography, anthropology, and urban planning, among other subjects.

Instead of showcasing the final outcome of such investigations, however, “Urban Ritornello: The Archives on Community,” curated by Juhyeon Cho, presents the source materials from the archives of participating artists and scholars across the three-story museum. For the show, thirty teams of researchers and artists provided their own references in diverse media. The installation simulates actual studies and reading rooms, so that viewers can take a seat at a desk; browse books, notes, and sketches; listen to recordings; watch films; and even rearrange the materials on hand at their own will.

Ritornello here refers to Felix Guattari’s definition of the word as the “people’s chord.” In defiance of history’s conventional framing, the curator interpreted Guattari’s concept as the capacity of individuals to create a communal society by sharing their “natural and instinctive physical state” through sounds, songs, dances, and conversations. The collaboration of experts and the intervention of the public in the exhibition ultimately yield an optimal site of knowledge production that heightens our understanding of the community.

— Jung-Ah Woo