Critics’ Picks

Optical Race (Hyungjae Kim and Jaehyun Bahk), Family Planning, 2016, mixed media, dimensions variable.

Optical Race (Hyungjae Kim and Jaehyun Bahk), Family Planning, 2016, mixed media, dimensions variable.

Seoul

“Artspectrum 2016”

Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art
60-16 Itaewon-ro 55-gil, Yongsan-gu
May 12–August 7, 2016

“Artspectrum” is Seoul’s answer to the Whitney Biennial. Since 2001, it has supported emerging artists and showcased a broad spectrum of Korean contemporary art. This year, ten artists and artist groups are presented. For their contribution Art Spectral, 2016, the Okin Collective (Joungmin Yi, Hwayong Kim, and Shiu Jin) installed a wide wooden floor within the gallery and outfitted the space as a quasi-living room or lounge. They instruct visitors on how to enjoy it: Heat the pillow in the provided microwave, rest on it, read their publication (copies of which are scattered across the installation), and exercise your eyes by watching the simple movements of balls in a single-channel video. The book is a collection of writings by critics and curators on “vanishing” and “invisibility.” And through the work’s play on the exhibition title, Okin Collective refers to the unstable social status of the emerging artists in Artspectrum exhibitions, most of whom are required to “disappear” outside of the museum in order to pick up odd jobs to support themselves, giving their lives a ghostlike character.

Family Plan, 2016, suggests that this feeling of economic instability is shared by a generation. The artists, graphic designer Hyungjae Kim and information researcher Jaehyun Bahk, working as the duo Optical Race, collected and analyzed fiscal data about income, expenditures, and assets for single men and women in South Korea and set them alongside similar statistics for their parents. By pairing the different cases, they created four hundred virtual families whose combined incomes and assets are represented by color-coded circular mats arranged on the gallery floor. Visitors are inspired to stand on the circle that best reflects their own financial situation. The mats give an approximate location for their position on the social ladder and even project whether it would be possible for them to afford a proper wedding or sustain a family. Visitors to this high-profile exhibition may relax on warm rice pillows or enjoy soft mats on the floor, but these artworks manage to speak to the harsh reality outside the gallery.