Critics’ Picks

View of  “Night Crazing.”

View of “Night Crazing.”


Sung Hwan Kim

Barakat Contemporary
36, Samcheong–ro 7–gil, Jongno–gu
August 30–October 30, 2022

Sung Hwan Kim’s solo exhibition “Night Crazing” tracks the ways in which narratives of modernity and progress in postwar Korea intersect with the complex legacy of Cold War politics that still reverberates through the collective psyche of its inhabitants. In the ten-minute, single-channel video Washing Brain and Corn, 2010, the artist describes the physical effect of being brainwashed as a hand traces the eyes and mouths of a man and girl with a black marker pen over a transparent film. At points, a voice sings a kind of refrain, a Korean phrase meaning “I hate Communists.” The rallying cry is immediately recognizable to Korean citizens of Kim’s generation: In 1968, nine-year-old Seung-bok Lee was murdered by armed commandos from the North after uttering those very words. The song’s nonchalant delivery produces an eerie effect, a mix of horror and humor.

This unsettling atmosphere continues upstairs with two chalk-on-blackboard drawings, both 2010/2022, depicting a stack of kidney-shaped brains and a face with a disfigured mouth. In apparata 01, Korean text alludes to the brain being melted by acids released from butterflies, while the mouth emits the sound of fluttering wings. In apparata 02, the head is transfigured into an owl-shaped face, the mouth rendered obsolete. Meanwhile, on the pitch-dark basement floor, the video Love Before Bond, 2017, follows milky liquids and billowing fabrics as they glide over the surface of a two-way mirror, which hangs over a human body, curled in the fetal position. A voice whispers, “le pain invisible,” a double entendre of invisible bread and pain, offering a metaphor for the state of ambivalence that marks the transmission of narratives.