A three-story brick building stands inconspicuously at the entrance to Wonseo-dong. Were it not for a banner hanging from the heavy black door, it would be quite difficult to tell that it was an art gallery at all. Featuring emerging artists and preparing exhibitions one year in advance, they date back to 2000 when they initially opened in Insadong. The basement level and the first two floors make up an exhibition space that showcases experimental art while the third floor is a workshop for students and artists. A little out of the way, even for an exceptionally diligent tourist, art lovers seek out the Insa Art Space for themes unexplored elsewhere.
Before walking into the Kukje Gallery, look up: on the roof of the building is "Walking Woman on the Roof," a self-described installation piece by American artist Jonathan Borofsky. The gallery opened in 1982 and has a total of three exhibition halls, which in turn are each divided into smaller exhibition spaces with separators. Kukje Gallery came onto the arts radar in 2003, when video artist Bill Viola and Anish Kapoor each held solo shows here. The museum's core exhibitions highlight internationally acclaimed artists with contemporary art backgrounds.
How do artists deal with their limitations as human beings while at the same time, try to be gods of their own work? Works may go unsold and critics can be cruel, but the fact that their art is subject to the realities of time and the changing conventions of the art world is what really hurts. The struggle with this fate is the theme of Nam Hwa-yeon’s work in multi-media installations that deal with the human greed for control of time. “Ghost Orchid” (video, 6min 53sec, 2015) is a video installation that makes reference to The Orchid Thief, a book popular in Belgium and England in the 1990s. The novel is based on the true story of John Laroche and other plant poachers who searched the world for rare orchids. Within Nam Hwa-yeon’s work, she expresses the human obsession with hoarding by disguising herself as a man who dances as if he were this orchid. “The Adoration of the Magi” (video, 11min 32sec, 2015) reflects on humans as voyeurs. The work zooms in on Giotto’s painting of the Halley’s Comet. The artist observes how nature enlightened Christians of the time, putting their perspective under a scientific light. Nam yet again attempts to control time in “Ant Time” (27.5 x 34cm, photo documentation, 2014). As a piece of thread chases after an ant’s foot prints, a tangible trace is documented. What is leftover is a remnant of time, captured and visible for the naked eye to behold. Nam Hwa-yeon often shapes performance into two different kinds of forms: video and