Shiny bright brass bowls placed rhythmically on a raised white platform, serves as a great introduction to MMCA’s first exhibition dedicated to Korean craftworks. At designated times, viewers are allowed to walk onto the platform and hit the bowls with the provided mallets. The deep metallic ringing of the brass bowls resonates of the long and rigorous process that each craftsman must endure to create these beautiful objects of desire.
Craft Narrative is, as the title suggest, not just an exhibition to showcase the clandestine world of Korean craft—but more so the essence and story behind craftsmanship. This exhibition blurs the line between artisan and craftsman (the art-craft dichotomy), by giving the works of craft a dignified presence on its own. This presence is enhanced by accompanied videos, set in their workshops, demonstrating the craftsmen’s philosophies and meticulous work ethic. The experience is completed by an overwhelming understanding of the reasons why these craftsmen do what they do.
The three sections of the exhibition are entitled, “Knocking Time,” “Kneading Space” and “Weaving Relationships”—each categorized by the medium which the artists employed (metal, clay and fabric respectively). Each artist's masterful technique can be seen through the details: Kang KiHo’s pottery leaves subtle repetitive traces of finger marks, for example. By the direction and curating of Craft Narrative, we realize that it is such type of detail that makes the piece stronger. When taking a step back, it is interesting to feel how modern these traditional crafts can be.
To put it in a layperson's term, this exhibition is great for those who haven't been to identify what Korean craft is and can be (as it was the case for us). You might be able to to appreciate the overall craft language that is considered specifically Korean, or find a good clue in your quest if you've already started questioning the ethno-national inherence in art.