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Nam Hwa-yeon sets her automatic timer

2015 Venice Biennale artist Nam Hwa-yeon has already captured the hearts of the Arts Council Korea and now sets her eyes on the Golden Lion. The card up her sleeve? Time itself.

"Ghost Orchid" Courtesy of the artist and Arko Art Center
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 stage experiments. In Nam’s world, time is a shape bender, as well as its own victim. Time not only influences a specific incident or event, but each element undergoes a transformation. For instance, when Cézanne painted a still life of apples, he was not representing the idea of an apple, but its decaying process. Nam complicates this concept through the dynamic media of performance and video.
 
After completing her BFA at Cornell, Nam returned to her homeland and got an MFA at the Korea National University of the Arts. Since 2014, she has been continuing her studies at HZT (Hochschulübergreifendes Zentrum Tanz) in Berlin.
 
Invited to join in the main exhibitions of the 56th Venice Biennale this year, Nam is set on the road to international fame. With her first solo show in her home country currently on display, expectations are higher than ever. We in Korea reminisce about the days when Paik Nam-june received his Golden Lion in the 1993 Venice Biennale, and hope to relive the glory.
 
If you have ever felt the urge to contemplate the true nature of time, this exhibit is a must-see. Let the artist’s abstract representation of time take control for a little while before stepping back into the routines of daily life. Kim Young-jin (CEO of Artinside)
 
Conversation with Artist will take place in the 3rd floor seminar room of Arko Art Center Jun 6 at 2pm.

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