Deoksugung Project

After what always feels like a stressful week, I have no other option but to sit on a train, my version of the onion cellar… This time, the train took me to Deoksugung Palace. The National Museum of Contemporary Art commissioned nine Korean artists to install works throughout the palace grounds and called it, quite unimaginatively, Deoksugung Project (덕수궁 프로젝트). The installations will be showcased at Deoksugung until 2 December 2012.

Deoksugung Art Project

To get to Deoksugung Palace, take subway line 1 to City Hall and use exit 2. The palace is roughly 400 meters on the right from the subway station. Tickets for the National Museum of Contemporary Art + the palace grounds are ₩4,000 whereas tickets to merely the palace grounds are ₩1,000. This branch of the MOCA  features four intimate galleries and a small gift shop. Currently there are two exhibitions being showcased at MOCA, Deoksugung; Galleries 1 & 2: Photographs of the Daehan Imperial Family 1880-1989 and Galleries 3 & 4: Modern Masterpieces from the Museum Collection: Poetry and Dreams.

Floors at Hamnyeongjeon, East Ondol Room (함녕전)

Papered windows, Hamnyeongjeon (함녕전)

Deokhongjeon (덕흥전)

Mirrored chairs make parabolic swoops on the floor of Deokhongjeon. Artist: Ha Jihoon (하지훈); Title: Jari (자리)

“Place” (자리) by Ha Jihoon (하지훈), Deokhongjeon (덕흥전)

Seogeodang (석어당)

Seogeodang (석어당)

After the 1608 death of King Seonjo, his surviving wife, Queen Inmok, was confined to Seogeodang for a period of five years. By far my favorite building at Deoksugung, Seogeodang is simple and modest in design. Wooden lattices and rice paper covered the windows; heavy, barn-style doors hung from the clothed ceilings by  metal hooks; well-worn, wooden floors were pieced together as though they were a basic game of Tetris.

Yeesookyung’s “Tear Drop” (눈물), is meant as a representation of the fates of the women of Deoksugung. While the tear drop is intensely lit with LED lights, mirrors inside the sculpture obscure a clear viewing of the piece. From the Deoksugung Project description: “The paradox inherent in this sculptural piece that it is brilliantly lit but it is not easily recognizable represents the fates of countless women including Queen Inmok led their lives as human beings here inside the walls of the palace.” [sic]

“Tear Drop” (눈물) by Yeesookyung (이수경), Seogeodang (석어당)

Seogeodang (석어당)

Ceiling, Seogeodang (석어당)

“Tear Drop,” Seogeodang (석어당)

Kim Young Seok, a hanbok designer and collector, also added to the appeal and comfort of Seogeodang. In her installment, titled “Better Days,” she arranged furniture and fabrics and handcrafts from her own collection in one of the rooms of Seogeodang. As taken from the Deoksugung Project details, Kim Young Seok is noted as saying that “there is no definite line that demarcates happiness or unhappiness and that there is no beginning nor end. In Seogeodang where sorrow and beauty embrace each other, one is invited to reflect upon one’s life, which is vulnerably exposed to various emotions including joy, anger, sorrow and delight.”

“Better Days” by Kim Young Seok, Seogeodang (석어당)

Junghwajeon (중화전)

Junghwajeon (중화전)

Alternative view of Seogeodang (석어당)

I wanted to check out the media display that was to take place at 6:00pm on the walls of the Junghajeon (중화전), but as there was an hour or so before the event was to start, I ran into the MOCA to investigate the two current exhibitions: Photographs of the Daehan Imperial Family 1880-1989 and Modern Masterpieces from the Museum Collection: Poetry and Dreams. I really enjoyed the “Self Portrait” of Kim Whan-Ki (김횐기) and some of the works of Shin Young-heon (신영헌), among others. There were also some lovely photographs of Uichinwang Yi Gang (의친왕  이강) as a boy.

MOCA, Deoksugung

MOCA, Deoksugung

Dusk, Seogeodang (석어당)

Seokjojeon and Seogeodang (석어당)

At around 5:50, I claimed my seat next to some professional photographers and professional cellphone users. Artifacts, artifacts. We all waited anxiously as the temperature steadily dropped… 38, 35, 34…

Waiting for the light show, Junghwajeon (중화전)

Before too long the light show began… and so did the gritty, tearing sounds of a violin soundtrack that seemed to represent the destruction and occupation of Deoksugung. And then a metronomic drumming; life moves humbly on.

The opening credits of “Time” (시간) by Lyu Jaeha (류재하), Junghwajeon (중화전)

“Time” (시간) by Lyu Jaeha (류재하), Junghwajeon (중화전)

“Time” (시간) by Lyu Jaeha (류재하), Junghwajeon (중화전)

“Time” (시간) by Lyu Jaeha (류재하), Junghwajeon (중화전)

“Time” (시간) by Lyu Jaeha (류재하), Junghwajeon (중화전)

“Time” (시간) by Lyu Jaeha (류재하), Junghwajeon (중화전)

Deoksugung Project: where ancient palaces meet urban high rises and contemporary art installations.

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