Chen Chieh-Jen – born in 1960 in Taoyuan, Taiwan – lives and works currently in Taipei, Taiwan. He organized extra-institutional underground exhibitions and guerrilla-style art actions to challenge Taiwan‘s dominant political mechanisms during a period marked by the Cold War, anti-communist propaganda and martial law. After the martial law 1987 ended, he ceased art activity for eight years. Returning to art in 1996, Chen started collaborating with local residents, unemployed laborers, day workers, migrant workers, foreign spouses, unemployed youth and social activists. They occupied factories owned by capitalists, slipped into areas cordoned off by the law and utilized discarded materials to build sets for his video productions. In order to visualize contemporary reality and a people’s history that was obscured by neo-liberalism, he embarked on a series of video projects in which he used strategies he calls “re-imagining, re-narrating, re-writing and re-connecting.” His work has been shown in solo exhibitions in Taiwan but also in many international places such as Paris, Luxembourg, Hong Kong, Beijing, Los Angeles, Madrid, New York. He has also has participated in various international biennales and group shows.
Chen Ching-Yao – born in 1976 in Taipei, Taiwan – graduated at the National Institute of the Arts (now the Taipei National University of the Arts) in 2000 and received his master’s degree from the Department of Fine Arts in 2006. Costume play, appropriation, misplacement, and collage are recurring themes in his artistic practice. Through his extremely superficial placement as shown in his continuous impersonation of others, how one looks at “the others” and how one identifies oneself become contradictory and complicated. It encourages the viewers to come up with a more profound question to interpret the defenseless appearance. In 2000, he won the first prize of New Perspective Art in Taiwan Dimensional Creation Series. In 2001, Chen won the Taipei Prize with his work „Bubble Task Force“, which marked the beginning of his long-term exploration of subculture, the politics of image, and other related issues. Since 2002, he has also been a member of Hantoo Art Group, a major artist group in Taiwan. In 2008, he was sponsored by Asian Culture Council to stay in New York as a resident artist at Location One. Since 2009 he has held solo exhibitions in Japan, Korea, Taiwan, the USA – New York, and many other places.
Hong Sung-dam – born in 1955 on the island of Hauido, raised in Gwangju and educated in the Chosun University Gwangju – is a South Korean artist who took part in the 1980 uprising against Chun Doo-hwan‘s military dictatorship. After the uprising he became politically active, and in July 1989, he was arrested for allegedly breaking the National Security Act (he had sent slides of a mural he had created, along with around 200 other South Korean artists to North Korea). Amnesty International adopted him as a prisoner of conscience and he was released from prison in the early 1990s. He is an acclaimed member of the Minjung art movement, and in 1996, was commissioned by the Government of South Korea to create a 42 metre mural for Chonnam National University. His work has been shown in different places such as Gana Art Cente Seoul; Queens Museum of Art, New York; National Museum of Contemporary Art, Sri Lanka; the Gallery of Modern Art, Glasgow; the National Museum of Prints, Spain, the Busan Biennale, the 1st and 3rd Gwangju Biennale, the International Peace Centre, Osaka and – on the 50th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – at Amnesty International in the U.K. He lives and works currently in Ansan, South Korea.
Nakagaki Katsuhisa – born in 1944 in Gifu, Japan – studied sculpture at the Tokyo University of the Arts. He was known for his bronze sculptures which reflected a traditional understanding of art for many years.
In 1968, he reached the M.A at the Tokyo University of the Arts. In 1986, he won the Grand Prize of Rodin at Hakone Open-Air Museum and 1988 the special Open Air Sculpture Prize, Nagoya. His current work represents a radical break with his previous art and provoked the hostility of radical nationalists and even scorn from the Japanese art world (in 2013 he was expelled from the Shinseisaku Association). His installation “Portrait of the Period – Endangered Species Idiot JAPONICA – Round Burial Mound,” for instance, launched an intense debate over the freedom of opinion and was not allowed to be shown in its entirety at the Museum of Modern Art in Tokyo. The piece was first able to be shown uncensored abroad in 2014 at the gallery Murata & Friends in Berlin. Currently Nakagaki works as emeritus director of HIDA Municipal Museum and Katsuhisa Nakagaki Museum.
Sunmu – born in 1972 in North Korea, he was trained by the North Korean Army as a propaganda artist; later he studied in an art college. During a severe famine in the 1990s he fled to China and later via Thailand and Laos to South Korea. Since then he has lived and worked as a painter in Seoul. In Seoul he also took up a second course of study in visual arts. In 2007 (together with photographer Suntag Noh) he took part in the exhibition “We are Happy” in the Gallery Curiosity, Seoul. In 2008, he had his first solo exhibition under the same title in the Alternative Space Chunggeong gak, Seoul. Out of concern for the family he left behind in North Korea he uses the pseudonym »Sunmu« instead of his real name and does not allow photos of his face.
Tomiyama Taeko – born in Kobe, Japan in 1921; grew up in the 1930s in Dalian and Harbin in former Manchuria – Studied from 1938 to 1945 – with interruptions due to the War – at the Joshibi Woman’s Academy of Art and Design. Her multimedia works are concerned with the complex moral and emotional problems of Japanese society arising out of the contradictory twofold experience of having been both warlike aggressor and victim of barbaric modern warfare in the Second World War – and with more recent caesuras in world history such as 9/11, social tensions in Afghanistan or the Fukushima disaster four years ago. Since 1950, her works have been shown in numerous exhibitions in Germany, France, Italy, Japan, South Korea and the USA, at the 1st and 3rd Gwangju Biennales and in the Summer of 2009 at the Niigata Tsumari Trienniale.
Choi Kiwan – born in Seoul, South Korea in 1985 – did military service as a soldier on the border to North Korea 2006 to 2008. In South Korea, conscientious objection is not permitted. After a sixth-month period abroad in Australia in 2010, he has since 2013 been studying painting at the Kunsthochschule Weißenssee in Berlin. In Korea, his artistic work was concerned with the themes of memory and – in the context of the South Korean past – with his own identity. Since he has been studying in Germany, however, topics such as absurdity and helplessness have come to the fore.
Ku Youlee – born in South Korea in 1988 – graduated in Fine Arts from the Sung Kyun Kwan University in Seoul in 2011. Subsequently she came to Germany to pursue further her interest in art. Since 2014, she has been studying at the Akademie der Bildenden Künste (AdBK) in Munich. Ku loves new things, travelling widely to come to know countries, new places, and people of different nationalities. As an artist she tries above all to discover how one can live in this world. She currently lives and works in Munich.
Han Nataly Jung-Hwa – born in Seoul, South Korea in 1962; has been living in Germany since 1978 – studied Korean Studies, Japanology and History of Art (with specialisms in Gender and Postcolonial Theory) in Tübingen and at the FU and HU in Berlin. She works in Berlin as a specialist in Korean Studies, an interpreter and project manager. Since 2008, she has been head of the Korea Communications and Research Centre of the Korea-Verband e.V. and has organised numerous readings and events featuring artists and activists from Korea. She is the initiator of the EPRIE exchange programme (Exchange Programme for Regional Integration in East-Asia and Europe) and founder of the working group on the “Comfort Women” (women who were forced into prostitution, abducted and abused by the Japanese Military during the Asian Pacific War). She currently works as editor-in-chief of the magazine “Korea Forum”, is convenor of the Working Group on “Comfort Women”, Chair of the Board of the Korea-Verband e.V. and a member of the nGbK (neue Gesellschaft für bildende Kunst).
Yajima Tsukasa – born in Takasaki, Japan in 1971 – studied History at Waseda University and Photography at the Nippon Institute of Photography in Tokyo. He worked as freelance photographer for the left-wing Asahi-Shinbun daily in Tokyo, for the Asahi weekly, for Asahi Graph, Saias, AERA, Ronza etc. From 2003 to 2006, Yajima worked in South Korea on the photographic project “Comfort Women – Sex Slaves to the Japanese Army in the Second World War” in an old people’s home for Korean women who had survived this ordeal. In 2004, he won the DAYS JAPAN International Photojournalism Award and in 2010 the Photography Prize of the EVZ Foundation (EVZ = Erinnerung, Verantwortung und Zukunft / Memory, Responsibility and the Future). He lives and works as a photographer and journalist in Berlin. His photographic works have been shown in Germany – Berlin, Japan, Korea and Taiwan. In 2011 and 2012 he was on the Board of the Korea-Verband e.V. and is a member of the nGbK.
Yoo Jae-Hyun – born in Gyeongju, South Korea in 1974 – studied Fine Arts and Philosophy at the Sungkyunkwan University in Seoul and the University of New South Wales, Sydney and Media Arts (as master student) at the UdK, Berlin. His work is concerned with the topic of borders and border-crossing in the sense of an “open identity”. In 2005, he was the initiator of the international Global Alien artists’ group and in 2007 a co-founder and Board member of the Korientation e.V. – a migrant self-organisation of German Koreans. In 2006, he was awarded the Prize of the Kurt Eisner Kulturstiftung, Munich. In the same year, Global Alien initiated the “Freedom of Speech” Exhibition in Seoul and in 2008 the “Congress of Culture” in the Kunstraum Kreuzberg. In 2009, he organized “Shared.Divided.United” in the nGbK, Berlin. In 2012, he was in addition head of the art-in-public-space project “East People Power” at the KunstDoc Leipzig. His first solo exhibition was held in 2014 in the okk/raum29 in Berlin. Yoo is a member of the Korea-Verband e.V. and of the nGbK. He lives and works in Berlin and Seoul.
Arai Hiroyuki – born in 1965 – is a Japanese critic of art. In his criticisms he explores (sub)culture and social issues. He works as the director of the N.P.O. Art Farm.
Rebecca Jennison – born in the USA – teaches at the Faculty of Humanities, Division of Culture and Arts at Kyôto Seika University. She is an associate of The Asia-Pacific Journal Japan Focus. Her publications include translations of works by Japanese women writers (Shimizu Shikin) and artists (Tomiyama Taeko). Her recent work includes numerous essays about contemporary art and transnational feminism. She has curated three exhibitions of work by women artists at Seika‘s Gallery Fleur, including Women en Large/Familiar Men. Together with Laura Hein she edited the volume “Imagination Without Borders: Feminist Artist Tomiyama Taeko and Social Responsibility” (Center for Japan Studies, Michigan University Press, Ann Arbor, 2009).
Kim Jong-gil – born in 1968 in South Korea – is a curator, art critic, art theoretician, art researcher and planner. Since 2000 he has been working as curator for the Art Museum in Moran and since 2003 on the Advisory Board of the Gyeonggi Cultural Foundation. Between 2006 and 2012 he was Head of the Cultural Education Department of Gyeonggi Province and worked as a freelance curator. Currently he is also Head of Strategical Development in the Gyeonggi Cultural Foundation. He has received several rewards for his work in art theory and for projects he has curated.
Suh Sung – born in 1945 in Kyoto as a son of Korean immigrants – graduated at the Tokyo University of Education and the Seoul National University. In 1971, he was arrested by the South Korean Military Intelligence on suspicion of being a North Korean spy and only released after 19 years. Today he is a professor for law and works at the Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto, Japan. Since back in Japan, he has been engaged in research and activities on human rights and peace in East Asia. He was honored by the Human Rights Awards in 1994 and 2009.
Vladimir Tikhonov alias Pak Noja – born in Leningrad, in the former USSR in 1973 – is a naturalized Korean journalist and historian. He completed his doctorate at the Lomonossow University in Moscow in 1992 on the subject of the Gaya Confederacy. He is Professor of East Asian and Korean Studies at the University of Oslo and teaches also at Kyunghee University in Seoul, his research areas being Modernism and Korean Intellectual History, with an emphasis on more recent Buddhism.
The verbal montage Sewol Owol [Sewol May] refers to two events – the Sewol passenger ferry disaster of 16 April 2014 and the Gwangju Massacre of 18 May 1980. Hong considers the Sewol disaster, in which 304 people, mostly students of a high school, lost their lives, as an event made possible by a political culture originating in the years of military dictatorship. In the top left, Park Guen-hye, the current President of South Korea, is portrayed as a straw puppet worked by her father, the former military dictator. The figure of the dictator wearing military uniform and sunglasses is a recurrent motif in Hong’s work. The male figures in the background hint at influential company bosses and politicians. In the bottom left, ultra-right-wing figures are in the act of burning a portrait of the North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un. In the top right, Japan’s policy towards its national history is thematized in the visit paid by the Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, to the Yasukuni Shrine. In the bottom right, the ›Four Rivers Project‹ of former South Korean President Lee Myung-bak is depicted – a project that permitted large-scale destruction of Nature for the sake of economic profit. The centre of the picture portrays the will of the common people as the spirit of resistance of Gwangju. Hong took his artistic bearings here from the forms of Korean popular art and Buddhist tradition and developing the Geolgae Gurim (hanging pictures), not least in that the work was produced publicly as a communal project.
Because of its portrayal of Park Geun-hye as a straw puppet, the work was removed from the 20th Gwangju Biennale in 2014. Now it cannot be shown in Berlin either because the South Korean art carrier commissioned to transport it to Germany refused to do so one day before the collection date. The company fears for its reputation in South Korea.
Sewol Owol was originally not allowed to be put on display because it depicted the President as a scarecrow or straw-puppet. In reaction, Hong Sung-dam suggested pasting a chicken over the figure of Park Geun-hye so as to cover up her face. The proposal was not accepted and Sewol Owol remained banned from exhibition. In Korea, a chicken’s head stands for a ›blockhead‹. Now the chicken’s head has become a symbol for Park Gyeun-hye.
In Japanese, the word Hanami means ›viewing the cherry blossom‹. Hong Sung-dam uses the Japanese symbol of the cherry blossom to point up the pro-Japanese past of Park Chung-Hee, the former dictator, which was long kept secret. The current President, Park Geun-hye, can be seen viewed from the rear. She has the same hair-style as her mother, Yuk Young-Soo, who was shot by a Japanese Korean with alleged links to North Korea. In her hand she leads her father as a child dressed in military uniform. Among the nebulous cherry trees hide members of the Intelligent Agency.
The title ›Golden Time‹ was chosen as a reference to a well-known TV series featuring a doctor. When Park Geun-hye, the daughter of the former dictator Park Chung-Hee, was chosen by the Conservative ›Saenuri‹ Party as their Presidential candidate in 2011, Hong used ›Golden Time‹ to express his fears that, should she win the elections, power groups from the time of military dictatorship could again gain influence. In the picture, the figure of Park Geun-hye can be seen giving birth to her father – as a baby wearing sunglasses. The major character in the TV series is raising a hand in military salute. The electoral commission accused Hong Sung-dam of insult and libel of Park Geun-hye, but soon withdrew the indictment.
Hair-clippers are known in South Korea as Bariquand [pronounced ›barikang‹ in South Korea] because in the 1940s, during the Japanese colonial period a pair of French hair-clippers from the Bariquand & Mare company was introduced onto the Korean market. The Bariquand here symbolizes militarism, because on being conscripted into military service recruits were given a short-style hair-cut. On the chair we see the current President, Park Geun-hye, dancing the hit song Gangnam Style behind the gallows. To the left of the chair dances her father, Park Chung-Hee, wearing dark sunglasses. The men in uniform in the background hold the strings – they set Park Geun-hye dancing for the death penalty, which still exists in Korea.
When Sunmu still lived in North Korea, he dreamt of meeting the great leader Kim Il-sung. This portrait is in tribute to KIM Il-sung. The colour pink symbolises the future, utopia as a pink, transfigured world. KIM Il-sung in a black suit with tie is an unusual sight. Normally North Korean heads of state wear the uniform of the people. Sunmu symbolically transfers the deceased leader who has become iconic into retirement.
This red orchid is called Kim-Il-sung flower« in North Korea: It was a gift from an Indian botanist to Kim Il-sung on his 70th birthday. His son Kim Jong-il gave the orchid the name. Sunmu intentionally hangs the picture under the portrait of Kim Il-sung. The flowers’ branches spell ›no‹: No to the »Sun of Choseon!« What use is it when people are dying of hunger?
Korea called itself »Choseon« from 1392 until 1897. Shortly before annexation by Japan, King Kojong proclaimed the empire »Daehan Cheguk« (»Great Han«). After annexation, Korea disappeared from the map; it became part of Japan. When subsequently divided, South Korea chose the name »Daehan«, the full name being: »Daehan Minguk« (»Republic of Korea«); North Korea retained the old name »Choseon« and gave itself the name »Choseon Inmin Gonghwaguk« (»Democratic People’s Republic of Korea«).
The work was previously exhibited along with the portrait of Kim Jong-il. It is a jibe that a South Korean dictator would barely differ from the dictator of North Korea.
The North Korean heads of state Kim Jong-il and Kim Jong-un can be seen on a red background. Mickey Mouse smiles from the moon, the place at which, according to North Korean iconography, the great leader Kim Il-sung should be portrayed. By doing this, Sunmu wants to express the desire for North Korea to open itself to the capitalistic world.
It is the artist‘s hope that closed North Korean society
will enter into a relationship with the outside world. He
wishes that the Walt Disney characters, symbols of capitalism, will play with the North Korean self-images!
The North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and President Park Geunhye of South Korea greet the viewer arm in arm, like they would a participant in a mass political event. Colourful balloons fly up to celebrate their success. Painted on the balloons are the faces of all previous presidents on the Korean peninsula: Kim Il-sung, Kim Gu, Kim Jong-il, Kim Dae-Jung, Kim Young-sam, Roh Mu-hyun, Rhee Syng Man, Park Chung-Hee, Chun Doo-hwan, Roh Tae-Woo and Lee Myung-bak.North Korean heads of state
In this collage, Tomiyama juxtaposes images from large oil paintings from the series, Revelation from the Sea. Fujin, God of the Wind, soars in a burning sky above an angry, red sea, surveilling the disasters.
Buddhist guardian gods are swept on the waves of the tsunami, along with broken electronic parts, as fires burn on the blackened sea. The gods seem to admonish humans for their folly in the wake of the triple disasters.
While working on the series Revelation from the Sea the artist heard reports of deformities and widespread deaths among butterflies in Fukushima. Images of these fragile creatures seem to float on the dark, swirling background.
News reports of tanks containing radiation-contaminated water prompted the artist to create this collage. The vision of countless tanks of contaminated waste water reminded the artist of Goethe‘s The Sorcerer‘s Apprentice.
Peaceful demonstrations by the citizens of Gwangju who were calling for freedom ended in a massacre by the military. The military regime in South Korea had consolidated it‘s domination with the support of the U.S. and Japan.
A mother cries out, mourning the death of innocent children.
Korean women mourn an innocent death and cry out for justice.
The women seem to ask, »Why have they died?«
Here, Tomiyama juxtaposes images from her earlier »Fox Series« (»The Foundation of Manchukuo« and »The Spirit of Yamato«) with an ornamental artifact used in Korean folk rituals, reminding viewers of the beginning of an era that led to the »sorrows of war.«
A shaman travels through the South Seas in search of a young Korean woman who was a »military comfort woman.«We follow the shaman on this journey, listening to testimonies of the dead. The Balinese festival for the dead centers on Galungan, a Hindudeity associated with the Goddess Durga.
The artist used the ambiguous figure of the trickster fox with its multiple associations in Japanese myth and folklore to express the harsh reality of wartime. Tomiyama traces the antics of the trickster fox up to present day Tokyo where it still plays tricks along neon-lit avenues of the metropolis.
On this undersea stage, towers burn and relics of modern civilization are washed away in a tsunami. Deep beneath the sea the skeletons of birds drowned in oil now tap on abandoned computer keyboards.
In the Harbin Station series, Tomiyama chronicles pivotal moments in modern history. Here, images of revolution are juxtaposed with postcards of the Manchurian Railway and an image of the Emperor in military uniform to give a sense of the world in motion.
Here, Tomiyama juxtaposes images of the Japanese Imperial Army‘s biological warfare facility, Unit 731, Japanese war orphans left behind in China and Chinese opera. Again, the visage of the Emperor stands near the center.
Using techniques that remind us of those used in early modern woodblock prints, Tomiyama created a series of serigraphs on the theme of the Karayuki, or young women who went or were sold off to work in brothels at home and abroad.
Tomiyama gathers birds and fish, mythical figures and spirits from the pantheon of images she has collected on her journeys through ›Eurasia.‹ The Black River, or Amur River, takes its shape from fish and horse spirits that in turn become symbols of all living things linking heaven and earth.
In his younger years, Nakagaki was not a politically active artist. He found it impossible, however, to endure the offensive historical revisionism of the Shinzo Abe government in silence and created, among other works, the Round Barrow piece, to which many small pieces of paper are attached bearing political statements. Before an exhibition in the Metropolitan Art Museum in Tokyo, the curator had one of the statements removed. Thanks to the support of the Galerie Murata & Friends, Berlin, the uncensored work can be shown in the current exhibition.
In his recent work, Chen Ching Yao has returned to painting. Here are two examples from the »Series of Great Leaders«. By portraying himself as Mao or Chiang-Kai-Shek, he is making fun of the dictators and at the same time demonstrating that each of us could be one of these great leaders.Bubble Commando
The »Bubble Commando« series is a typical work by Chen Ching-Yao in cosplay style. Working with friends, the artist re-enacts in an ironic or parodistic way various well-known scenes or sequences from manga or anime, from films or old photo collections etc. In all the scenes Chen himself plays a leading role. Here, for example, officers of the Imperial Japanese Army from the colonial period are being parodied.
Chinese subtitle: Operation 1 commemorative group photo
Chinese subtitle: Lieutenant Colonel Chen and the Bubble Commando search for the enemy on the streets
Chinese subtitle: Private Chen with his Soap Bubble Detachment attacking the PURIKURA shop and taking souvenir photos.
There are only three countries in the world where you will find calisthenics broadcasts on the radio. The three countries are Japan, Korea and Taiwan. Everyone will remember the days when he or she was in elementary school. You couldn’t stop yourself doing the moves with your hands and legs when you heard a specific tune. Thanks to prolonged practice, the series of movements had become part of your memory. In other words, anyone who grew up here was educated within a national collectivism, which was deliberately implanted in the subconscious. This is above all a colonial inheritance: Japan introduced such gymnastics in its colonies so as to discipline the colonized along Japanese lines.