Aesthetics of South Korean Activism + Global Perspectives
Photos by Wes Magyar, Shana Thompson, Sammy Seung-min Lee
Artist bio and work description in the order of appearance
Click any image for the expanded viewing mode
Choi Byungsoo (b.1960)
Having left home at age 14, Choi’s job as a carpenter paved the way for his transition as an artist. While working on a construction site, Choi painted a mural with a group of university student protesters and was arrested alongside them. This experience ignited in him a sense of injustice and catalyzed his eventual commitment to political activism through art. Themes of democracy, labor, pacifism, and environmentalism are central to Choi’s work.
Blacklist - Family Blade
Made in Korea Blade
A commonplace object with visceral and violent associations, the enlarged razorblade is a malleable symbol for Choi Byungsoo. Made in Korea Blade employs the language of international export to criticize the South Korean government’s focus on commerce and trade at the expense of the underfunded welfare system, represented by a playing child teetering on the edge of the razorblade. The two Blacklist Blades (in Korean and English) condemn the odious revelation that President Park Geun-hye’s administration secretly maintained a blacklist of “anti-government” artists, filmmakers, writers, and academics to whom state funding was denied.
Bring Back Han-yeol
Bring Back Han-yeol is an iconic image of the June Struggle, a democracy movement that resulted in the establishment of the Sixth Republic, the present-day government of South Korea. On June 9, 1987, Yonsei University student protester Lee Han-yeol was mortally wounded by a tear gas grenade that struck his head. A photograph capturing an injured Lee Han-yeol sinking into the arms of a fellow protester was widely circulated in the media. The incident moved Choi Byungsoo to recreate the photograph as linoleum-cut print, which he printed as a series of 180 and distributed to protesters to attach to their chests. The following year, Choi’s image was reproduced in banner-size scale and exhibited outside of the building occupied by the Artist Space during an exhibition of contemporary South Korean art in New York.
Kim Jongku (b.1963)
Kim Jongku holds a BFA from Seoul National University and a MFA from Chelsea College of Art and Design in London. Deceptively simple and “traditional” in their monochromatic appearance, Kim’s self-described “landscapes” are actually the result of a labor-intensive process in which the artist grates iron onto powder and then produces from it ink that he uses to make calligraphic marks. Kim won the Grand Prize at the Korea National Grand Art Competition (1990) and the Kim Se-Jung Memorial Prize for Young Artists (2002). His work has been featured in numerous solo and group exhibitions in Korea and internationally, including BMoCA in Boulder, Colorado, and the Spencer Museum of Art in Lawrence, Kansas. He has also exhibited at the Taipa Houses Museum in Macao, Lucca Center of Contemporary Art in Lucca, Italy, and the Institute of Contemporary Arts in Singapore.
Triptych (plywood wall panel, iron powder, PV glue, acrylic paint)
This triptych combines three elements associated with former South Korean presidents Park Chung-hee and his daughter Park Geun-hye. The Saemaeul-ho Undong (New Community Movement) was a political initiative launched in 1970 by Park Chung-hee to modernize the rural South Korean economy. According to Kim, the green plant logo on the Saemaeul-ho Undong flag, which both Park Chung-hee and Park Geun-hye stood behind, is a decoy to conceal the two policians’ shortcomings. In this work, the Saemaeul-ho Undong green plant is replaced by another "green plant”—marijuana—calling attention to the hallucinogenic effect of the political symbol.
“Blueprint for economic success.” – Park Chung-hee
“Result of economic innovation.” – Park Geun-hye
Written in iron powder, the artist replicates the calligraphy of President Park Chung-hee and his daughter Park Geun-hye. Enlarged and solidified through Lee’s signature medium, the bombastic slogans seem ironic and out of place. As Kim explains, the word huiho means “wielding a brush.” This calligraphic work symbolizes wielded power through nepotism, and the abuse of power in the name of “economic development” and “anti-communism.” Impeached president Park Geun-hye is the daughter of former president Park Chung-hee, who initially ruled South Korea as a military dictatorship before becoming its president in 1963. He was assassinated in 1979 by a friend and member of his regime.
Kim Sundoo (b.1958)
Kim Sundoo holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Korean Painting from Changang University in Seoul. As a poet, writer, and painter, Kim creates landscapes and microcosmic studies of nature with lyrical sensitivity. His work can best be described as “experimentally traditional” in that he pushes the boundaries of the traditional Korean painting medium through innovative techniques such as multiple perspectives and a layered ink method known as Jangi. Some of the international shows in which Kim has participated include “Dreams and Song of Slow Lines” in Frankfurt, Germany, and “The Painting of Beauty” at the Korean Cultural Center in Washington, D.C.
Ink on paper
Ink on paper
The only ink paintings in the exhibition, these works appear traditional in their ink monochrome medium. Microcosmic depictions of plant life are rooted in East Asian literati painting tradition in which specific types of flora or fauna carry symbolic meaning. Despite their traditional medium and style, Gap and Ivy are glimpses of modern life. Kim participated in the Candlelight protests and created these works later in his studio. The growth of the plant life—weeds rising through the concrete and ivy climbing over a metal fence—symbolizes the resilience of the human spirit and ideas.
Lee Jonggu (b.1954)
Lee Jonggu was a representative artist of the Minjung (“people’s”) Art Movement in the 1980s and has continued to capture in his work the realities of rural life and its decline due to capitalist development. His figural paintings tend to be monumental in scale, integrating elements of folk art with realism. Lee graduated from the Painting Department at Chungang University, where he is currently a professor. He participated in numerous domestic exhibitions and group exhibitions internationally. He was awarded Gana Art Award and Woohyun Art Award, and chosen as the Artist of the Year by National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in 2005. His work has been collected by the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary art, Seoul Museum of Art, Daejeon Museum of Art, Jeonbuk Province Art Museum, and Sungkok Art Museum.
Acrylic on canvas
The Candlelight Revolution inspired the participation of a variety of people, from individuals to families; students to union workers. Lee based this painting on commemorative photographs taken by groups that marched in Gwanghwamun Square. Lee relocated the slogans on the protesters’ picket signs to the bottom of the composition like a news ticker, and replaced the signs with a uniform sea of red rectangles. Despite their dissatisfaction with the government, diverse groups of protestors are unified as engaged citizens of a democratic nation, signified by the South Korean flag in the hands of the child.
Lee Yunyop (b.1968)
Lee Yunyop is a woodcut and engraving artist who engages in direct social activism by making the plight of villagers and urban workers the subject of his work. In 2005, he joined the residents of Daechuri village in a protest against the construction of a US military base that would displace the community. In 2009, he worked at the site of the Yongsan Tragedy, where five people were killed in a protest against urban gentrification. He has sold his prints of workers’ struggles as posters, t-shirts, banners, and postcards to raise funds for the workers. Lee has had more than ten solo exhibitions and participated in various group exhibitions. He notably withdrew from the 2014 Gwangju Biennale in protest against artistic censorship by the organizers, leading to the resignation of the president of the biennale foundation. Lee was one of the most active participants of the Candlelight protests who camped and worked in Gwanghwamun Square. The two studio-based works in this exhibition are representative of his focus on workers.
Mrs. Kim at the Recycling Center
Lee Yunyop was struck by the robot-like appearance of recycling center workers who wear heavy protective coverings to sift through discarded rubbish. He created a representation of one such worker as a blocky robot held together by screws. Despite distortions to the worker, Mrs. Kim at the Recycling Center valorizes the subject, who would otherwise remain anonymous and forgotten in the country’s path toward economic development.
Departure is a funerary portrait of a farmer that Lee Yunyop knew. We see the man standing in his fields with a raven on his shoulder, a symbol of death in Korea. He carries a pine sapling, another symbol with funerary associations. With a red trunk that resembles human anatomy, the pine tree looks like an appendage that grows organically from the man’s torso. With nods to Korean tradition and folk culture, Departure is a sensitive portrait of a specific individual who would otherwise remain anonymous and invisible in Korean history.
Lim Oksang (b.1950)
Lim Oksang graduated from École d'art d'Angoulême in France and holds a BFA and MFA from Seoul National University. Lim was one of the leading artists in the historic Minjung (“people’s”) Art Movement in the 1980s. Lim has since dedicated himself to socio-political activism through his art and has gained acclaim on an international scale. His work is featured in the collections of prominent institutions such as the National Museum of Contemporary Art, Korea; Seoul Museum of Art; Leeum Art Museum; Busan Museum of Art; and the Total Museum of Contemporary Art.
Tide of Candles II
Soil, ink, and acrylic on canvas
Illuminated by a sea of glowing candlelight, we see a coalition of individual faces and protest signs emerge from the darkness. “The candles of Gwanghwamun Square shaped 2016 and 2017. It was hot yet peaceful and free; an order emerged from the spontaneity. Everyone, young and old, came together. It was their knowledge, not profession, that determined their collective sense of democracy,” said Lim Oksang of this multi-panel painting. Employing his training in figural painting and demonstrating his life-long dedication to portraying the lives of the common people, Lim created this mural as a tribute to the protesters of the Candlelight Revolution. The original version of this painting was acquired by the administration of President Moon Jae-in and currently hangs in the Blue House, the official residence of the South Korean head-of-state.
“From the standpoint of the people, it is clear that political power is a toy.” – Lim Oksang
Lim Oksang made spherical caricatures of President Park Geun-hye and others political figures, both Korean and foreign, as “toys” for the public to kick during the Candlelight Revolution. Three ball representing Donald Trump, Xi Jinping, and xxxx (?) were created for this exhibition.
Ma C (b.1961)
Ma C is an enigmatic artist who prefers to allow his genre-defying work to speak for itself. He graduated from the Chugye University for the Arts with a degree in oil painting and has been associated with the Minjung (people’s) Art Movement. His current work has been described as bearing the aesthetics of punk culture. He has had a number of solo exhibitions in Korea, including at Scholz & Jung Gallery, Yujushuma C, Lotte Gallery, and the Kumho Museum of Art. He has also participated in major group exhibitions at the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Gwacheon, Tokyo, Metropolitan Art Museum, Jeju Museum of Art, Insa Art Center, Alternative Space Loop in Seoul, Berlin Royken, and Numthong Gallery in Bangkok.
Embroidery on plastic tarp
Red Graphic 2
Painting and embroidery on soybean bag
Red Graphic 5
Painting and embroidery on soybean bag
With references to the geopolitical network that underlies the vibrant South Korean economy and popular culture, Ma C often uses soybean export bags from China and the United States as the ground for his hand-stitched works. Pattern is a visually impactful tapestry of fragmented forms from global and Korean popular culture—images that are grounded in everyday life and street culture rather than elite culture. In the large-scale Red Graphic 2, we see a jumble of painted and stitched images extracted from popular and political cultures of East Asia and the west. In Red Graphic 5, we see a Korean door god fusing with the portrait of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il. In both works, we also see sewn-in shopping and bank receipts, and in Red Graphic 5, the English words “To Korea.”
Mun Seungyeong (b.1967)
Many of Mun Seungyeong’s works combine the East Asian artform of calligraphy with modern graphic design and typography. He is a founding member of the design collective Nazzam (“daydreamers”), formed in the mist of democracy movements in the late 1980s with the mission of exploring the question: “How does art communicate with society?” Mun’s work has been the talk among young artists and designers since the 1990s when he created a number of well-recognized posters for art exhibitions, events, and organizations.
Embracing Letter: Me/You
Created as a poster for the National Human Rights Commission of Korea, Embracing Letter is a synthesis of the Hangul (the Korean alphabet) characters for “me” and “you.” This simple design elegantly communicates the message of eliminating discrimination between individuals. Like many of Mun Seungyeong’s designs, this poster is popularly recognized in the Korean design community.
Noh Suntag (b.1971)
As one of the most prominent photographers working in Korea today, Noh Suntag is best known for his visual exploration of the legacy of the Korean War. One of the underlying themes in Noh’s work is the division of the Korean peninsula. Noh’s chronicling of this division not only documents the political tension but also shows the impact of the physical division on Korean society and culture. The documentary quality of Noh’s work—seen in his frequent use of black and white photography—can be attributed to his background in photojournalism. Noh has exhibited widely in Germany, Japan, and South Korea.
A Chingnon Mountain Raised by Lies
Inkjet prints on aluminum panel
Noh Suntag’s work captures a catalyst of the Candlelight Revolution. President Park Geun-hye is the daughter of former South Korean President Park Chung-hee, a military dictator who was credited with nation’s rapid economic growth of the 1970s-80s. During the protests, Park Geun-hye was accused of sharing classified information with her confidante, Choi Soon-sil, the daughter of a shamanic cult-leader who was charged with using her access and influence to profit from major Korean corporations. In December 2012, Time magazine featured Park on its cover as the first female head-of-state in East Asia. In this parody of the cover by Noh, Park’s face is peeled back to reveal Choi’s face.
In Noh’s meta-parody of the revised Time cover, Choi’s face is further peeled back to reveal the faces of Samsung and Hyundai leaders Lee Jae-yong and Chung Mong-koo.
Noh Suntag camped in Gwanghwamun Square during the Candlelight Revolution and along with other artists. They erected a tent that served as a temporary exhibition space that they affectionately called the “Destitution Contemporary Art Museum.” On the outside of the tent, Noh hung these parodies of the Time magazine cover. At night, the images were slashed with a knife by pro-Park supporters. Rather than producing replacements, the slashed works were mended by laid-off union workers who also protested in the square.
Noh’s photographs document the “repaired” works and highlight the irony that Park’s supporters inadvertently “cut the throats” of the people they supported while union workers “mended” the throats of people who cut off their livelihood.
Oak Jungho (b.1974)
The Seoul-based artist Oak Jungho works in photography and media, and holds BA and MFA degrees from the Korea National University of Arts. Known for his provocative public interventions, Oak employs performance, humor, and ritual in his work. His solo exhibitions include “In the Barley Field” at the 43 Inverness Street gallery in London and “FREE PLASTIC” at Gallery 175 in Seoul. He has been included in group exhibitions at Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art in Seoul, National Museum of Contemporary Art in Seoul, Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes in Buenos Aires, BizArt in Shanghai, Museo de Arte Contemporaneo in Santiago, and the Walsh Gallery in Chicago. He was also a Glenfidditch Artist in Resident in Duff Town, UK.
The Noble Spirit: Three Steps One Bow
With humor and absurdity, the artist performs the “three steps one bow” Buddhist ritual prostration in such a way to demonstrate the futility of one’s actions. Despite Oak Jungho’s efforts, he is never able to keep with the ever-increasing speed of the treadmill manipulated by a suited authority figure. In the context of the broader Korean society and the Candlelight protests, Oak’s anonymized body—clothed in a white jumpsuit—is a stand-in for the poor and helpless in modern Korean society.
On April 16, 2014, the MV Sewol ferry sank mid-route due to mechanical failure and human error, killing hundreds of schoolchildren onboard. The following year, the rice farmer Baek Nam-gi was killed in Seoul by a police water canon during a protest. Both incidents angered the Korean public and led to widespread condemnation of the government. Oak Jungho felt a sense of personal and collective guilt, and fell into a depressive mental slump from these bleak incidents. This video of the artist “swimming” on a chair, with an authority figure pouring water on him, explores the grief and hopelessness experienced by the artist during this period.
National Charter of Education
The National Charter of Education was a text instituted by former president Park Chung-hee (1963–79) that embodied the central values of Korean education. For a quarter of century, all children who matriculated through the Korean education system were expected to memorize and recite the charter. Like the Pledge of Allegiance in the US, the National Charter is embedded in the memories of Korean citizens. As the artist explains, when people test the smoothness of a new keyboard, they may type something familiar like the lyrics of a children’s song. For Koreans of Oak Jungho’s generation, however, phrases from the National Charter—“We were born on earth with the historical mission to revive the nation”—may involuntarily emanate from their fingertips. Oak explores the sustaining memory yet emptiness of the charter’s propagandistic phrases in this work. We see the back of a man, the artist, dressed in a tuxedo, reciting in a dramatic voice the National Charter of Education in a bamboo forest. He seems to be confessing the shame of the South Korean nation and the complacency of his generation, symbolized by the National Charter.
Park Younggyun (b.1966)
Park Younggyun holds degrees in Art Education and Painting from Kyung-Hee University, and works primarily in large-scale narrative painting. Even though protest is a constant theme in Park’s work, he approaches it through a sense of nostalgia and humor. He has participated in such exhibitions as “Real Ring, 15 Years” (2004) at the Sabina Art Museum in Seoul and “Pulpit of the People” (2007) in Fukuoka, Japan.
Putting Up Propaganda During the War
Oil on canvas
Park Younggyun belonged to an activist art collective during the regime of President Roh Tae-woo, who ruled Korea as a military dictatorship. The group produced posters that criticized the role of the United States in the massacres that took place during the 1980 Gwangju Uprising. When disseminating their posters, the activists had to evade police officers scattered throughout downtown Seoul at the time. The young man peering around the corner of the alley is the artist himself.
Oil on canvas
Bora is a parody of Park Younggyun’s 1990 work, Putting Up Propaganda During the War, also in this exhibition. In response to the revelation that Park Geun-hye’s regime tried to censor a blacklist of artists that it deemed “anti-governmental,” Park painted this humorous depiction of himself censoring his own work. Depending on context, bora can mean “look!,” “purple” or be a woman’s name.
Song Joowon (b.1973)
Song Joowon is a professional dancer, choreographer, and film director based in Seoul. She holds a BA from the Hanyang University and a PhD in Dance from Korea National University. She expresses ideas and stories primarily through dance and also includes a variety of other art forms such as electronic music, architecture, animation, opera, and visual art. Since 2013, Song has been working on her Pung Jeong Gak series, a site-specific dance film and performance project that seeks to activate and revive urban space. Her films have received awards from the Seoul Dance Film Festival (2017) and Seoul Dance Center Dance Film Academy (2017).
As Reflection That Does Not Reflect
Song Joowon’s dancing and choreography are meant to evoke self-reflection and the human condition. The video follows a woman throughout the course of a day, absorbed in her inner world while ignoring life around her. With no clear reference to the Candlelight Revolution, the work derives from an existential struggle that the artist experienced as a spectator of the protests. In describing the work, Song said, “When I was living in a despair, I started this project to answer my own question, ‘How do we reflect on ourselves?’” The work questions the role of the individual—one’s responsibility and culpability—in a society. Does a person have to be a direct participant in the protests in order to feel anger and indignation? At the same time, is a person complacent if she stays home?
The media artist known as Yangachi received his BFA in Sculpture from Suwon University and his MFA in Media Art from Yonsei University. The pseudonym Yangachi refers to a personal computer handle that the artist has used since 1999. He employs a spectrum of artistic media ranging from performance to video installations. The tension between functionality and social oppression in the use of media technology is a persistent theme in Yangachi’s work. He has exhibited in France, Hong Kong, Japan, Chile, and the United States. His work has been collected by National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Seoul Museum of Art, Gyeonggi Museum of Modern Art, Daejeon Museum of Art, and Amore Pacific Museum of Art.
A Night of Burning Skin
A Night of Burning Skin
In this film noir-like video that Yangachi calls a “landscape,” we see the artist exploring the darkness of night with a flashlight, a practice that he developed during a period of depression in his life. Even though he visits different locations, the video appears continuous. We see underground military tunnels from the Korean War and natural caves—both of which are mysterious pathways that lead somewhere, but we cannot see them and must explore to find the hidden connections. The artist also encounters shamans and a shrine; he explains that he is drawn to shamans for their ability to sense the unseen. At one point the artist enters a cave and we see a body dragged in water. The video reverses, calling our attention to the artificiality of the video and the cyclical nature of the artist’s mind and human existence.
Yoo Yeonbok (b.1958)
Yoo Yeonbok has continuously engaged in political activism through his art since he participated in the 1980s Minjung (“people’s”) Art Movement as a college student. Yoo works primarily in woodcut, an artistic medium that many Minjung artists preferred because of its low cost, mass reproducibility, and roots in Korean tradition. He was also a founder of the Seoul Art Community in 1984 and organizer of the Eulchuk Art Festival in 1985. His joint work with Kim Youngtae, Echo (2011), which explores the division of North and South Korea, was recreated for the 2018 Busan Biennale.
With clear reference to the Candlelight Revolution, Yoo’s woodcuts eschews human forms for images of candle flames that illuminated Gwanghwamun Square and other public spaces in South Korea. As an artist who has long engaged in political activism through his work, Candle-Sea and Candle-Torch are visual symbols of the inextinguishable spirit of popular protests that continues to demand greater governmental accountability.
The Plaza Newspaper
The Plaza Newspaper was a fictitious newspaper that published stories from the perspective of the Candlelight protestors. It was founded and produced by an editorial team of 17 individuals of various backgrounds, including “President of Jean Valjean Bank” Hong Sehwa, poet Song Kyungdong, photographer Noh Suntag, and Park Gyukyu. Produced entirely by volunteers and funded by donations, the newspaper was published through the end of the Candlelight Revolution in April 2017. A total of 110,000 copies were distributed.
On April 4, 2017, Park Jekyu told the Kyunghyang Shinmun newspaper, “Citizens are dreaming of a new country but the mainstream media was late in responding. I thought there should be a medium for ushering in the next society.”
Lares Feliciano (b.1985)
Lares Feliciano is an artist, animator, collaborator, and curator. She holds a MFA in Cinema Production from San Francisco State University and a BA in Film and American Studies from Smith College. She is a current resident artist at RedLine Contemporary Art Center and was a participant in the Colorado Creative Industries Change Leader Institute. Her films have been screened globally in New York, San Francisco, Berlin, London, and Melbourne. She is a member of the Secret Love Collective and Program Director for Think 360 Arts for Learning.
Digital collage on aluminum
A contraction of "para adelante", pa'lante is Puerto Rican slang for "forward". Throughout Puerto Rican history, pa'lante has become a rally cry for resistance and resilience. In the summer of 2019, Puerto Ricans demonstrated the deep and powerful message of pa'lante as protestors of all ages marched in the streets demanding the resignation of corrupt governor Ricardo Rosselló. This work celebrates the success of this protest and the power and grit of the Puerto Rican people.
Dinh Q. Lê (b.1968)
Born in Vietnam, Dinh Q. Lê is a Vietnamese American fine art photographer. He received his BFA in photography from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and his MFA from the School of Visual Arts in New York. His artwork includes installation, video, sculpture, urban intervention and now prints. He lives and works in both Vietnam and Los Angeles. Lê is represented by PPOW Gallery in New York. His work can be found in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art (New York) and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.
Fragile Springs (Iraq)
Portfolio of 10 screenprints with varnish in a laser engraved aluminum box
Courtesy of the private collection of Gregory Santos
Dinh Q. Lê was invited to the Neiman Center in 2011 to collaborate with Neiman Center Shop Manager Gregory Santos on an edition of prints inspired by the September 2011 Occupy Wall Street movement and other concurrent international protest movements. The result is Fragile Springs, a portfolio of 10 screenprints with varnish in a laser-engraved aluminum box. Ten countries are the subjects of Fragile Springs: Burma, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Thailand, Tibet, Tunisia, Ukraine, Vietnam, and Yemen. In a conversation with Moira Roth, Lê describes his time in New York during this collaboration:
Occupy Wall Street was in the air. The revolutions and protest in the Middle East were still happening and Libya had finally gotten rid of Gaddafi. In Vietnam the young people were learning how to protest again and to make their voices heard. I spent time that weekend browsing around on the Internet and became intrigued by how each revolution had been assigned a name and a color. There was the Orange Revolution in the Ukraine, the Green Revolution in Iran the Pink Revolution in Yemen, the Red Revolution in Thailand, and the Saffron Revolution in Burma. It was interesting to see how the use of a single color gave such a collective sense to each movement. But I also kept asking myself: Who are the people in the crowd? Whom do I look for that I can connect to somehow? When you look at a crowd, you always look for the one person with whom you connect.
Fragile Springs was published by LeRoy Neiman Center at Columbia University.
Andres Michelena (b.1963)
Born in Caracas, Venezuela, Michelena studied Architecture at the Universidad Central de Venezuela from 1981 to 1986. He received his BFA at the Federico Brandt Institute of Fine Arts in Caracas in 1992. His first solo show in 1989, Opus Nigrum, was the starting point of a series of exhibitions that spanned 20 years and took place at venues in New York, Paris, Chicago, Atlanta, Madrid, Lyon, Stockholm, Lisbon, Shanghai, Beijing, Tokyo, Brasilia, Milano, Barcelona and Tenerife, among others. His move to Miami, Florida in 2000 marked a turning point in his career. He expanded his painting practice to explore new media, installations, and video art. He has won various awards and participated in exhibitions and projects around the world. His most recent solo show was “Elíptico” (2016) at Sala Mendoza in Caracas Venezuela in collaboration with Henrique Faria Fine Art. His work has been collected by private and public collections like the Estrellita Brodsky Collection, Brillembourg-Capriles Collection, Arturo Filio, Arturo Mosquera, Lothar Muller, Miami Dade College, and MoLAA (Museum of Latin American Art, Long Beach, California).
Resto, lo que ha restado
Nails, thread, vide
Resto, lo que ha restado was first shown in Michelena’s solo exhibition "Eliptico" at the Sala Mendoza in Caracas, Venezuela, in 2016. The so-called revolution of the "21st-century socialism" in Venezuela exploited the patriotic symbols like the flag, the anthem, Simon Bolivar's image, and some others, as a way to install their own credo. For this piece, the artist took the current constitution and cut the tricolor ribbon that serves as a marker. From the remaining threads, he built a series where the flag is reduced to its minimum expression, thus denouncing the abuse to which the national symbols have been subjected. It is a piece that, in contrast to its delicacy, bears visual and content strength.
Tenzing Rigdol (b.1982)
Tenzing Rigdol is a contemporary Tibetan artist whose work ranges from painting, sculpture, drawing and collage, to digital, video-installation, performance art, and site-specific pieces. His paintings are the products of collective influences and interpretations of age-old traditions; they are influenced by philosophy; often capture the ongoing issues of human conflicts and have strong political undertones. For Rigdol, politics is an unavoidable element in his art.
Born in Kathmandu, Nepal, Rigdol and his family were granted political asylum in the USA in 2002. Rigdol has studied Tibetan sand painting, butter sculpture, and Buddhist philosophy in Nepal. In 2003 he earned a diploma in traditional Tibetan thangka painting and in 2005 he was awarded a BFA in Painting and Drawing and a BA in Art History at the University of Colorado Denver. Rigdol is also an accomplished poet, having published three collections of poetry: “R”–the Frozen Ink (2008), Anatomy of Nights (2011), and Butterfly’s Wings (2011), printed by Tibet Writers.
He has been widely exhibited internationally and his artworks are included in public and private collections around the world. In 2011 his widely reported Our Land, Our People involved the covert transportation of 20 tons of soil out of Tibet, through Nepal, to Dharamsala. There, displaced Tibetans were given the opportunity to walk on their home soil once again. The journey to smuggle the soil across three borders is documented in Bringing Tibet Home, a documentary directed by Tenzin Tsetan Choklay, was awarded the Young European Jury Award (Prix du Jury de Junes Européens) at the 27th edition of FIPA (International Festival of Audiovisual Programmes. In 2014, Rigdol became one of only two contemporary Tibetan artists to be included in the exhibition Tibet and India: New Beginnings at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. His work Pin Drop Silence: Eleven-Headed Avalokitesvara was also the first work by a contemporary Tibetan artist to be acquired by the Met.
Our Land, Our People (photo documentation)
Photographs, artist notes (reproduced)
In 2011, New York-based Tibetan artist and activist Tenzing Rigdol helped thousands of his countrymen living in exile to temporarily “return home.” Inspired by his inability to fulfill his dying father's final wish to once again visit his homeland, Rigdol risked incarceration to smuggle 20,000 kilograms of Tibetan soil from Tibet through the Himalayas to Dharamshala, in India. With it, he created an unprecedented interactive installation, Our Land, Our People, to literally bring Tibet closer to its people. Filmmaker Tenzin Tsetan Choklay documented the entirety of Rigdol's ambitious project, creating an extraordinary documentary - one that is both a moving portrait of a dispossessed people and an inspiring tribute to the transformative power of art.
Goran Vejvoda (b.1956)
Born in London, UK, the French-based Serbian media artist Goran Vijvoda is also a musician; composer; sound, visual, and performance artist; photographer; writer; and actor.
Paper sign + vintage vinyl record cover
History comes and goes. Countries appear and disappear.
Caution Gone is a series that speaks to an un-nostalgic protest. What was once one Yugoslavia is now seven separate countries.
In a world drive by economics, patriotism, and nationalism, that is probably great.
In a world that is losing its notion of family, it somehow feels like a big loss.
The way that things are going at this point in time, the question remains “do we need more to fall apart?”
If one day America decides to separate into individual states, which passport will you choose out of the 50/52 choices?
Wong Zheng (b.1983)
Wong Zheng is a North Korean/Chinese artist and curator. She graduated from the Central Academy of Fine Arts (Beijing), where she studied mural. Wong has participated in various international exhibitions, including the Italy-China Biennale (Milan, Italy), the Central Academy of Fine Arts Biennale (Beijing, China), the Portuguese Latin Biennale, and Art Basel Hong Kong.
The Pink Republic
Wong’s work focuses on politics, history, and utopianism, themes that naturally arose from her upbringing in Communist China as the daughter of a North Korean. She is especially interested in the brainwashing tactics used by North Korea, one of the least accessible countries in the modern world. Most notably, Wong has created her own narrative to illustrate the negatives effects of autocratic governments by creating her own fictitious repressive country, Pink Republic.
Yuri Zupancic (b.1980)
Yuri Zupancic is an artist from Kansas now based in Paris, France. Largely self-taught, he creates and exhibits paintings, drawings, sculptures, video art, installations, and hybrids of these mediums. His work, which often speaks of the strange and exciting evolution of digital technology, has been exhibited and published in Europe, UK, USA, and Australia.
Oil painting on microchip
Climate Action March
Oil painting on microchip
These paintings of protests on microchips symbolize new platforms for public engagement via the internet. While living in France, Yuri Zupancic has sought ways to participate in demonstrations in the USA and elsewhere. Citizens all around the world can now meet and mobilize in virtual spaces, regardless of physical location.