ARTWORK : Photography
Let the wind blow, National Song Contest - Changpowon, Geochang-gun, Gyeongsangnam-do
- Artist : Byun Soonchoel
- Exhibition : Deeper East in Austin - 2022: Layers of Inspiration - Part One. Artists of Seoul, Korea
- Year : 2019
- Medium : Archival pigment print
- Dimensions : 150 x 198 cm
- Type : Photography
- Style : N/A
- Tags : #Byun Soonchoel #변순철
- S&T Code : 9HRTB9Y
Your emotion from this artwork?
National Song Contest
National Song Contest (2005-2020) is a popular singing program that aired from November 30, 1980 to February 23, 2020 (1,980 times). This nationwide singing competition program has currently been discontinued due to the spread of COVID-19. The show’s homepage insinuates that the weekly singing festival derived from a radio singing program in the 1950s. Coincidently, KBS hosted Gukpung 81 (國風81), a large-scale festival for college students in 1981. Behind the scenes, however, the state had intervened in this festival: it was designed by the state after the massacre caused by the May 18 Gwangju Democratization Movement. Rather than being voluntarily organized by the general public as part of their cultural and artistic endeavors, many festivals in modern times have often stemmed from nationalism. This is the same as how UNESCO’s cultural heritage registration has degenerated into political games among nations, regions, and academic disciplines in recent years when tangible and intangible folk and cultural heritage were once valued.
As is widely known, modern Korean society’s cultural identity can be seen as a shift from each individual’s intrinsic time to relative time. Above all, National Song Contest is a weekend music festival that has connected the eight provinces of South Korea at the same time every week under the frame of a racially homogeneous nation using mass media. This festival conflates media and music, music and festivals, media and regions, and the nation and people. “National Song Contest is closely bound up with our experience with an imagined community that joins regions, the state, and people into one.” The state tries to establish its people’s identity through history, education, and systems, but people tend to feel they are members of the state with their experience through media. Sports games such as South Korea versus Japan football matches and the Olympic Games provide people with experiences of more potently being one in body and spirit than any other event. That is to say, the media of the late 20th century brings about a festival that is a mixture of temporal concepts of the past, present, and future and spatial concepts of the nation. The 1980s is seen as a period when the early-stage festival industry was carried out using the nationwide network of the media.
- Excerpted from "the Map to the Territory (Hyun Jung)"
This photo project highlights contenders at a Korean amateur singing contest. The contenders display their rough actions overflowing with emotion outside of the waiting room. Some photos feature the audience who swarm the contest venue. There are no contenders who attract attention with their good looks and take poses drawing attention. Their poses are typical gestures for a song contest. There are of course no celebrities in the photographs. If so, what points are worth our attention?
There seem to be two points. Even though outsiders may see Korean housing culture represented by apartments and Korean wedding culture represented by wedding halls as something abnormal and vulgar, we cannot deny that these apartments and wedding halls are indigenous parts of Korean architectural culture. Korean people may often be paradoxically unconscious of boorish comic actions and the stereotyped direction of the television song contest by reason that many enthusiastically support the program and the program has had a long run. Foreign outsiders may feel this is something eccentric and extraordinary. Byun’s photo project aims to document local culture by maintaining a distance from the event.
Another point of viewing is how to evaluate portraits of amateur challengers who do not meet viewers’ voyeuristic desire. The portraits of the series are designed to represent their exhibitionistic desire rather than satisfying viewers’ voyeuristic desire. Their immature desire appears as hollow expressionism. Tear-jerking looks and gestures the contenders adopt are surely the results of impersonating professional performers they have seen. Their immature acting is a paradoxical admission that they are objects of mass media. Their melodramatic action is also what the broadcasting station wants since it triggers the audience’s light laughter.
- Excerpted from "A Temporary Haven Fraught with Alienation and Paradox (Ban ejung)"
Byun’s style discloses the potential of the general public that cannot be pigeonholed by established aesthetics. The public in his photographs express their senses to give prominence to themselves, being indifferent to “art.” At this point, each individual’s position and status in the “social order” are deconstructed. Participants in Byun’s works fully flaunt their sensuous ability. Their exaggerated gestures and ridiculous expressions collide into contradictory elements like their serious postures and attitudes. They are hilarious and serious as well. The condensation of serenity and tremendous energy leads Byun’s pictures to depletion in reality. We can distinguish those participants’ senses through his photographs. And yet, the criterion of this distinguishment moves over given aesthetic judgment. Byun renews this standard. In this sense his photographs seem to incarnate the medium’s intrinsic attribute of deconstructive neutrality. Thus, Let the Wind Blow is a hilarious and serious outgrowth that makes us look back on the meaning of photography as popular art. I pay tribute to his hard work and passion.
- Excerpted from "Techne in Photography and a Sense of Equality (Alex Taek-Gwang Lee)"
(b. 1969, Korea - www.sooncb.com)
2001 School of Visual Arts, Photography and Related Media 1 Year Completion, New York, U.S.A
2000 International Center of Photography (ICP), New York, U.S.A
1999 School of Visual Arts Photography (BFA.), New York, U.S.A
2020 Let the wind blow, Soonchoel Byun National Song Contest, Sungkok Art Museum, Seoul
Eternal Family, The Korea Society, New York, U.S.A
2018 Eternal Family, ARARIO GALLERY Seoul, Korea
Don't Move, GoEun Museum of Photography, Busan, Korea
2016 Ask the Essence, Kumho Museum of Art, Seoul, Korea
2014 National Song Contest, Buk-Seoul Museum of Art, Seoul, Korea
2013 1996 to the Present, Grigo Gallery, Seoul, Korea
2008 The Couple, Space DA, Beijing, China
2005 Couples, Gallery Ssamzie, Seoul, Korea
2018 Photo London, Somerset House, London, U.K
2017 Syncronizing Instances, Korean Cultural Center Brussels, Brussels, Belgium
Score: Music for Everyone, Deagu Art Museum, Daegu, Korea
2016 Public to Private: Photography in Korean Art since 1989, National. Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Seoul, Korea
2015 Seoul Photo Festival –Our Happy Day, 70th Anniversary of Independence: A Photographic Reflection, Buk-Seoul Museum of Art, Seoul, Korea
A Trip of Life - The Experimental Art Project, Daegu Art Factory, Daegu, Korea
5San People, Osan Museum of Art, Osan, Korea
2013 Seoul Photo Festival –Portrait of Times, Times of Portrait, Seoul. Museum of Art, Seoul, Korea
2010 A Positive View, Somerset House, London, U.K
On the Cutting Edge –Aspects of Korean Contemporary photography,
National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts, Taichung, Taiwan
2007 Myth in the Mirror, Art Sonje Center, Seoul, Korea
2005 PASSION IN FASHION, The Museum of Photography, Seoul, Seoul, Korea
Seoul Photo Triennale, Seoul Museum of Art, Seoul, Korea
2004 Fashion Photography: B Cut, Daelim Contemporary Art Museum, Seoul, Korea
2000 ICP Group Show 529, West Chelsea Art Building, New York, U.S.A
1999 John Kobal Portrait Photography Award, National Portrait Gallery, London, U.K
Photography 18, Perkins Center for the Arts, New Jersey, U.S.A
1998 Piea International Photo, Piea Exhibition, New Orleans, U.S.A
Awards & Honors
2021 19th Donggang International Photo Award, Korea
2000 International Center of Photography (ICP) Via Wynroth Scholarship, U.S.A
1999 John Kobal Photographic Portrait Award, U.K