Seoul – At a time when artists can sell paintings and sculptures for a pittance, Zion Junho and Moon Kungwon embody a somewhat opposite approach.
“We don’t just want to create artwork,” Ms. Moon said in an interview at his studio, which was designed by Japanese architect Toyo Ito in the Siokon area of Seoul. “We try to hear other voices to reconsider our position.”
In the last decade, Ms. Chandra and Shri. Zion – or Moon and Zion, as they are widely known – have established multiple artistic partnerships, often collaborating with architects, fashion designers, actors and scientists, among others.
Daydreaming, meticulously crafted short videos are their trademark, and they sometimes create different things, but their efforts have also taken the form of discussion series, books and designs. Both 52, he has become a star on the international art circuit, and represented his native South Korea at the 2015 Venice Biennale.
His latest show unfolds in May at the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art in Kanazawa, Japan, and includes a video installation as well as an ongoing urban revival project in a coastal village near Kanaiwa. The project involves redesigning a dilapidated wall with architect UG Nake that protects the area from wind, sand and sea debris. A new video will follow a man searching for survivors on a lifeboat in a post-apocalyptic, virtual reality world.
Such futuristic, post-disaster settings have become a recurring interest for the pair, a tool to address contemporary issues from slanted angles. “Moon and I don’t like to give any message to the audience,” said Mr. Zion. “We want to give the key -“
“- or the key to our thinking,” Ms. The moon ends its line, as they often do for each other.
William Morris’s 1890 novel, News from Nowhere, has served as inspiration and title for his work. In the universe of Morris, a man sleeps and wakes up in a socialist utopia more than a century later. Ms settings. Chandra and Shri. Zion is darker. The culture is broken; The men are trying to move forward.
The focus of his recent show at the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (MMCA) here was a two-screen video of his research on Taisung Freedom Village, located in a demilitarized zone and protected by United Nations Command. About 200 of its residents receive special tax exemptions but are subject to curfew and are closely monitored. (The pair were not allowed to shoot there.)
On one screen, a local man wanders into the forest, makes a list of plants and sends samples up by balloon. Mysteriously, its contents appear on another screen in a hermetically sealed high-tech chamber inhabited by a single man. It is under video surveillance and is fed by a pouch that delivers its computerized home delivery. He examines the specimens, secretly plants a seed and decides to wear a mask and venture out.
The planned episode before the epidemic, has taken on a new echo. “Freedom Village, itself, represents us now,” said MMC curator Juven Park, who hosted the show. “We are completely different – physically, because we wear masks every day, but also mentally.”
Decades-old photos from Taesung that artists have subtly altered, preserved people’s identities, hung near videos, and Ms. Park said many of the young people who visited were “confused as to whether the village was real or not.” Her 70-year feud is the result of the Korean War, but “stories like this are everywhere in the world,” she said, resembling Kabul, Hong Kong and Taiwan, all with full borders or blocked movements.
The Freedom Village video will be in Kanazawa with the duo’s first film, “El Finn del Mundo (2012),” which also uses a dual structure that extends over time. On one screen, a man in Rundown Studios is working on a ramshackle sculpture; In the second, a woman in a wickedly commercialized future visits a room, studies its contents – now artifacts – and gains access.
It is “a philosophical-social Korean reflection on the future – or the present as the past as the past,” said Caroline Cristov-Bakargev, director of the Castello de Rivoli Art Museum in Turin, Italy, who invited her to attend. Her 2012 edition, The Important Document Exhibition in Kassel, Germany.
This part can be taken as a metaphor for their enduring faith in the construction of experimental art. Mr. Gio said they aim to ask, “What does contemporary art mean?” They show that it can be a platform for uniting different creative forces.
Ms. at the 2013 Chicago Show. Chandra and Shri. Zion, Dutch architecture firm MVRDV offered a rendering of the livable, biodegradable “bubble” in response to the artists’ dystopic view. For the 2015 Zurich show, the two worked with Swiss design group Urban-Think Tank to design a “mobile agora”, a movable meeting place for discussions between people in various fields.
Because of the epidemic, “his philosophy as an artist is needed to rethink the social role of art,” Koichi Nakata, senior curator of the Kanazawa Museum, said in an email.
His focus on such key issues is in his first meeting on the plane for a biennial in 2007, to showcase his work. Intense discussions eventually led to their involvement, although they both continue to do solo work. “We talked a lot about how to survive in the art market as an artist,” she said. Chandra said.
To survive as artists today – to make their ambitious films – is to attract funding from sources such as museums, foundations and businesses. “You can’t imagine how many representations we make to corporations,” Mr. Geo said.
Oh Jung-van, a veteran of the Korean film industry, serves as his producer, and major galleries in Seoul and Tokyo sell his works, including his videos, in limited editions. However, it is not always an easy process.
“We are dreamers,” said Mr. Geo insisted at one point. “We are dreamers.” There was a slight pause and Ms. Chandra let out a satisfied laugh.