SEO Hyunsuk
Born in Seoul , S. Korea
Lives and works in Seoul , S. Korea
Exhibition review

Undermining our expectation that an art critic focus his attention on his alleged subject-matter - the art and its creators, Seo Hyunsuk questions the very nature of the relationship between the critical eye and the critically eyed, the observer and observed. He does so by "concealing" his critical commentary as concise footnotes to an independent narrative, in which he ponders the role of the 'Hidden' in the production of meaning.

In the narrative part, Hyunsuk presents readers with two anecdotes that focus on displacement created by a rift in perception. The first concerns a perceptual disassociation / displacement: a woman looks at the reflection of her foot in a coffee shop window, and imagines it to be a squirrel out on the street. The second is an instance of cultural disassociation / displacement: a site in Seoul which has folkloristic significance for local residents - lovers strolling there are said to part ways - is used as the setting of a TV scene ostensibly taking place in Prague .

Both stories are triggered off by an external intrusion into the ‘normal' flow of things, and that intrusion is dealt with by opposing concealment strategies. In the first story, the viewer-teller - who has become aware that the fleeting image of the squirrel was in fact illusory - consciously perpetuates her vision, maintaining a gratifying state of suspended disbelief. (A similar motivation - and outcome - are evident in Hyunsuk's embedding of captions regarding the artists into his main text: these "cracks" in the main narrative feed it with images and ideas, snippets of memory that linger and inform the reading.) In the second story, however, the identity of the Overt - the familiar site - is willfully obscured in a way that denies viewers access to its traditional significance.

In this presentation of contrasting responses to 'cracks in the system', Hyunsuk may be seen as reflecting upon the larger cultural and social phenomena of Korea 's mixed response to globalization and its effects. While Korean culture, particularly among the young, is deeply influenced by imported trends, a prevalent conservative strategy of dealing with such influences has been denying both their novelty and their foreignness by means of swift incorporation into local modes and tradition. The same forces that created the cracks in the system fall, as it were, into those cracks, and existing traditions congeal around them and conceal their origin. (This is perhaps most evident in language: even as English words are entering Korean on a massive scale, they are being rapidly absorbed into both Hangul - the native Korean alphabet - and speech.) Hyunsuk seems to be alluding to the dangers of habitual concealment - and to the significance of retaining some trace or memory of that which has been hidden.