|Kang Da-hye performs in "The Journey of Eternity" at the SeMA Bunker, an underground tunnel presumed to be built during the military regime in the 1970s and now turned into an art museum. Courtesy of the Great Commission|
By Kwon Mee-yoo
A secret underground bunker on Yeouido, Seoul's well-known financial and political district, sounds unlikely, but there is one underneath the bustling Yeouido Transfer Center.
The SeMA (Seoul Museum of Art) Bunker is an underground tunnel presumed to be built during the military regime in the 1970s. It is estimated to have been constructed between 1976 and 1977 as a secret space to guard then-President Park Chung-hee in the event of security incidents, but no documentation related to the bunker exists.
The forgotten bunker was rediscovered in 2005 as preparations were made for the construction of the bus station and it was later designated as a Seoul Future Heritage site in 2013. The city decided to use the space as an art museum and the SeMA Bunker opened in October 2017 with minimum renovation to keep the place as close to the original as possible.
The venue has been offering mainly experimental art exhibitions, taking audiences to the front line of contemporary art.
"The Journey of Eternity," a new exhibition at the space, explores the concept of time and eternity. Considering the historic context of the venue, independent curator Zoe Chun of the Great Commission organized the exhibit as "space of formative imagination," which combines visual art, performance and music.
To maximize the underground experience, visitors are asked to walk down the stairs, instead of the bunker's main elevator entrance.
|Kim Han-saem presents 'Whirlpool I & II' and 'Wave I~IV' at "The Journey of Eternity" at the SeMA Bunker. Courtesy of the Great Commission|
The exhibit consists of four parts ― "Frame City ― The Structure of Time," "Fluid Clock ― The Flow of Time," "Flat Staircase ― The Union and Relationship of Time" and "Flora Rail ― The Retrospect of Time." Instead of constructing walls to divide the space, Chun used window blinds to separate the sub spaces more fluidly.
Bae Jun-hyun's wallpaper installations "Discoverer," "Explorer" and "Finder" seem utopian at first glance, but they are created from photographic images of disasters and though each element is real, the whole landscape is imaginary.
Song Min-gyu's works "How Six People Look at the Moon" and "Unfolded Moon" showcases the artist's interpretation of the orbit of the moon and time.
Shon Kyung-hwa's film "Every Second in Between" portrays the psychological and temporal map of gentrification of a refugee district in London.
Kim Han-saem's "Whirlpool I & II" and "Wave I~IV" captures an adventurous epic of the eternality of time on the wall and the floor, resembling flowing water.
German artist Nicolas Pelzer, who took part in SeMA's Nanji Residency program in 2019, presents "Soul Always Return to Itself," a two-channel video installation facing each other.
Lee Dong-geun's "Frankie's Lover" is a reconstruction of existing paintings and presents the notion of time by reshaping them.
|Lee Dong-geun presents 'Frankie's Lover' at "The Journey of Eternity" at the SeMA Bunker. Courtesy of the Great Commission|
"The time and history this space has is important for this exhibit. We wanted the visitors to experience the layers of history and locality in Yeouido and leave thinking about the significance of time," Chun said.
Four performers complete the exhibit with live performances. The performers choreographed each of their abstract characters in collaboration with curator Chun.
Kang Da-hye, a dancer of West African dances, employs improvisations to represent the flow of time in fluid and soulful movements.
Lee Gwan-mok portrays a character symbolizing the reflection of time that processes temporality.
Kim Han plays an existence about the connection of time, through which he reflects reality in an imaginary environment of the performance.
Jo Yu-ra symbolizes the structure of time as the existence of "self" and throws up questions on life.
"Though an abstract approach of pluralistic art that has often come across as too difficult to comprehend, The Journey of Eternity seeks to facilitate a bond of empathy with the audience," Chun said.
Unfortunately, the venue, under the management of the Seoul Metropolitan Government, has been closed indefinitely since May 29 to prevent the spread of the COVID-19.
|"The Journey of Eternity ― Forest" is performed at Seoul Forest, Saturday. Courtesy of the Great Commission|
To overcome the closure of the space, the team ventured out to the Seoul Forest for an outdoor performance last weekend.
The forest edition, which was held at the Maidenhair Tree Street of the Seoul Forest around the time of sunset, provided a serene and mystic experience featuring abstract music, bodily movement and multimedia.
The main exhibition and performance will be live-streamed through SeMA's social media channels on Tuesday at 7 p.m. The physical venue will open as soon as possible in accordance with regulations around the COVID-19 situation.