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PODO Museum's diaspora exhibition drawing visitors of foreign nationalities

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Visitors look at
Visitors look at "Woven Chronicle" (2015) by Reena Kallat in "Yet, With Love" exhibition at PODO Museum on Jeju Island, Aug. 10. Courtesy of PODO Museum

New museum in Jeju seeks to discuss social topics through art

By Kim Rahn

A local exhibition is drawing increased attention despite the museum being only 16 months old and not being located anywhere near the capital area, especially among foreign nationals, due to its diaspora theme.

"Yet, With Love," the exhibition at PODO Museum, has attracted more than 15,000 visitors since its opening on July 5. This number is large considering that the museum is located on Jeju Island, a resort island that is an hour's flight away from Seoul where most galleries and museums are located.

What appealed to foreign nationals, according to the museum, might be the theme of the exhibition, "Diaspora and All Minority of the World."

"The theme focuses on people who are living new lives away from their geographical and emotional hometowns. We pick up the theme to stress the importance of embracing cultural diversity, which comes as a consequence of diaspora," a museum official said.

"We are seeing a lot of foreign national visitors, mostly Jeju residents who have come here for study or work. The works of participating artists and the thematic spaces created by the museum have been effectively combined to highlight the theme," the official said.

A mother and child look at
A mother and child look at "Departure Board," an installation showing the messages left by people forced to leave their hometowns, in "Yet, With Love" exhibition at PODO Museum on Jeju Island. The child listens to an audio guide made for young museumgoers. Courtesy of PODO Museum

On display are paintings, sculptures, installations and media art on the theme of diaspora by seven artists ― Ugo Rondinone, Yoko Ono, Jung Yeon-doo, Kang Dong-ju, Lee Bei-kyoung, Reena Kallat, and Alfredo & Isabel Aquilizan.

Besides the artists' works are five thematic spaces which the museum created to help visitors better understand the theme. One of them shows an installation titled "Departure Board," which displays the comments by people who were forced to leave their hometowns behind, while another one, "American Dream 620," shows a queue of rubber ducks that symbolizes Mexicans heading to the U.S. beyond the border.

Urge Muluken Kebede, an Ethiopian studying at Cheju Halla University's Language Center, said he was impressed with Kallat's "Woven Chronicle," which depicts the traces of the flow of migrant workers with colorful and woven wires on a map of the world.

"The work shows my and other international students' homelands and it felt like the entire world is being connected," said Kebede, who was among 50 international students of the school who visited the museum on Aug. 10.

Gumpina Sandhya Rani from India said she liked "Shall We Walk," one of the thematic spaces that shows people of different ages and ethnicities moving behind a large curtain. "The diaspora of people of various races and ages is shown in an artistic way, and I, an alien from India, felt a sense of belonging."

Viewers pose in front of Yoko Ono's
Viewers pose in front of Yoko Ono's "Add Color (Refugee Boat)" (1960/2022), which was completed by visitors' adding painted messages, during "Yet, With Love" exhibition at PODO Museum on Jeju Island, Aug. 10. Courtesy of PODO Museum

Such positive responses have propelled overseas galleries and foreign embassies here to promote the PODO Museum and the exhibition: The Swiss Embassy in Korea posted the exhibition and the works by Swiss-born artist Rondinone on its Instagram; and Galerie Eva Presenhuber, which runs galleries in Zurich, New York and Vienna, also wrote on its Instagram, "Through five thematic spaces and the works of seven internationally renowned artists … the PODO Museum would like to propose a broader perspective on the world where polyphonic beings live together."

"Yet, With Love," which started on July 5 for a one-year run, is PODO Museum's second exhibition, following the first and inaugural one, "The World We Made," from April 2021 to March 2022. As the respective themes ― diaspora and hate ― show, the museum, run by SK Group, seeks to provide visitors with opportunities to discuss social topics through art and create new values, it said.

In this respect, PODO, only about a year after its establishment, was picked as one of notable museums outside Seoul by Frieze Seoul, an international fair launched by Frieze Art Fair, set for Sept. 2-5 in the capital city.

"Long Last Happy" by Ugo Rondinone is installed on the top of PODO Museum on Jeju Island as part of "Yet, With Love" exhibition. Courtesy of PODO Museum

The PODO Museum also offers tailored audio guides for diverse visitors. They are offered in four languages ― Korean, English, Chinese and Japanese ― and a version for visually impaired people. There are two versions of the Korean and English audio guides, one for adults and another for children.

"Through the 'Yet, With Love' exhibition, I hope visitors empathize with the difficulties facing minorities and seek the true meaning of coexistence and tolerance," Chloe Heeyoung Kim, the executive director of the museum, said. "Anybody can become a minority and a stranger. I hope the boundary lines between people or groups can become thinner and love can instead fill the lines."

"Yet, With Love" runs through July 3, 2023.

Kim Rahn

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