Venice Biennale Report: Who is Alice?, Korean Art

Down a narrow Venetian alley and up a flight of winding stairs, the sinister dream-world of Lewis Carroll’s Alice takes on a life of its own. The exhibition Who is Alice? brings together works by a range of Korea’s most significant contemporary artists, of whom there is currently an abundance, both within and outside of Korea itself. So much so that this exhibition runs in addition to the country’s national pavilion in the Giardini. The works have been hand-picked from the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Seoul’s permanent collection, and features the work of 15 artists in total.

Reflecting the mysterious and timeless nature of the city in which it is being showcased, the exhibition is definitely well-situated, plunged into the heart of Venetian life, rather than in the more international vibes of the Arsenale.

The exhibition commences with a long corridor adorned with ornate swinging lights, U-Ram Choe’s Pendulum of Secret, a work that is both pleasing and disturbing at the same time, and marks the beginning of a journey into an ominous parallel world. One particularly striking room is filled with Haegue Yang’s Female Natives; a forest of six light-stands with a seemingly organic array of random objects sprouting from their structures. The room is dark apart from the eerie glow of the bulbs budding from these alien structures, which creates the impression that this space belongs to them and not us. Another feature of this room are the surreal photos of Myoung-Ho Lee, whose prints of trees draw the viewer’s attention in with their ostensibly but inexplicably freestanding cloth canvas frames.

Alice’s dream truly comes to life in Hong-Chun Park’s long exposure photos of an amusement park, which complemented by the incessant trill of U-Ram Choe’s Merry-Go-Round and the claustrophobic proportions of the room, creates a dizzying nightmare.

Although composed of a whole range of different artists’ works this exhibition works beautifully as a whole to bring a new slant to Carroll’s well-known and beloved fairy-tale.

Who is Alice? at the Venice Biennale, running until 24 November 2013, Tuesday – Sunday 10am – 6pm. Closed on Monday (with the exception of June 3 and November 18). Free admission.

Rhiannon McGregor

1. Haegue Yang, Female Narratives.