What is a forest to humans? Seoul Botanical Park’s special exhibition, ‘Beneath the Forest’, was designed to observe and experience the meaning of space and time in a forest. The exhibition consists of 21 works by five Korean artists (Kim Mikyung, Nam Hwayeon, Park Hyunggeun, Lee Saesam, and Pa Rang), two videos by the Colombian documentary artists (Claire Weiskopf and Patricia Ayala), and a miniature donated by The Embassy of Colombia in Korea. It is a collection of works that explores various perspectives of the forest, such as the forest as an object of mystery and awe, the forest viewed as a resource and object of conquest, and the forest as a universe in which life is born and becomes extinct.
The show is presented across two sites; the Horticulture Center located in the Seoul Botanic Park and the Magok Exhibition Center. The newly constructed modern Horticulture Center contrasts with the Magok Exhibition Center, which is a renovation of the old drainage pumping station built during the Japanese colonial period. They offer different experiences to the visitor. The photographic works of two artists, Kim Mikyung and Park Hyunggeun, displayed in the spaces, go some way to revealing this difference as it is. Their works, which capture the solace and mystery of the forest, are amplified in the dark space of the Magok Exhibition Center. On the other hand, it is regrettable that the works displayed in the Horticulture Center are hindered by the various gazes towards the pieces displayed in the gallery. It does not allow us to focus on the artworks properly. The refined space of the Seoul Botanic Park created in a neatly organised new town continues the theme of the show. It keeps questioning the relationship between nature and people, the city and forest. As pointed out in Hwayeon Nam’s video works Ghost orchid (2015) and The Botany of Desire (2015), does it become possible find a way into the forest while completely eliminating the human selfishness and desire that so often reshapes it? The exhibition is on show until Mar. 14.
by Bang Yukyung
Exhibition view of ‘Beneath the Forest’ ⓒBang Yukyung