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Hello Korea #4: 4th Int'l Media Art Biennale Seoul 2006

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Han-Su Lee

Leandro Erlich

Matilde Ter Heijen

It REALLY feels dated to critique anything that contains the word Media Art nowadays. There is absolutely no reason that one can continue the ever-lasting debate on the step-daughter Media Art and why she - arguably- is yet not emancipated enough to be fully adopted into the rest of the family of all "new" Fine Arts disciplines. However, it is a boomerang question that has traveled from the West to the East. Media Art Biennials and fairs are mushrooming - and here in Seoul strongly present. ...

As for this biennale, entitled "Dual Realities", there would be a lot to criticize along the notion of media art - and in particular its presentation. But for the given reason I decided not to.Paradoxically, I am somewhat relived that these all-Media Art exhibitions still exist. And even if it's ultimate purpose is the continue drilling the last-century museums and its staff how to follow a 15 step guide in how to turn on (and off) an installation involving electricity and boxes with many buttons.

Walking through three floors stuffed with media art, I made a very interesting observation that reminded me of a similar impact I had during Documenta 11. Again I was heavily overdosing on video installations - and such that imagine to be installation. (projected single channel video with no spatial layout or context, whatsoever) This overdose had an miraculous after-effect on the perception of sculptural pieces which neither involve video or any digital media. They appear unusually refreshing. So an installation by Argentinean artist Leandro Erlich: Walking up the open staircase of the Seoul museum of Art, one approaches a good old trick mirror (an entire room -in fact, a glass and mirror workshop- build twice with "mirrored" furniture and objects, that Erlich entitled "Ecléctica -Vidrios and Mirrors".
Among some impressive Korean work a real discovery was Han-Su Lee an artists that has previously shot laser beams thru Buddha sculptures. He presented a video tableau of ornaments that were kaleidoscopic quadrupled human tattoos, evoking a sort of psychedelic Rorschach and what looked like a bright red Burmesian Buddha head with gun shot holes (revealing slow pulsating white light) This mysterious sculpture situated on a pedestal about 6 feet in front of the video screen, suggesting interactive miracles when approaching or touching. But no, to my biggest relief, there was no such thing.

Also a pleasure to see a double clone of Matilde Ter Heijen in form of her hyper-realistic life-size sculptures. Even in Seoul non-Asian faces are still somewhat exotic, so Ter Heijen's sculpture, that offer the typical Duane Hanson museum-effect, seem to radiate a very special aura - and how much fun it was to sit motionless next to them, awaiting museum visitors.

Good to see Norman Klein's LA project here. It looked a little misplaced in a obligatory ghettoized, interactive art section, equally pleasing to revisit Lynn Hershman's Synthia (but wait, that one wasn't working!) and finally Pipilotti Rist's Algäu-trip projection, leaving a familiar smell of mountain air.

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