Text by Sadaf Shaikh
Even as art galleries in most parts of the world continue to remain shuttered due to the lockdown, a few countries are beginning to ease their restrictions, causing patrons to return to the meditative space provided by museums. One such country is South Korea, currently home to Gucci’s new exhibition titled No Space, Just A Place at the Daelim Museum in Seoul. The project is inspired by creative director Alessandro Michele’s reflections on eterotopia — a concept used to describe certain discursive spaces that are somehow ‘other’: disturbing, incompatible, contradictory or transformative — and proposes a new definition of what this ‘other space’ might be.
A total of ten independent art spaces — Audio Visual Pavilion, Boan1942, d/p, Hapjungjigu, OF, Post Territory Ujeongguk, space illi, Space One, Tastehouse, and White Noise — have been invited to display their wares across three floors at the museum. These venues challenge the neutrality of the commercial gallery’s ‘white box’ by promoting work that is often politically charged, experimental, and more concerned with artistic debates than commercial viability. Together with Paris-based Tunisian curator Myriam Ben Salah, each of these galleries has conceptualised its own exhibitions, which also includes the work of one or several artists that the participants represent or support.
Exploring the concept of an alternative space, this exhibition becomes more relevant and relatable in a time when we’re leaving behind the world, as we knew it, and walking into one dictated by the ever-changing rules of the pandemic. Post Territory Ujeongguk displays Lunar Real Estate by artist Kang Woohyeok, where he projects the possibility of owning land — a crucial need in Seoul and its immediate region — onto the moon. Hapjungjigu presents the work of painter Jun Hyerim who unpacks the notion of Arcadia, with its interestingly ambivalent meaning in Korean, standing both for the ‘ideal land’ and the ‘impossible to realise’. d/p focuses on a space that is impossible to separate oneself from: the body, an eternal site from which we can never escape. Through the documentation of choreographer Yunjung Lee’s performance Tongue Gymnastics, d/p focuses on the movement of the body, the tongue in particular, addressing it as an environment for sensations and connections.
In order to fuel the debate on ‘otherness’, Myriam Ben Salah also invited a selection of local and international artists to exhibit their works — immersive installations inspired by the near future or fantastical mythologies. Meriem Bennani’s video installation follows the imaginary inhabitants of CAPS, an island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean where refugees and immigrants “illegally” traversing borders are detained. Olivia Erlanger’s Ida, Ida, Ida! transforms the museum into a laundromat, a place that is almost a non-location, dedicated to waiting and passing time. The Laundromat is inhabited by mermaid tails, bringing up queries of gender and agency — questioning the premise about Disney’s Ariel giving up her voice in order to have legs. Emerging from the doors of three washing machines, the installation makes viewers wonder whether the mermaids are pushing themselves out of their environment or diving back in.
For those unable to visit Seoul and view the exhibition in person, Gucci is allowing people to explore the exhibition via an interactive 360-degree film which can be viewed here. You can also familiarise yourself with the making of the exhibition via the film below.