South Korea

States of the Arts



by Haegue Yang
Installation art, sculpture

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Giving solidity to shadows and form to bouncing rays, Haegue Yang’s Cittadella is a sculpture constructed from Venetian blinds. Rather than hugging a window in rigid horizontality, the slats are suspended centrally from the ceiling, their tiered arrangement redolent of scaffolding. Hanging half-unfurled, the blinds do not block out light, but instead sift and scatter it, as if to filter the surrounding atmosphere. Demolished and reconstructed several times, from Seoul to Austria, Cittadella has proven as prone to movement as the ever-shifting curves and wisps of light that it commands.

Words by Elizabeth Brown


directed by Park Chan-wook
Feature film

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Fifteen years after being drugged and imprisoned by an invisible captor, Oh Dae-Su is released without explanation. Unsure of the motive for his kidnapping, he sets about seeking justice, aided by a young sushi chef. The cinematography's erratic pacing lends the unfolding narrative a sustained menace. Details go unnoticed before being dragged mercilessly into the foreground, as if dark secrets pulled to the surface. Unease gives way to horror, within a twisted, violent revenge tragedy. In Oldboy, love is a means of torture, and suffering is an unavoidable fate.

Words by Elizabeth Brown

Drifting House

by Krys Lee
Short story collection

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The nine stories of Drifting House centre on national identity, and the muddying pressures of travel and migration. ‘A Temporary Marriage’ depicts a Korean diaspora in Los Angeles, beset by the memories of home that linger after relocation. The title tale sees three children traipse across North Korea, hoping to find food and a new life in China. The eldest brother feeds and bathes his siblings; he is the ‘drifting house’ that they depend upon. This sense of change pervades the entire collection. Home may be where the heart is, but it is harder to pinpoint if body and mind are in transit.

Words by John Wadsworth

Fxxk U

by Ga-In

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K-pop is often stereotyped as glossy bubblegum electronica, packaged with marketable love-story lyrics and a meticulously choreographed MV. But this is one mode of many, in a genre that encourages experimentation and sonic shapeshifting. Ga-In’s ‘Fxxk U’ is a case in point. Its restrained texture hinges on a basic beat, soulful backing harmonies, and a handful of major and minor seven chords, ‘played’ on a synthesised guitar. The bellow-like sounds that underlie the chorus’s expletives are suitably oppressive; the track’s text and video tackle the rarely aired issue of domestic rape.

Words by John Wadsworth

More to discover

Cittadella: Visit Haegue Yang's website here for information and essays about her artworks. Anna Dickie has interviewed the artist for Ocula, and Kyuhee Baik has written about her art for The Creators Project.

Oldboy: View the trailer here. Ryan Hollinger has analysed one fight sequence for Ryan's Theory. Lewis Criswell has made a video essay (with spoilers), 'Oldboy - Resurrecting the Greek Tragedy', for Channel Criswell.

Drifting House: Read the title story on the Granta Magazine website. Micah McCrary has interviewed Krys Lee for Bookslut, as has Natalie Baszile for The Rumpus. Bethan Morgan has written about the book for The Culture Trip.

Fxxk U: Watch the controversial music video here. 'Fxxk U' is included in Jakob Dorof's compilation of '20 Essential K-Pop Songs' for Pitchfork.

Question of the day

Which South Korean artworks would you recommend, and why? Let us know on Facebook, Patreon, or Twitter.

3-Iron, a film directed by Kim Ki-duk. An interesting, genre-bending film with a unique story and an interesting South Korean perspective. (→)

– Lusine, electronic musician (Sensorimotor, Joe OST) (via The Brief →)

Snowpiercer, a film directed by Bong Joon-ho. A critique of capitalism set on board a hurtling locomotive, its momentum maintained by a series of unsettling shifts in tone. (→)

– John Wadsworth, Silent Frame's Editor-in-Chief (via Patreon →)

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