The Silent Activism

Lee Ungno Museum, Seo-gu Daejeon / South Korea

December 13, 2013

3 December 2013–9 February 2014 

Lee Ungno and the Sanho Inn, Café Vidol, The Monthly
Tomato, and the Daejeon Art Cinema

Lee Ungno Museum
#157 Dunsandaero
Seogu, Daejeon 302-834
South Korea
Hours: Tuesday–Sunday 10am–6pm,
Thursday 10am–9pm 

T + 82 (0) 42 611 9821 
F + 82 (0) 42 611 9819                                                 

The Silent Activism exhibition is a reflection of the twenty-first century aesthetic trend known as “genre broadening” and spotlights four cultural spaces in the Daejeon area—The Sanho Inn, Café Vidol, The Monthly Tomato, and the Daejeon Art Cinema—that are each engaging in their own unique variety of experimental cultural activities. This exhibition shows the relationship between the quiet yet daring spirit of cultural experimentation of these four cultural spaces and the existentialist art of Lee Ungno, who constantly tried to connect with reality regardless of the genre or medium. 

The Sanho Inn, Café Vidol, The Monthly Tomato, and the Daejeon Art Cinema are creative organizations that are creating new culture through various artistic and experimental cultural activities, and operate art spaces that are easily accessible to the public. The artists featured in this exhibition are themselves the principle agents of cultural creativity. Their attitude toward culture, as well as their unconventional activities, is currently the focus of much discussion and interest. 

The Sanho Inn is not merely a place to sleep but a guesthouse that is a salute to culture and the arts. While it is of course faithful to its primary purpose as a guesthouse for travelers, the inn is also an incredibly unique and dynamic multipurpose cultural space that hosts exhibitions and performances and offers residencies to artists. The Sanho Inn exhibition space was created under the theme “Shall We Sleep?” and is a recreation of the inn. It contains a few bunk beds and an actual recreation of one of the guest rooms. The “room” is itself an exhibit, and serves not only as a visual subject but as a “real” space in which people could actually stay. By incorporating the inn’s “room” with the museum space, this exhibit attempts to show the act of “sleeping” (living and breathing in the same space) as shared by people with other people, by people with the museum space, and by people with art. 

The name Café Vidol comes from a Korean compound word that means “roll a stone after the rain stops.” Like the Café Voltaire of Dadaism, an anti-art movement that began in Europe in the early twentieth century, it is a café and bar as well as a space where artists can freely hold exhibitions, performances, debates, and other types of artistic activities. The Café Vidol exhibition space was designed with the theme “Vidol’s Story,” and a unique structure has been built using empty cans and other materials from the café that show the unique colors of Café Vidol. Hanging from the ceiling is a paper mobile that was inspired by the motif of Lee Ungno’s “People.” Café Vidol also endeavors to communicate with museum visitors in a number of different ways, such as through a sound track of a one-day recording of the vicinity of the café and the Daeheung neighborhood as well as performances and other visual sights. 

The Monthly Tomato is a local culture magazine space that uses the medium of print to realize the “everydayness of culture” through space, people, and the production and perpetuation of cultural content. Designed under the theme “Look different,” the Monthly Tomato exhibit shows visitors the world as seen from a tomato’s perspective. The display of a study filled with paper and typeset shows a way of viewing the world that focuses on analogue emotions rather than a consumption-based emotional flow. By doing so, it manages to convey a new and unique way of looking at the world. 

The Daejeon Art Cinema, the region’s only art film theater, is a multipurpose cultural space that also provides video education and humanities lectures. The “motion picture,” which is also a literal translation of the Korean word for “movie,” first entered the country in 1903. The Korean word for “movie” puts an emphasis on the movie’s photographic characteristic or, in other words, the movie’s “materiality.” It was an honest expression of the fact that movies were actually a series of “moving pictures” made to look continuous, but the increasing realism of movies in the modern era has resulted in many people surrendering themselves to the images and sounds on the screen—forgetting the basic principles that made all of this possible in the first place. Under the theme “Back to the movie, the real movie,” the Daejeon Art Cinema exhibit reconnects with the forgotten “materiality” of the movie. This leads visitors to think about the essence of the movie and aims to provide an opportunity for people to view the movie from a new perspective and broaden their concept of it. 

This exhibition, which began from a question about the cultural identity of Daejeon, spotlights local cultural groups that are quietly beginning to emerge on the local scene. Through a variety of cultural activities, it attempts to reach out to the general public and find common ground between the efforts of those who make up the core pillar of local culture and the existential artistic spirit pursued by the late Lee Ungno. 

As a social and cultural institution that represents Daejeon, the Lee Ungno Museum intends to take a leading role in expanding the boundaries of local culture by overcoming the stereotype that museums are “unapproachable.” It hopes to accomplish this through a variety of exhibition formats and by finding a variety of ways to communicate with local cultural groups.