The Korea Times/ Lifestyle
Park Han-sol

Artists interpret light as means of personal meditation and communal message

For the longest time, natural light has been essential for humankind as a source of illumination and visual representation. But ever since it became possible to manually produce light, the glowing rays and beams became imbued with philosophical and sociopolitical meaning, serving as a vital tool for artists to convey their thoughts and messages.

The Suwon Museum of Art (SUMA)'s exhibition "Turn Your Lights On" features works of 10 international contemporary artists at Art Space Gwanggyo in the Suwon Convention Center. The show, which opened Sep. 22 is set to close Dec. 27.

Through a total of 20 installation arts and digital works displayed across three different sections, artists present their own interpretations and definitions of light, a powerful tool for personal meditation and communal message.

The exhibition begins by exploring light within the context of its relationship with space and time. Park Yeo-joo presents a peculiar pathway by filling a series of rooms with red and green lights in "Red and Green Tunnel" (2020). Her work produces a strange optical illusion, where a sense of depth created by the corridor-like structure contradicts with the seemingly flattened space resulting from the juxtaposition of two complementary colors.

Beyond the visible realm, light can also serve as a medium of personal thought and subjective reality. "An Olfactory Map of Sydney" (2017), produced by Singaporean artist Dawn-joy Leong, is a video monologue that follows a woman with autism on the bustling streets and on a high-speed bus ride across Sydney.

Shot and edited from the perspective of a character with heightened sensory perception, viewers can vicariously experience the cacophonic mixture of bright and blurred lights, smells and sounds that can overwhelm those with more severe levels of autism.

In the third section, rays of light amid the darkness emerge as a carrier of communal yearnings, delivering subtle political messages and exposing layers of social reality.

Filipino-Dutch artist Martha Atienza examines the interaction between the environment and human intervention in her installation art "Equation of State I [SUMA ver.]" (2020). In a dimly lit room, a single mangrove tree under the spotlight is suspended in mid-air over a rectangular tank of water. With each of the tree's movement mechanically manipulated, the shadow of the water droplets dripping from its stalk on the wall symbolizes the harmful ripple effects the human interference can have on the coastline's natural habitat.

In "30,000 Stars ― Jeju 4.3," Jung Jung-yeob illustrates the government-backed anti-communist military campaign that took place on Jeju Island between 1947 and 1954. Thousands of small red dots on a series of white canvases arranged together represent the lives of the 30,000 people ― nearly 10 percent of the island's population at the time ― lost in the massacre. One distinctive black canvas reminiscent of the starry night sky depicts in memory of the 3,806 victims whose bodies are yet to be found.

Patrons can also remotely appreciate the artworks via the museum's official website in the form of virtual reality (VR).

However, because the exhibition incorporates unique tactile and auditory features into its display ― from Leong's "Clement Space @ Suwon" that physically welcomes visitors into an immersive, serene sensory wonderland to Yung-Ta Chang's "Without Composing" series that utilizes 120 Geiger counters to acoustically represent the invisible yet ever-present radiation ― in-person visits will provide a much richer experience, albeit now difficult to realize amidst the worsening pandemic.