brilliant 30: Byungjic Min
Curating the Unforeseen Happenstances
Byungjic Min, Curator Living the Life of Art
Curator Byungjic Min asserts that exhibitions have transformed along with the changing times. For Min, exhibitions in the past focused on enlightening and educating the public. However, today’s curatorial practices rethink the very essence of exhibiting, with opportunities to develop flexible tools for disseminating content through multiple channels, opening it up to diverse audiences and interpretations. There is simplicity in what seems to be a rather convoluted response. Min claims that contemporary art is fun because of its complex nature, and requests that the public make an effort to observe and discover common ground. His answer does not connote much sympathy; but his words are definitely provocative and interesting.
Since graduating from college, Min has pursued his curatorial career in 15 different jobs. Unlike most curators who take the standard career path, Byungjic Min began at a public institute and ended up at a private, ‘alternative’ art space.
In general, his choice may be difficult to imagine, but his answer is straightforward: ‘Because this is more fun.’ The avant-garde, challenging aspects of art appeal to him greatly, and he explains that the basis of this appeal is the reason he continues to curate shows and pursue an artistic lifestyle.
It may not be easy to relate to Min’s integral approach to curatorial practice and life. However, one thing is clear: Byungjic Min is a curator and an artist engaged in an endless search for a new genre of outrageous exhibitions that celebrate the spirit and zest of life.
Q. Could you briefly introduce yourself?
A. I have been a curator in various artistic fields since 2000. I previously worked at Artsonje Center in Seoul, at Ilmin Museum of Art and Daelim Museum. In 2006, I was involved in Seoul Photo Festival as the guest curator. In 2007, there was a public art project initiated by Seoul Metropolis known as the City Gallery Project; I worked as the chief curator for 3 years. I spent the next few years of my career at Pohang Museum of Steel Art as a certified curator. I returned to Seoul two years ago and began working at Culture Station Seoul 284 for about two years. Currently, I am the vice director at alternative space Loop.
Q. You’ve had quite a colorful career. Could you share with us one of the most memorable exhibitions that you have curated so far?
A. If I had to choose one memorable show, it would be Choi Jeong Hwa’s Natural Color, Multiple Flower Show held at Culture Station Seoul 284. Although it wasn’t an easy show to curate, I felt an immense amount of achievement. Most of all, the show received a lot of attention and love from the public.
The ability to accept and enjoy unforeseen variables, and to share these with the public, has become a key factor and trend in the curation of contemporary exhibitions. Communication is not a one-way activity. Rather, it is the willingness to be open to various possibilities and the ability to revel in unexpected happenstance. I believe this is the most sensible way to approach contemporary exhibitions. -Byungjic Min-
Q. Your answer summons quite a bit of curiosity regarding the show. Could you elaborate on the curatorial intentions and exhibition structure?
A. Choi Jeong Hwa is a globally renowned artist, but his recognition was not the main factor motivating the show. Culture Stations Seoul 284 was formerly known as Seoul Station. The unique structure of the building and its incredible space was suitable for this exhibition. The station was first constructed in 1925, and reopened more recently to serve as today’s multicultural space. The environment around it is full of odds and ends. It is a chaotic, disparate area filled with drifting people, pigeons, street protests and demonstrations. Clearing the environment seemed to demand a great deal of work and effort, so I thought ‘What are some ways to magnify and celebrate this chaos and disparity?’ and connected this thought with the contemporary elements of the artist’s work. Choi’s work embodies artistic elements that appeal to the public, particularly with his Asian subjects and aesthetic. Hence, the energetic spirit behind Natural Color, Multiple Flower Show developed out of this context.
Q. In recent years, works of art and the role of a curator seem to have evolved amid changing times. What is the primary responsibility of a curator today?
A. Exhibitions have played a crucial role in reconstructing the history of art. New perceived patterns and trends have changed the way we curate exhibitions. In the past, exhibitions were enlightening and educational for the public. However, now contemporary exhibitions are a collection of contingencies. This is because, whatever intention the curator originally had planned for a particular exhibition, viewers end up interpreting what they see in a way that makes most sense to them. The act of providing context and an explanation of a show is no longer critical or relevant. In fact, it appears forced and unnatural. The ability to accept and enjoy unforeseen variables, and to share these with the public, has become a key factor and trend in the curation of contemporary exhibitions. Communication is not a one-way activity. Rather, it is the willingness to be open to various possibilities and the ability to revel in unexpected happenstance. I believe this is the most sensible way to approach contemporary exhibitions.
Q. To this day, the general public finds contemporary art difficult to approach and comprehend. Could you give us some advice on the methods or strategies that viewers can employ in order to approach art in a more fun and easy way?
A. I see it this way: Contemporary art is fun because it is difficult to understand. I think the whole process of trying to enjoy the unknown is ultimately what endows contemporary art with its reputation and identity. Despite these frustrations, there is a need for more attempts to find means of communication and to establish common ground with the public. However, the basis of contemporary art does not come from populism. Where is the fun in knowing everything from the beginning? I think the visual training and reflections will gradually build up to establish links between art and the public.
Q. What makes your art brilliant?
A. To answer this question, I will have to explain why I love art. The avant-garde, quirky features of contemporary art are enchanting. The more I learn, the less I seem to know – this is what makes art so delightful; I consider myself to have some of these qualities as well. Perhaps this explains why I love art, why I wish to live art, why I wish to create art; and perhaps this is reason enough.
Choi Jeong Hwa: Natural Color, Multiple Flower Show. 2014.09.04 – 10.09. Culture Station Seoul 284. Installation view.
Subculture Express-New Discovery of Leisure. 2013.03.23 – 04.14. Culture Station Seoul 284. Ballet performance.
Subculture Express-New Discovery of Leisure. 2013.03.23 – 04.14. Culture Station Seoul 284. Open stage acoustic trio performance.
Purpose of Living-Between Space. 2011.04.04 – 06.12. Pohang Museum of Steel Art. Installation view.
Purpose of Living. 2011.04.04 – 06.12. Pohang Museum of Steel Art. Installation view.
Plastic Days. 2012.03.10 – 05.20. Pohang Museum of Steel Art. Installation view.
Fashion Photography B_b Cuts. 2004.10.23 – 2005.01.16. Daelim Contemporary Art Museum. Installation view.
Tomorrow 2014. 2014.10.09 – 11.30. Dongdaemun Design Plaza, Design Museum. Installation view.
Byungjic Min Kim earned his BA in Philosophy at Korea University, Seoul, Korea, and acquired his MFA in Aethesticism in Hongik University. He was an Assistant Curator at Artsonje Center and Ilmin Museum of Art in Seoul. He was a certified curator for Daelim Museum, and chief curator for <Seoul City Gallery Project 2007>. He has curated numerous shows including <Tomorrow 2015>(Dongdaemun Design Plaza, Seoul, Korea, 2015) and <Subculture Express> (Culture Station Seoul 284, Seoul, Korea, 2013), < Natural Color, Multiple Flower Show>(Culture Station Seoul 284, Seoul, Korea, 2014) to name a few. Byungjic Min is currently vice director at alternative space Loop, Seoul, Korea.