MOON Kyungwon & JEON Joonho
Korean artists MOON Kyungwon & JEON Joonho address fundamental questions concerning contemporary civilisation in regards to political, socio-economic and ecological changes. The duo’s extensive body of work, News from Nowhere, which was first presented at dOCUMENTA(13) in 2012, is premised on a post-apocalyptic scenario: humanity has been wiped out almost entirely and the survivors must envision and reassess the basic terms of human exitence. Often working with experts from other fields, Moon & JEON investigate different possibilities and forms of community, social relations, and morality, as well as the function of art within these fields.
For there new project, started this year, the artists turn their attention to Taesung, the so-called Freedom Village in the highly secluded, demilitarised zone between North and South Korea. This strip of land was introduced in 1953 after the extremely brutal korean War, in which over three million people lost their lives. MOON & JEON’s Frieze Project will present a part of this new work, which is based on their artistc research into the village’s small farming community.
Raphael Gygax: For your long-term projects, you often collaborate with different experts-architects, fashion designers, city planners and scholars. Though you both still work as individual artists, you have been working together for several years now, and it seems that this desire for all different kinds of collaboration is something essential. Can you rell me more about your artistic approach?
MOON Kyungwong & JEON Joonho:
We were attempting to examine the social role and function of art, and the positive effect of art. We wanted to observe such a possibility by producing practical outcomes(whether they are called ‘works of art’ or not), which go beyond the discussion with thoese who work in the field of art other than the visual arts, like architects, designers and fashion designers. This point was clear when we initiated the project. However, we realised the necessity of art in relation to society, the universal yearing for the notion of beauty and for the investifation of such notion. For this reason, we embarked on an interview project where we met diverse people from various disciplines. the interview project was the necessary condition that emerged during the progression of the whole project. News From Nowhere, which started out in this way, had developed into a platform that brings together people posing questions and presenting alternetives to contemporary society by questioning ourselves at present. The project is still ongoing.
RG: You just began working on a new long-term project that takes the so-called Freedom Village as its subject. Can you tell us about your plans in regards to the Freedom Village?
M&J: The Freedom Village(which was formed as a result of the political issues and irrationalities of the Cold War era immediately following the Koean War) continues to exist in concealment, despite changes with time, within the demilitarised zone(DMZ) as both internal and external territory. Our project seeks to unfold the camouflaged thought, to reveal it through the exploration, tracig and imagining the village at Frieze London. This will not be exhibited in a direct or explicit manner, but rather, will be discovered by visitors in a secretive and careful way. As the Freedom Village exists regardless of the real world, the concealed thought will be metaphorically interpreted at the fair. We hope that the project willl present an opportunity for visitors to go beyond the cliched perception that the Village is a peculiar political situation in Korea, and discover and become aware of the irrationality and contradictions of our surrounding world, as well as reflect upon the communal life of humanity.
RG:The way human beings organise in communities is a central topic in your work. In News from Nowhere, you use a dystopian setup to discuss the future of humankind. With this new project, you also reflect on the traumatic history of Norht and South Korea, which is incredibly relevant right now. What was your motivation to change from a fictional test arrangement to reality?
M&J: Our work is rooted in our aim to understand the world and intervene in it in order to bring about change. As mentioned earlier, the primary focus in developing the project was the restoration of art-which is currently afflicted with deformity-and an investigation into the positive relationship between art and life. In this journey of investigation, the point of departure that we shared with many people was. ‘Let’s go back to the beginning!’ Though it is a rather stereo-typical point to start from it has been the point where we had to return to, in order to examine the status and role of art today. The Freedom Village project camouflages reality in an unrealistic manner by transforming the reality that is son unrealistic as to be believed as fiction into something that is even more fictional. Amidst such fiction and camouflaging, the audience is able to face the reality, and this penetrates the ironies and errors of the world surrounding us. For us, such a fictional device is like a cast and fertile land that comes across a new worldview by reminding us of reality, so we can face it.