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B Side
2008.9.3~10.12
DoArt Seoul

Looking back, I haven’t worked on many group exhibitions in the past. In general, I find solo shows more interesting since they allow for individual artistic worlds to be seen in depth. Rather than making group shows with sweeping pronouncements on current issues, I figured that enough solo shows would eventually accumulate and trace out my particular conception of contemporary art. But of course, the opportunity to organize a group show comes up every now and then. The idea of connecting different works together through some contrived issue or oft-revisited theme struck me as being rather boring, and this time around, I needed a concept that would allow me room to maneuver beyond dealing with “big issues,” but would nonetheless provide the grounds for a persuasive and fertile exhibition … …Several different ideas came up, and I eventually settled upon the title, “B Side.” Hailing from the era of LP’s, the B side is a necessity for the music world and has long remained useful to musicians. Distinguished clearly from the music collected on the A side, the music found on the B side has a distinctive character precisely because of its differentiation from the A side. For example, on the B side are instrumental and acoustic versions, remixes of A-side songs, tracks that don’t fit into the overall concept or style of the album, or unfinished songs, covers of other musicians, or songs that producers just don’t think will be commercially successful. While the “B Side” show takes into account this musical tradition, the B side that I have in mind has less to do with all these different types of music and more to do with the essential role it plays for musicians. In essence, the B side is a kind of formally acknowledged place where musicians are permitted free reign, away from commercial stresses or the demands for producing a popular hit. Commercial success and popular hits are important, but a space of relaxation like the B side--one free from stress and filled with friends—is equally as necessary for artists to be productive. If the A side is the immediately visible side of the picture plane where the artist shows his or her main style, then the B side is the space beneath the surface where certain murmurings have been “repressed.” For musicians, such murmurings generally don’t have to be held back because they have such a thing as the B side. Artists only have an A side album. The reasons for repression are extremely different for each artist, but to put it simply, it originates in the very process of making the A side. The artist’s priority is to make the things seen on the picture plane as exact, perfect and coherent as possible. This is certainly not to criticize that process. Rather, it is to suggest that the multitude of other ideas and thoughts that cross artists’ minds during the process of producing a work of art can be equally as valuable as their main style. What if artists were provided with the opportunity to produce a “B side album”? Would they have the desire to show a hidden side? Would it be an invitation to produce work as exciting as their main body of work? Would it be possible to produce a show whose results couldn’t be guaranteed but would nonetheless provoke interest? As a number of thoughts crossed my mind, the particular contours of the B side show came into view. Here, smooth dissolutions, quiet challenges, meditative crises, repressed freedoms, and uncertain faiths are allowed to take place in a context where unnecessary stress is replaced by pleasure and freedom from restrictions. The 22 artists at the B side offer us unexpected pleasures and rich, unusual experiences. We are invited to chill with them on B Side. The works of the 22 artists invited to participate in the “B Side” do not have a particular thematic connection or shared common issue. Rather than creating a discourse that surrounds the works, a stronger energy is emitted by throwing the individual traits of the works into high relief. This is because opening up a free space allows a more engaging process of reading the works instead of narrowing the focus onto a single “deep issue.” This is not to say that a space of absolute freedom, where anything goes has been granted. The exhibition exists in the relative freedom found in the margins of the A Side. In a way, the show is meant to be about the “methods” of viewing the artists’ works of art. By apprehending the works themselves, viewers can really look at the issues emanating from the artist’s work, rather than an issue or discourse imposed upon it. The show will be particularly fascinating for those viewers already well-versed in the A side works of the 22 artists in this show. And for those less familiar with their main works, the “B Side” will naturally cultivate a curiosity about the A Side. This show then will allow artists to show a side of their work that normally goes unseen and simultaneously double the interest in their A side works, while viewers can get drawn into all of the diverse facets of various artists’ works. In essence, the B Side will amplify the effects and understanding of the A Side, thus creating a complete, unitary form. The exhibition space is not neutral, for the space contains its own particular history and image. Regardless of whether it carries positive or negative associations, the space forms the core context of the exhibition from its inception. The B Side show is no exception. However, this is not to say that the show is meant to be an outright attack on the commercial gallery, nor is it a simplistic kind of “resistance.” Rather than a condemnation, the “B Side” is a quiet acknowledgement of the dangerous liaisons between art and business. Let’s suppose that a famous record company comes out with an album that includes various artists’ B side tracks. What would result in a record company, used to promoting only hits and strategizing according to record sales, turning around and taking such a different tack? What kind of effect would it have on musicians and the recording industry? It is here where all of the other things that have a value beyond commercial and popular success exist, things that generally remain hidden behind the golden trio of producing hit songs, churning out stars, and sales. Of course, if the company gets a lucky break (?), then this album too will become commercially successful…in any case, it is in this sense that the show here at Do Art Gallery is meant to show the honest attitude of artists who seek the fundamental values of art even while acknowledging their existence within a vertiginous domestic art market that only continues to rise. Alternately, the show is one attempt to help foster a “cooperative partnership” and “rightful coexistence” between art and business. As this essay is being completed, I still haven’t seen a large part of the finished works to be included in B Side, although I have a general notion of what they might look like. I’ve imagined the show from multiple views in my mind countless times, but I’m still curious to know how it will physically turn out. Curiosity and amazement, the unexpected encounters that take place when such works are gathered together, and the countless stories that such crossings are able to deliver… These industrious artists dedicated to creating an adventure filled with unusual experiences and unexpected pleasures from start to finish will soon make waves, silently invading the glittering palace of the art market, main stream, and star industry.

- Kim Sungwon, 2008. 08.06

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