The Ways of Folding Space & Flying, Korean Pavilion, Venice Biennale 2015

Moon kyungwon and jeon joonho immerse the korean pavilion at the 56th international art exhibition, in a site-specific work that is a continuation of the artists’s ongoing investigation into trying to ‘make sense of what they perceive as a fundamental function of art in the increasingly uncertain and precarious environment we are collectively facing‘.

Commissioned and curated by sook-kyung lee, ‘the ways of folding space & flying’ is a new multi-channel film installation that explores an archeological quest into human civilization, interweaving history with visions of the future dictated through a future-retrospective narrative. simultaneously, it also alludes to the institutional structure and historic evolution of its venue, the venice biennale, specifically its global scale and influence which have been dictated and acquired within a shifting socio-political landscape.

The title of the exhibition “The Ways of Folding Space & Flying” stems from the Korean words chukjibeop and bihaengsul. Originating from Taoist practice, chukjibeop means a hypothetical method of folding space and of allowing one to travel a substantial distance in a short space of time. The word describes various techniques for rapid movement, or could literally refer to the energy used to contract physical distance. Bihaengsul is another supernatural power, to levitate, fly, and travel across time and space. The power emerges from one of the oldest human desires to challenge and triumph over the physical limitations of human beings and to reach an unknown realm.

In the history of Eastern culture, these ideas have been explored not only as a means of meditative practice but also as methods to reach a state of complete emancipation of both mind and body from physical limitations and natural forces. A method of levitation without the aid of any scientific technique and only through the means of pure mind and body, bihaengsul still remains a valid hypothesis.Both chukjibeop and bihaengsul are an archetype of using mental practice to overcome human limitations through the power of the imagination. These rather ludicrous and illogical ideas closely echo the basis of artistic practice in that they are both a creative manifestation of human desire to surpass the barriers and structures that bind us. Within this context, we intend to show the human endeavor to constantly break new ground and challenge the self and also envision the future of art.

The artists explore the role of the artist in a society that rapidly changes and hint on the institutional structure of the Venice Biennale, a fair that functions as a home for international artists, ideas and works. For “The Ways of Folding Space & Flying” Moon and Jeon created a replica of the Korean pavilion, which is a complex piece of architecture, featuring a glass wall designed by Kim Seok-chul and Franco Mancuso, in Korea, and filmed a video about a post-apocalyptic universe.

Rather than trying to create a piece that would be shown to its best advantage at the pavilion, Lee decided instead to make the pavilion part of the exhibition piece. She and the artists Moon Kyung-won and Jeon Joon-ho built an exact replica of the pavilion in Namyangju, Gyeonggi Province, and filmed a video about a woman living inside the pavilion, which was reimagined as a laboratory.

LED screens covered the glass walls at the Pavilion in Venice, keeping the building’s interior dark for the other video channels while making the Korean Pavilion glow at night, creating a “torch” concept thanks to the pavilion being on a relatively high ground.

Collaborating since 2009, moon and jeon have realized a critically acclaimed body of work, that includes the film installation ‘news from nowhere‘ — focused on creating an interdisciplinary and transnational platform — which is also presented as part of ‘the ways of folding space & flying’. ‘news from where’ involved scholars and experts from various academic and professional fields including architecture, design, film, philosophy and science. the project was intended to yield a concrete outcome: a film, publication or archival exhibition documenting the collaborative process. questions extending from the work centered on the function and meaning of art, acknowledging the constantly evolving nature of the topic.

On the occasion of the 2015 venice art biennale, moon and jeon continue their quest in the direction of the unknown future, that is at once an end and an origin. instead of trying to offer up a definitive thesis, the ways of folding space & flying’ the artists propose ways of envisioning a future where existing notions of art and creativity may no longer serve as relevant. like the farfetched concepts of chukjibeop and bihaengsul, for moon and jeon, ‘art is a crucial yet curiously unexplainable facet of complex human desires that compel us to imagine, dream, wonder and challenge.

“The Ways of Folding Space & Flying” is a multi-channel film installation created by the Korean artistic duo Moon Kyungwon and Jeon Joonho. The project explores an archaeological quest into human civilization that interweaves history with visions of the future as told through a future-retrospective narrative. It also alludes to the institutional structure and historic evolution of the Venice Biennale, the scale and influence of which have been acquired within a shifting socio-political landscape.

The project is part of an ongoing inquiry for Moon & Jeon to make sense of what they perceive as a fundamental function of art in our increasingly uncertain and precarious environment. Instead of trying to provide a definitive thesis, the artists propose ways of imagining the future where existing notions of art and creativity may no longer be relevant. As with the seemingly illogical and ludicrous concepts of chukjibeop and bihaengsul, for them, art is a crucial yet curiously unexplainable facet of complex human desires that compel us to imagine, dream, wonder and challenge.

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The film leads us to a distant time in the future. Lying deep under water, the City of Venice that we used to know, along with the other glories of past civilization, no longer exists. The only visible vestige of the Giardini’s rich history is the Korean Pavilion—the last national pavilion to have been established within the garden and at its highest point. The site no longer serves as a place for art. The pavilion is now a laboratory for archaeological investigation of the past civilization.

The protagonist awakes to consciousness. He opens his eyes. He wakes up every day at exactly the same time and performs the same manual tasks. Today is no different from yesterday, and tomorrow will be no exception. He begins to lose any grasp on the amount of time he has spent here. The outside is a boundless expanse of water, and he has no other place to go. The cold metal mass that was once the Korean Pavilion floats like a buoy on the ocean—and is the only place of sanctuary that he can call home. Once he completes his mission and brings this long period of solitude to an end, he could perhaps embark on a longer journey that could last for more than a day.

Everyday inside the laboratory is just the same for him. His day feels as long as someone else’s entire life. Newly born every morning upon opening his eyes, he parts with his life again when he closes his eyes at the end of the day. He cannot recall any days other than the one he wakes to.

We’re the same. We share the same history, the same heritage, the same lives. We’re tied together beyond any untying. Man or woman, it makes no difference. We’re human. We couldn’t escape from each other even if we wanted to. That’s how you do it, Lieutenant. By remembering who and what you are. A bit of flesh and blood afloat in a universe without end. The only thing that’s truly yours is the rest of humanity

Korean pavilion
The Korean pavilion houses South Korea’s national representation during the Venice Biennale arts festivals. The pavilion, designed by Seok Chul Kim and Franco Mancuso, was built between 1994 and 1995. South Korea has participated in the Venice Biennale since 1995.

Venice Biennale 2015
The 2015 Art Biennale closes a sort of trilogy that began with the exhibition curated by Bice Curiger in 2011, Illuminations, and continued with the Encyclopedic Palace of Massimiliano Gioni (2013). With All The World’s Futures, La Biennale continues its research on useful references for making aesthetic judgments on contemporary art, a “critical” issue after the end of the avant-garde and “non-art” art.

Through the exhibition curated by Okwui Enwezor, La Biennale returns to observe the relationship between art and the development of human, social and political reality, in the pressing of external forces and phenomena: the ways in which, that is, the tensions of the external world solicit the sensitivities, the vital and expressive energies of the artists, their desires, the motions of the soul (their inner song ).

La Biennale di Venezia was founded in 1895. Paolo Baratta has been its President since 2008, and before that from 1998 to 2001. La Biennale, who stands at the forefront of research and promotion of new contemporary art trends, organizes exhibitions, festivals and researches in all its specific sectors: Arts (1895), Architecture (1980), Cinema (1932), Dance (1999), Music (1930), and Theatre (1934). Its activities are documented at the Historical Archives of Contemporary Arts (ASAC) that recently has been completely renovated.

The relationship with the local community has been strengthened through Educational activities and guided visits, with the participation of a growing number of schools from the Veneto region and beyond. This spreads the creativity on the new generation (3,000 teachers and 30,000 pupils involved in 2014). These activities have been supported by the Venice Chamber of Commerce. A cooperation with Universities and research institutes making special tours and stays at the exhibitions has also been established. In the three years from 2012-2014, 227 universities (79 Italian and 148 international) have joined the Biennale Sessions project.

In all sectors there have been more research and production opportunities addressed to the younger generation of artists, directly in contact with renowned teachers; this has become more systematic and continuous through the international project Biennale College, now running in the Dance, Theatre, Music, and Cinema sections.