In this project we deal with the peculiar reality that is modern Korea: a weird mix of Cultural Appropriation and Cultural Toadyism. The former a familiar concept in the “West”– referring to the post colonialist habit of using cultural emblems and traditions of foreign cultures without regard or respect for their origins. The latter refers to an idolatry and uncritical following of a perceived “better” culture. Our works try to embody this reality, while showing its absurdity at the same time. The works borrow, mimic and appropriate well known Korean traditional art. Instead of treating these cultural icons as historical, as curious relics belonging to the museum we want to give them a new life. Instead of leaving these historical icons in the dustbin of history we re-appropriate them, and use them as conveyers of the times we live in.
WEAST, the title of this project, is a nonsensical word made up of the words East and West. On the surface, one could interpret this admittedly cheesy title as a manifestation of globalization – a world where all cultures are mixed up in one. However, within a Korean context, this word combination takes on a very different meaning.
On the one hand, the title underlines the contradiction between modern Korea, a reality that has in large parts been formed out of an imagined, “Koreanized,” ideal of the West (Anglo America and Europe), and the national pride of a continuous 5000 year long history. This cultural heritage, for all the pride it brings, is very hard to find outside of the contained walls of museums. Instead, the strive towards an ideal society has since the 1960’s post war re-establishing of the Korean economy been modeled upon a Koreanized imagination of ‘advanced’ consumerist cultures such as North America and Western Europe. South Korean consumerist culture and mass media continuously project (perceived) Western values at the top, while appropriating (perceived) Western aesthetics without proper critical debate.
On the other hand, the title refers more directly to the made up, foreign languages-based, words that dominate the Korean landscape. Nonsensical, grammatically incorrect “Konglish” and imitations of non-existent Latin based languages, dominates the daily landscape, from the clothes that people wear to the commercial slogans and political campaigns that fill the corners of every neighborhood. Even ‘high-class’ brand names of apartment buildings follow the same pattern: Blesstige – the name of a ‘luxury brand’ apartment complex is a made up from the combination of the words Bless and Prestige.