Art of Participation: Objects in the Art of Korea in the 1960s and the 1970s

When and Where

Friday, September 22, 2023 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm
Room 208N, North House
1 Devonshire Place


Camille (Ji Eun) Sung


This talk explores the aesthetics and politics of objects in art, life, and society in the 1960s and the 1970s in South Korea. During this period, art and cultural practitioners adopted and developed the method of using objects - everyday, industrial, traditional, or natural objects and human bodies – in their practice in order to establish contemporary Korean art and culture that was comparable to the art of the world and close to the public, or everyday life, in Korea. Their practices ranged from utilizing objects’ association with life and society to abstracting the quality of objects and even rendering the human body into an object, as seen in the 1968 action piece Transparent Balloons and a Nude. In this “art of participation,” as I propose to call it, the idea and method of objects emerged from and gave form to the concept and aspiration of participation: from the avant-gardist notion of art’s participation in life to the participation of art and artists in the reconstruction of the country, which meant not only the reorganization of the art, cultural, and social systems and the economic development, but also the elimination of colonial remnants and the oppression of the society and the government. While contributing to the larger discussion of multiple modernisms in the realm of art and culture, this talk expands the discussion of objects and their relationship to art and society and complicates the understanding of the relationship between art and society, or politics.
Camille (Ji Eun) Sung is an Arts & Science Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of East Asian Studies at the University of Toronto. Her primary research interest lies in artistic practices that actively employed non-conventional media, with a focus on their conversation with and operation within the socio-political conditions in Korea, and more broadly, in East Asia. Her research interests also include queer and feminist art practice, activism, and theory and the relationship between critical theory and praxis. She is working on her book project that examines how art and cultural practitioners responded to, participated in, or abstained from the modernization process in post-colonial Korea in the 1960s and the 1970s. Her work has been published in the Journal of History of Contemporary Art and will be included in the Routledge Companion to Art History and Feminisms.
Chair: Janet Poole is an Associate Professor at the Munk School fo Global Affairs and Public Policy. She is also the Distinguished Professor of the Humanities & Chair, Department of East Asian Studies. Poole's research and teaching interests lie in aesthetics in the broad context of colonialism and modernity, in history and theories of translation, and in the creative practice of literary translation.
Sponsor: Centre for the Study of Korea, Asian Institute
Co-Sponsor: Department of Art History


Contact Information


Asian Institute, Department of Art History


1 Devonshire Place