Past Exhibition

Art Sonje Banner Project #1: Paul Kajander – What Cannot Be Is What

November 11. 2013 – March 05, 2014

The Rear Façade of Art Sonje Center

Art Sonje Banner Project #1: Paul Kajander – What Cannot Be Is What

For its inaugural iteration, Art Sonje Center Banner Project presents an image selected from What Cannot Be Is What by Canadian artist Paul Kajander. The original work consists of a site-specific performance, the documentation and residue of which had been presented in the exhibition REAL DMZ PROJECT 2013: Borderline in the DMZ border area of Cheorwon, Gangwon Province. In this work, the artist organized an experimental performance addressing questions around war at the historic site of an Ice-Storage facility with participation from local elementary students. Enlarged to the scale of a commercial banner, the photographic document shows the young participants pressing their faces against pieces of grey paper that have been cut to evoke the bullet holes visible in the concrete wall behind them. Taken out of its original context, this work is meant to function as a provocation, prompting further inquiry into the curious depiction while throwing into question the nature of photographic representations of historical events, which are often similarly plucked from their context and left to function reductively as an image.

Paul Kajander’s project for the REAL DMZ exhibition is a multifaceted and elusive work that brings a research-oriented and process-based approach to bear on questions of war, representation, conflict and otherness in the specific context of the demilitarized zone and its bordering towns in South Korea. Thinking about the charged history of the region and the historical gravitas with which ruins are imbued, Kajander was interested in using the Japanese Occupation-era ice storage as an open-air theatre in which multiple layers of South Korea’s fraught modern development could be teased out.What Cannot Be Is What is a theatrical sequence of performed speeches and actions produced by the artist in collaboration with local elementary school students. These children have grown up several generations removed from a war whose scars are commemorated in ruins throughout Cheorwon. Like the artist, the children exist outside of direct contact with the atrocities of the Korean war, but they differ from the artist in that they live in immediate proximity to another aspect of its residue; the heavily militarized countryside that indicates the perception of an unresolved and threatening conflict. Engaging with this situation prompted the development of a script to be voiced by the participating children as a means of raising questions about the effects of this history on their future. Significantly, this performance occurs without an audience and with the intention that it results only in photographic representations and audio recordings. Considering the perspective from which we are able to engage with history – through words, images and media documents – this performative event is productive of an ungraspable whole, made available in reduced and edited fragments in much the same way that historic representations of war have been manipulated for circulation. The documents presented in a quasi-museological display at Woljeong-ri Station emphasize the way in which an insurmountable gap exists between lived experience and representations of experience, and in so doing, open a line of questioning still pertinent to the issues surrounding the DMZ.

– Compiled from correspondence with the artist

About the Artist
Paul Kajander is living and working in Seoul. Kajander recently participated in the residency program at the National Art Studio, Changdong. His work has been featured in the REAL DMZ PROJECT 2013:Borderline. He is also running a solo recording project Active Pass.

+ Art Sonje Banner Project

Art Sonje Banner Project, initiated in November 2013, uses the rear façade of the Art Sonje Center to introduce large art prints. Unlike with formal gallery spaces within the museum, the Banner Project further expands the spatial range of art appreciation and allows for art to intervene the surrounding environment and public places. Here, the artwork that has come out to the space of everyday life meets not only museum visitors but the general public as well. This project makes art an everyday experience for everyone that passes by the neighborhood and offers an opportunity to convey the cultural and artistic prospect of the Samcheongdong district, where Art Sonje Center stands.

November 11. 2013 - March 05, 2014
The Rear Façade of Art Sonje Center
Paul Kajander
Curated by