Past Exhibition

NOH Suntag: The 4th Wall: The State of Emergency ll

June 2 – August 6, 2017

NOH Suntag: The 4th Wall: The State of Emergency ll

Art Sonje Center will presents The 4th Wall: The State of Emergency II, an exhibition of the work of artist NOH Suntag, from June 2 to August 6, 2017.

NOH Suntag’s previous solo exhibition, The State of Emergency I , held at the Kunstverein in Stuttgart in 2008, used the language of photography to show the skewed environment of tension and conflict generated by the division between South and North Korea. He continued this with another solo exhibition the following year at the municipal art center in Virreina Palace, Barcelona. The 4th Wall: The State of Emergency II adopts the same critical approach with The State of Emergency I , spotlighting the darkness of incidents that had taken place over the past ten years.

Consisting of around 200 works of photographs, The 4th Wall: The State of Emergency II will be shown at Art Sonje Center on the second and third floors. An exhibition catalog of the same title is to be published alongside the event, while curator’s talk, artist’s talk, and other programs will offer opportunities to approach NOH’s artistic vision in a multifaceted way.

The “state of emergency” concept referenced in the exhibition title is taken from the German constitutional law expert Carl Schmitt. Schmitt was the figure who established the judicial trappings for the Nazi administration in Germany, furnishing a crucial theoretical foundation for the Enabling Act, or the so-called “state of emergency law.” His creation has had an influence on many intellectuals on both the left and right in their efforts to understand and analyze the functioning of the modern state. NOH Suntag has viewed the “state of emergency” concept as a key to understanding South Korean society, which has been situated in a never-ending state of emergency through war and division since its liberation from the colonial rule. According to NOH, Schmitt’s famous argument that a sovereign “must be he who is capable of making decisions in exceptional circumstances, while he who seeks to protect constitutional government must be able to do so outside the Constitution” is one that compels a re-examination of South Korean modern history: the black marks of its Yushin Constitution, Emergency Measures, and military coup d’état. What about the proposition that “the essence of politics lies in distinguishing enemies from comrades”? Does this not recall the politics of betrayal and the monopoly on constitutional government that have generated such heated passions in South Korean society over the past several years?

The 4th Wall: The State of Emergency II, which is being staged in South Korea, goes deeper than the European-staged The State of Emergency I in spotlighting the society’s inner workings. The fact that the period in between the two exhibitions saw Lee Myung-bak and Park Geun-hye governing as the presidents of South Korea has significant implications. The new work in the State of Emergency  series, which shows the landscape of police authority developed by the modern state to achieve its will to power, will be accompanied by new series such as Namildang Design OlympicArrest, VertigoDroughtDeadpan of CheonanhamGangjeong GangjeomWrong IslandA Chignon Mountain Raised by Lies. The term “fourth wall” refers to the invisible wall that separates actors from the audience when the theatrical stage is conceived to be analogous to a room. Perhaps the boundary between South and North Korea is its own fourth wall, showing the extreme theater on either side. It is also a wall that points inward toward South Korea’s own society. The reality of South Korea today, while undoubtedly real, is also so incredibly theatrical that it becomes surrealistic or unrealistic. Where do you stand on this unrealistic stage—the inside or the outside?

About the Artist
NOH Suntag has worked as a writer while using photography to capture the landscapes of the functioning/malfunctioning contemporary South Korean society spawned by national division. He is a recipient of the Donggang Photography Award (2012), the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art’s Artist of the Year Award (2014), and the Gu Bon-ju Art Prize (2016).

June 2 – August 6, 2017
Curated by
Hans D.Christ, Natalie Boseul Shin
Supported by
Arts Council Korea, Goethe-Institut Korea, Hakgojae