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Hashtag Culture, the ‘Virtual Hierarchy’ of Real and Fake : Newcomers 77, The Young Powers of Korean Art Selected by Nine Art Experts

posted 07 May 2021

Artists of ‘young power’ who will drive the art world of tomorrow have been selected. They are the so-called, ‘Newcomers 77’. Nine art experts participated in this Special Feature as nominators. They are all ‘young players’ in their 30s and 40s, all active in the Korean art scene today. Art In Culture proposed three requirements for nominations: (1) ages younger than 39, (2) held more than one solo exhibition, and (3) exclude participating artists of ‘Contemporary Artists’ of Art In Culture March 2018 edition. Here, a total of 77 next-generation artists have gathered. The composition of the newcomers are as follows. 47 women (teams), 29 men, and one mixed-gender team, showing an overwhelming share of women artists. The ‘women’s power’ that hit the art world of Korea is strong. In terms of age, 50 artists were born in the 1980s and 25 in the 1990s. It is a collective of the digital natives, Generation Y. Distinction in region is also notable. Artists based in the metropolitan area of Korea focus on exploring contemporary media, while regional artists voice out social statements or personal desires.
We categorized the work of Newcomers 77 around five keywords. It is a work of art criticism against the keywords of contemporary art, an on-ground exhibition that sums up the landscape of ‘the young and the new’.

Kwon Soonwoo (CEO of Tastehouse), Kwon Hyukgue (independent curator), Nam Woong (art critic), Lee Dongmin (curator of Daegu Art Museum), Lee Sun (curator of Gwangju Lee Kang Ha Art Museum), Chung Hyun (professor at University of Seoul), Choi Sooyeon (CEO of P21), Hong Leeji (curator of National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea), Hwang Seomi (curator of Busan Museum of Art)

Hashtag Culture, the ‘Virtual Hierarchy’ of Real and Fake

Contemporary culture spreads with hashtags. Putting to shame the tight struggle between pop culture and subculture in the fight to gain a foothold in mainstream in the past, now all cultures march forward on the back of social media. How do the ‘digital-native’ artists take today’s culture as subject matter? First, they bring in the audiovisual media of the post-Internet era including Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube into their work, imagining the future world through the network of desires. The so-called ‘alternate characters’ that take the world of social media as a playground have flooded into reality. The ‘multi personas’ of artists who have disguised as influencers, AfreecaTV BJs, and YouTubers satirize, tease, and recreate reality with piercing fake news. The ‘hip’ trend on social media also translates onto their work. The return of young retro, the bold cyberpunk, and mischievous animation kitsch are boldly brought together, creating a contemporary spectacle. K-games is also a pillar of Korea’s visual culture. Digital images that are reproduced and altered to the point that the existence of the original becomes meaningless are reborn into character portraits..

파일드 〈PLAANTS〉 혼합재료 가변크기 2020. 사진제공 아트인컬처

Filed 〈PLAANTS〉 mixed materials dimensions variable 2020. Image provided by Art in Culture.

Filed is an ‘image group’ of five artists with backgrounds in photography, design, and painting. The group experiments with randomly manipulated images and the aspect of images that transcend objets and spaces. “Instead of creating art pieces, Filed intentionally pursues to make professional products, avant-garde fashion or interior design embraced by extreme commercialism. That’s why Filed’s work feels more eccentric and artistic.” (Chung Hyun)

김한샘 〈진리를 마주한 전사〉 혼합재료 55.8×51.3×0.5cm 2018. 사진제공 아트인컬처

Kim Hansaem 〈The tree of truth 〉 mixed materials 55.8×51.3×0.5cm 2018. Image provided by Art in Culture.

Kim Hansaem
Kim Hansaem creates scenes one might see in hero myths or astrology books in the way of creating 16-bit RPG games. The cliché images that have been repeated over centuries such as birth, hardship, battle, and victory expand inside the exaggerated frame that looks like relief sculpture made by the artist. Images that were reproduced on CRT monitors and illustration paper are printed out onto a flat relief-frame and subcultural graphic screen.

김태연 〈흑우-a+〉 한지에 채색 200×140cm 2020. 사진제공 아트인인컬처

Tae Kim(Kim Taeyeon) 〈Black Cow-a+〉 color on Korean paper(hanji) 200×140cm 2020. Image provided by Art in Culture.

Tae Kim(Kim Taeyeon)
Kim Taeyeon portrays the world view of the game network, relationships built in that world, and the ecosystem of language that flows in Korean painting style. The artist interviews fellow gamers she meets at guilds and imagines their faces. Their portraits are created using their chosen characters, game method, items, and occupation and gender in the game. “The artist’s drawings of Internet language used in games and fragments of items do not have concreteness but are like tarot cards full of allegory.” (Nam Woong)

남진우 〈Victory for Justice〉 천에 유채, 코튼 콜라주 262×302cm 2017. 사진제공 아트인컬처

Nam Jinu 〈Victory for Justice〉 oil on fabric, cotton collage. 262×302cm 2017. Image provided by Art in Culture.

Nam Jinu
Nam Jinu overturns the image structure of the hero being beautiful and the villain in a grotesque form. The artist admires the peculiar-looking giant squid and sea monster kraken and imagined a medieval kingdom filled with them. The mollusk, which has all the characters of good and evil, angel and demon, blurs the uncertain boundary of dichotomy. “It is an epic for those who are pushed to become monsters in an absurd world and those who have to become monsters for that world.”

김재욱 〈신일월대구도〉 무빙이미지 2,320×880cm 2019. 사진제공 아트인컬처

Kim Jaeuk 〈New Sun and Moon and Daegu Metropolitan City(신일월대구도)〉 moving image 2,320×880cm 2019. Image provided by Art in Culture.

Kim Jaeuk
is the contemporary version of , which is the symbol and background of the Joseon Dynasty throne. The video displays an overlap of the past, present, and future of Daegu. The mystical glamorous look of the piece with the sun and the moon in the sky together transcends time and space. “The personified city breathes and lives 24 hours every day.”

염지혜 〈커런트 레이어즈〉 싱글채널 비디오 26분 2017. 사진제공 아트인컬처

Yeom Jihye 〈Current Layers (커런트 레이어즈)〉 single-channel video 26 minutes 2017. Image provided by Art in Culture.

Yeom Jihye
Yeom Jihye focuses on the power of the unknown, the invisible that lies beyond the reality. She uses various disciplines, including science, history, philosophy, religion, oral tradition, and faith, to bring the unknown to the surface. Along the uncertain boundaries blended with experience and memories, images and dreams, and legends and narrative….

옥승철 〈Deadlock〉 캔버스에 유채 150×150cm 2020. 사진제공 아트인컬처

Ok Seungcheol 〈Deadlock〉 oil on canvas 150×150cm 2020. Image provided by Art in Culture.

Ok Seungcheol
Ok Seungcheol works with digital images that are altered and reproduced on the computer such as in cartoons, films, and games. The digital images altered to the point that the existence of the original cannot be seen are reinterpreted in the framework of figurative painting of the face of a character. To him, painting is about creating goods or 3-dimensional objets with purposes that differ according to exhibition design or space, rather than about tradition or past.

선우훈 〈평면이 진정한 깊이다〉 디지털 드로잉 가변크기 2018. 사진제공 아트인컬처

Sunwoo Hoon 〈Flat is the New Depth 〉digital drawing dimensions variable, 2018. Image provided by Art in Culture.

Sunwoo Hoon
Sunwoo Hoon offers compressed data in vertically and horizontally continual images, building political and social narrative that flows by scrolling down. This is a common feature found in the artist’s other occupational background as a webtoon artist (debuted with webtoon). is a piece that transforms the building rooftops with each year written into the spaces of Gwangju Uprising, June Struggle, and the 2002 World Cup.

유아연 〈White Mirror: Prequel Version〉 닭, 실리콘 슈트, CCTV, 빔 프로젝터, 철망, 천 퍼포먼스 2020. 사진제공 아트인컬처

Ryu Ahyeon 〈White Mirror: Prequel Version〉 > rooster, silicon suit, CCTV, beam projector, wire netting, fabric performance, 2020. Image provided by Art in Culture.

Ryu Ahyeon
Ryu Ahyeon moves between what contemporary individuals can and cannot access from out-of-context thumbnails recommended by portal sites to strange images laying in the shadows of the Internet. is a performance that displays an avatar wearing a flabby suit living in a closed space for 6 hours with a rooster, showing desire as is. “It shows how our image consumption on the Internet and the act of gathering them that we thought we were doing actively was in fact not.” (Chung Hyun)

김효재 〈Z〉 싱글채널 비디오 4분 24초 2019. 사진제공 아트인컬처

Kim Hyojae 〈Z〉 single-channel video 4 minutes 24 seconds 2019. Image provided by Art in Culture.

Kim Hyojae
Kim Hyojae has worked with a world view called ‘default’. The artist demonstrates the digital environment of Gen Z. The dancing baby, exploding effect, and the mixed emojis provoke the generation living in the era of ‘alternate characters.’.

류성실 〈BJ체리장 2018.4〉 싱글채널 비디오 6분 2018. 사진제공 아트인컬처

Ryu Sungsil 〈BJ Cherry Jang 2018.4 〉 )> single-channel video 6 minutes 2018. Image provided by Art in Culture.

Ryu Sungsil
Ryu Sungsil performs as characters online BJ Cherry Jang and tour guide Natasha. The artist focuses on the phenomenon that emerges with the ‘petty-bourgeois’ desire entangled with money issue such as property disputes that come from favoring the firstborn son or cheap tours for parents.

박보마 〈At the Lobbies of S.E.X. Co〉 광화문, 종각, 을지로 일대 빌딩 로비 퍼포먼스 7시간 2020. 사진제공 아트인컬처

Pak Boma 〈At the Lobbies of S.E.X. Co〉 7-hour performance at building lobbies in Gwanghwamun, Jonggak, and Euljiro area 2020. Image provided by Art in Culture.

Pak Boma
“I see the surface of shining objects and world and I imagine myself falling into them and disappearing. Are they materials or time, they don’t seem to be anything.” The artist begins her work from the desire of wanting to grab light. She manages several identities, including fldjf studio, a semi-virtual studio projected with the concept of ‘reflector’, dancer qhak, WTM decoration & boma, which senses materials through handwork, receptionist R, and 'Sophie.Etulips.Xylang.Co.,' Pak explores the power of mood by using reflection, impression, imagery, sense, and pseudo as main materials.

업체eobchae 〈nahee.app run daddy.app〉 싱글채널 비디오 11분 12초 2019. 사진제공 아트인컬처

eobchae 〈nahee.app run daddy.app〉 > single-channel video 11 minutes 12 seconds 2019. Image provided by Art in Culture.

An audio-visual production of three members Kim Nahee, Oh Cheonseok, and Hwang Hwi. eobchae uses and appropriates accelerated audiovisual media in the post-Internet era such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube to view social phenomena with a critical perspective. “The future eobchae simulates such as a world, where the reproductive organs of all members of society are connected or a society of family that runs strictly on contract and role performance, bizarrely reproduces the gap in the actual social mechanism.” (Kwon Hyukgue)

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※ This article was originally published on the FEB 2021 issue of Art In Culture and is provided by the Korea Art Management Service under a content provision agreement with the magazine.

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