National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea

National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art | 30 Samcheong-ro, Sogyeok-dong, Jongno-gu
03062 Seoul

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National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Cheongju

Chen Dai Goang
Dreams of the Perfect City
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September 17, 2021–July 24, 2022

The National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, presents MMCA Cheongju Project 2021—Chen Dai Goang: Dreams of the Perfect City. The MMCA Cheongju Project commissions new and established South Korean artists to produce and install works on the museum’s expansive front lawn and in other outdoor spaces around MMCA Cheongju. The series was planned with the twin aims of bringing viewers diverse experiences of contemporary art in an outdoor setting and providing artists with a platform for creative advancement through the production of new works.

Chen Dai Goang’s (b. 1970) work focuses on large-scale architectural sculptures that can be entered by viewers. Chen’s works mediate between environment, work and viewers, creating new spaces for viewers to move or stop in. Through this working method and strategy, the artist transforms the sites of his works into unfamiliar scenes, prompting new perceptions and experiences of everyday spaces.

Wuju (우주; 宇宙), the Sino-Korean word for cosmos, is made up of two characters, Wu(宇) and Ju(宙), that both mean “house.” In the same way, the houses we live in make-up cities, which in turn constitute the cosmos itself. This is the starting premise of Dreams of the Perfect City. For this exhibition, Chen Dai Goang has created a small “city’ from a variety of materials and forms on the lawn space in front of Art Storage Center. Dreams of the Perfect City is a metaphorical symbol of the ideal city inspired by Cheon Bu Gyeong (“Heavenly Seal Scriptures”), a core text in Korea’s Daejongism faith, and “Kabbalah,” the medieval Jewish mystic school of thought. Both of these sources offer explanations for the principles and logic of the universe; the motif of the work’s overall layout is drawn from the iconography of the wisdom-filled Tree of Life featured in orally-transmitted Kabbalah.

Each “house” sculpture is based on architectural photographs taken and collected by Chen on his travels through various Asian countries. The materials and styles of buildings and furniture in various places bear traces showing how the politics, economics and culture of the industrial era are imprinted in architecture, and of the tangled relationships between these influences. The artist uses a variety of strategies for visualizing invisible factors such as systems, capital and culture. He mixes various exteriors and adds new patterns, reinterpreting architecture through his own unique sense of aesthetics to create imaginary buildings. Through art that transforms and recreates urban architecture, Chen explores possible forms for ideal future living spaces.

Today, most of the world’s population lives in urban environments. Issues such as pollution, population density and etc. have gained prominence amid our search to build more convenient and efficient cities. We now face a crisis in which solving these problems has become a matter of desperate urgency, heightened further by the COVID-19 pandemic. In our present situation, this project offers us a chance to explore our own homes, urban space and communities living within it from a new perspective. By rediscovering the meaning of the everyday spaces and places we normally pass by without a thought will provide opportunities to reflect on our cities, and on what constitutes ideal lives and spaces.