MoMA PS1, Long Island City

MoMA PS1 | 22-25 Jackson Ave. at 46 Ave., Queens
NY 11101 Long Island City

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press release

(Long Island City, NY, October, 2004) – P.S.1 presents documentation of a collaborative project between by Korean artist Seung Young Kim and Japanese artist Hironori Murai, both of whom were participated in the P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center Studio Program in 1999-2000. Conceiving their own form of resistance with their Picnic on the Ocean, the artists attempt to eliminate the cultural “barrier” between Korea and Japan, formed by differences in cultural, religious, and historic backgrounds.

Following the 36-year history of the Japanese colonization of Korea, as well as the underlying racism that remains from feudal times, it has been extremely difficult to initiate a truly equal, sincere, and open dialogue between the two nations. Since the 6th Century, Korea has strongly influenced Japan, most prominently through forms of religion, such as Buddhism, and in arts and crafts. During medieval times feudal Japan was aggressive toward Korea and, as a result of its victory over China and Russia before and after the turn of the 20th century, imperialist Japan colonized Korea in 1910. After Japan’s defeat in World War II, Korea was freed from this colonization. Almost sixty years later, foreign relations between the two nations have been normalized, but remain awkward, and at times even antagonistic. Skepticism and distrust on the part of the Koreans, and chauvinism and paternalism on the part of the Japanese still limit their contact and prevent a mutual understanding.

Between the Korean Peninsula and Kyushu Island in southern Japan, a strait with a turbulent tide and the national border keep the two territories apart. In July, 2002, Kim and Murai set out (in boats without sails) toward the Korean-Japanese border in small, traditional wooden fishing boats. Remaining on opposite sides of the border, they indulged in an ephemeral “Picnic on the Ocean” alongside a floating bed of flowers, and exchanged toasts to celebrate their cultural interchange.

The rendezvous in the ocean, which symbolically embodies the notion of a “bridge” that connects rather than isolates people, lasted from dawn until noon. This fantasy marked a small inconsequential spot on the globe, in which the past was transcended, and in which the artists’ modus operandi opened up a new future for both nations, or, at the very least, for the two artists.


Picnic on the Ocean: Documentation of a Korean-Japanese Project
Seung Young Kim / Hironori Murai
Kurator Kazue Kobata