Boyoung Chang, PhD., Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Art History
“Reconstructing the Nation: contemporary Korean photography since the 1990s”
Discussant: Tingting Xu, PhD candidate, Department of Art History
Friday, May 22, 2020
4:30-6:30 pm, Zoom meeting (please find the registration link below)
Abstract: This presentation discusses the photography of South Korean photographers, focusing on the medium’s relationship with the political and societal changes in and around the country that started in the late 1980s. Focusing on art photography that took various formats from documentary to the performative, encompassing the staged, portraits, and snapshots, it addresses the development of a medium that is intertwined with the transformation of Korean society. Represented with democratization and globalization, South Korea reorganized its political system and opened its doors to the world in this era. I argue that the transformation of contemporary Korean art photography is not only a reflection of this essential reconstruction of the nation’s identity but that of the medium itself, with its performative nature, mediating the process. The exploration starts from the early practices of the mid-20th century Korean photography and moves on to the thematic discussions of how contemporary photography addressed the key issues that mark the transition. When the long history of military dictatorship ended and democracy arrived in Korea, the nation reestablished its identity by declaring a break from the past, refashioning its history, and building new relationships with other countries, including North Korea. This research argues that the history of Korean photography parallels these shifts. Unlike the photographers of the past, contemporary photographers, with newly obtained freedom and various photographic languages, revisited the repressed history, reinterpreted official history, and deconstructed it according to the changed socio-political climate. As the state-led globalization transformed Korean identity into the international context, Korean photography too went through the process of challenging the preexisting notions and striving to position itself in global photography. Fully incorporating the social, political, and cultural history of Korea and the surrounding international contexts, this research takes an interdisciplinary approach in articulating the history of the nation’s photography. With an emphasis on a need to contextualize artistic practices into its society, it improves the understanding of contemporary Korea and its photographic practices.
Suntag Noh, Forgetting machines, 2005-2011
Zoom Registration Link: https://uchicago.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZIrcOqtrj0jq6en_pocBCWxbUtdUN6KzA
Boyoung Chang is a postdoctoral researcher in the Center for the Art of East Asia in the Department of Art History. She specializes in contemporary Korean photography with a particular interest in how the history of Korean photography intertwines with the nation’s dynamic modern and contemporary history. Chang earned her doctorate at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. Her dissertation, “Reconstructing the Nation: Contemporary Korean Photography since the 1990s,” that she discusses today focused on how Korean art photography developed in parallel with the transformation of South Korea since the late 1980s. Her teaching and research interests also include the aftermath of World War II, the impact of the Cold War, globalization, and cultural identity seen through contemporary Asian art and photography.
Tingting Xu is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Art History at the University of Chicago. Her research focuses on the history of photography in China, and the intercultural and intermedial practices of Chinese artists in early modern and modern periods. Her first Chinese book, Niche: In or Out – Interviews and Perspectives on Contemporary North American Photographic Artists, written when she was a MFA student at the Parsons School of Design, won two author’s prizes in China. She works as an assistant curator at the Peabody Essex Museum in 2018, helping organizing a coming major exhibition on nineteenth-century photographs of China. She is a recipient of The Mellon International Dissertation Research Fellowship (2018-2019), and the Joan and Stanford Alexander Award of the Houston Museum.