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Protect Me From What I Want - Art, Failed Mythology

Mar 22, 2024 - May 26, 2024

Protect Me From What I Want - Art, Failed Mythology

March 22, 2024 - May 26, 2024
Seoul National University Museum of Art

Save me from my desires


This exhibition will embrace two focal points: 'myth' and 'museology'. This era is truly the age of proper mythology. Capitalism mythified, consumerism mythified... Not exactly the age of the 'technoviral spread of financial capitalism'. It's not entirely unrelated, but the art that rides the roller coaster of hyper-capitalism and becomes addicted to its acceleration is the focus of this exhibition. And museology comes into play in the need for a separate manual to handle addicted art. This museology faces the process of art museums transitioning from places that foster fantasies of paradise to places of decadence. It insists that art exhibitions should not be left to operate like monthly hit product catalogs.


Notes on modern art history. Representative cases that appear very evolutionary: Pop Art: Originated in the US with 'active marketing'. yBa: A British approach that adds cruelty, remembering the severed head of a cow and flies, to American Pop Art, exuding an academic impression. Damien Hirst, in particular, was astonishing. In the knowledge economy of neoliberalism, the living type that is so desperately desired, namely 'strategist + advertising master + creative manager'. In the knowledge-cultural economy of neoliberalism, the top predator is not philosophy or aesthetics, but advertising. Advertising as the alchemy of mythology. Knowledge and culture lean heavily toward marketing's sophistry and the spirituality of advertising in a world where shocking events occur every moment.

For example, in order to truly elevate the Great Gatsby, ethical corruption, vulgarity, self-contradiction, and emptiness, the reflective discourse of F. Scott Key Fitzgerald, are strictly taboo. So let's be wary of foolishness that brands oneself as a cultural bankruptcy with such approaches from the 1970s. At the same time, as French writer Jean-Pierre Raynaud said, to survive as an artist in the Parisian art world, one must pretend to be pessimistic. Finding a balance between these two is the key to creating mythology.

"Protect Me From What I Want" (1983-85)

is a work by the billboard artist Jenny Holzer. It serves as a warning to contemporary people swept away by the flood of excessive information. However, this artist, ten years later, in 1990, received the Golden Lion Award at the 44th Venice Biennale as the first female artist from the United States. This was done while emphasizing even more the world where critical art becomes the subject of criticism, and considering ethical aspects as well. Turning Marcel Duchamp's ready-made urinal into an immortal myth is a trite extension of history.

This almost-expired narrative is currently being followed by the next runner-up, Felix Gonzales-Torres. His work, "Untitled" (1991), which exhibited photographs of the bed he and his deceased lover shared on a large outdoor billboard in downtown New York, is such an example. It is barely recognized for using commercial billboards for artistic purposes and for being associated with his personal bed, rather than the institutional domain of the art museum. However, the true nature of this event lies in the restriction of art as the battleground to the bed. Such fights are not as dramatic as Hirst's, but they are a fairly exemplary approach favored by the system as a form of compliant behavior.


A disguised paradise, light without illumination, hallucinations whispering happiness—these are all manifestations of the cave phenomenon stemming from a disconnect with the world. This time, it's a statement from British artist Antony Micallef. This world is not much different from a "sweet Disney movie gradually turning into violence and pornography." In this world, a girl prays like this: "God, please end all the wars in this world. And please make my nose a little smarter and my heart a little bigger." (The order doesn't matter.)

Shim Sang-yong,

Director of the Seoul National University Museum of Art.