Art Cinema OFFoff is pleased to invite Hangjun Lee for the first screening of Korean experimental film in Belgium. In a two-part evening, the history of experimental film in Korea since the 1960s will be shown alongside several contemporary creations from Asia. Together, the two programs explore the relations between the historical avant-gardes and their lasting influences on contemporary work, despite important social and political changes. Next to specific works, Lee will focus on pioneering groups that make up the Korean underground.
Hangjun Lee is a filmmaker, performer and curator based in Seoul, South Korea. Besides freelance curatorial projects, Lee is the program director of EXiS Festival, an annual experimental film & video platform that supports artistic practices in film and video since 2004.
In-tae Kim began his career by producing a number of cultural and educational films before he started his study at the National Film Board of Canada between 1967-68. While at NFBC, he produced Korean Alphabet, an educational film designed to teach the Korean alphabet with a soundtrack created by Norman McLaren. Through this work we can get an impression of the scope of Korean cinema during the 1960s, and glimpse how new technologies and experimental techniques were used to explore cinematic concepts, in this case within a pedagogical setting.
Taking the basic structure of film, The Meaning of 1/24 Second expresses the harsh reality faced by modern humanity and the sense of alienation that comes from uncontrollable speed. Duration was a key concept in Kim’s artistic journey and the cinematic shape of this film. Unable to make a finished film print at that time due to technological limitations, Kim was (due to it’s many splices) so worried about the fragile nature of the print, that he prepared many additional elements for the premiere, including dancers and multiple slide projectors. These elements turned the film premiere into a multiprojection performance, more of a ‘happening’ than a film screening. This artistic gesture is considered to be one of the first non-normative cinematic interventions in Korean moving image history.
One of Han Ok-hi’s renowned pieces called The Hole uses the flicker, oblique angles, the cross-cutting of reality and fantasy to express inner entrapment and the desire for liberation. Han Ok-hi’s The Hole, The Rope and Untitled not only experimented with cinematic forms of expression, but also played an important role in the protest against forms of expression in experimental films and the artistic protest against the social suppression and censorship in 1970s Korea. Kaidu Group was founded in 1974 by six artists who all studied at Ewha Womans University where Ok-hi Han acted as the president. The members of the Kaidu Group sought to protest against the way women were depicted as passive and negative objects in Korean cinema. Kaidu Group held experimental film screenings, workshops and symposiums between 1974 and 1975. Since 1976 each member carried out her independent art practice.
A member of the AG (Avant-garde Group) as well as leader of the group Space & Time (S.T.) 1969-1980, Lee Kun-yong helped to open the horizon for contemporary art in Korea through his experimental approach to conceptual art, performance and installation. When Lee attended the 8th Paris Biennale in 1973, the experience deeply changed his thinking, and he began to consider the body as an artistic medium in itself. He focused on performances related to space, situation, site and the body, giving it the name ‘event’; drawing a line between ‘happenings’ and his own practice. From 1975 to 1979, Lee presented about 50 ‘events’ in different locations and exhibitions, and although documentation of Lee’s performances is extremely rare, Event Logical shows one of these events.
Most independent filmmakers couldn’t access proper film technology until the late 1980s since all material was used for governmental purposes (propaganda etc.) or given to commercial players. Most of the people working in commercial cinema were also working for the National Film Production Company. So was Park Soon-ku, who worked as a director at the Korean National Film Production Company since the early 1970s. Many people working there during the mid 1980s, visited the United States of America to study film, mainly focusing on how national (sports) events should be properly documented. Preparing for the 1988 Seoul Olympics, Park and other directors made several short documentaries during the 1986 Asian Games. Besides experimenting with new technologies, they were also experimenting with style and form. Reach for the Sky is an example of such an experiment made during a time of political and artistic standstill.
This film takes the form of a personal diary. Lee Jang-wook created new images using several chemical treatments on the film surface while using footage of his daily life. These serial works originated from trials that Lee had communicated, seeking to reconstruct his own memories, where the ‘mind’s eye’ becomes connected with the ‘camera’s eye’ and with film itself. In doing so, the film is a conversation with personal documentary and everyday practice in the dark room.
This film marks the beginning of a series of ‘Noise Films’ Xin Ding made. After he returned to China in 2008, Ding began to experiment with sound: “As a DJ, I first started to play dark psytrance music. Then I began to make my own sound work. Together with my friends in Beijing, we started a noise band called Liquid Palace. Every month or two, we did improvised noise music performances in Beijing where I began to make films. They are not only journeys of trapped thoughts, but they also try to release meanings and power in between the frames, shots and sequences.”
Another Day Of Depression In Kowloon is a virtual ethnographic study and a digital portrait of Hong Kong as seen through the lens of contemporary popular culture. The filmmaker conducted a yearlong fieldwork, observing and documenting Hong Kong as simulated in the map Kowloon from the popular video game Call Of Duty: Black Ops (2010). Hacking and displacing the logic of the game, Another turns the violent first-person shooter into a series of vacant, uncanny and yet meditative tableaux, inducing a sense of beauty that is often overlooked during the original gameplay. Another combines methodologies from both the observational and assemblage film traditions by raising questions about cultural representations in contemporary popular media, while creating evocative metaphors for a postcolonial Hong Kong through the reworking of media materials.
The Three Enchantments is a travel account of a foreign witness in the early years of the American domination of the Philippines. The Philippines is portrayed through the disembodied voice of a keeneyed stranger in an imaginative future. The voice recounts with detached curiosity and amusement its engagement with the natives who are growing and dying in dull routine. By blending reality and imagination, this video is about the people and the spells they have fallen under.