Hanul Cho

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CIMAM 2021 grantee Hanul Cho, Curator, Researcher, Seoul, South Korea.

In 2021, 50 contemporary art curators, researchers, and museum professionals from 32 different countries were awarded support to attend the CIMAM 2021 Annual Conference, in-person and online.

For the first time, and thanks to the generous support of The Getty Foundation who sponsored the virtual platform, 27 grantees attended the conference online, while 23 attended onsite.

Launched in 2005, CIMAM’s Travel Grant Program is designed to foster cooperation and cultural exchange between contemporary art curators and museum directors in emerging and developing economies and their counterparts in other regions of the world.

Hanul Cho's Conference Report

CIMAM's Annual Conference allowed me to share concerns about the crisis and future of the museum due to social conflicts in the era of pandemics and climate change. In addition, I was able to focus more on my personal interests through the workshop program and tour of some exhibitions in Lodz and Gdansk.

Visiting the Avant-garde Museum in Lodz reminded me of the research I conducted, its concerns and limits, and how Muzeum Sztuki systematized and activated research on forgotten or scattered Eastern European avant-garde art inspired me and provided me rich information. I always thought that it is necessary to thoroughly study the influence and culture of the avant-garde in Korea, and its value and scalability should be treated much more critically, in addition to the fact that the avant-garde has influenced the Dansaekhwa (the Korean monochrome) as many people know. On the other hand, it made me think a lot about the museum's policy and support for mid and long-term projects. It was possible to see which projects and collections the museum strategically took and established its identity.

The history of Solidarność and the European Solidarity Center in Gdansk reminded me of Gwangju Uprising. For my parents' generation, the history of Solidarity called the Polish Freedom Union in Korean, overlaps with Gwangju's tragedy, including voluntary solidarity by ordinary workers and citizens, terrible bloodshed and suppression of force, and the political debate that eventually led to the fall of the regime. I believe its meaning and spirit remain valid in the sense that we cannot overlook the implications of this story in the era of discrimination and fear we now face. Therefore, the special exhibition of the May 18 Uprising, which will be presented in Venice next year by the Gwangju Biennale Foundation and Gwangju City, is more meaningful than sharing the experiences of Gwangju and Korean art with everyone in this extension. The spirit of democracy and solidarity, breaking away from authoritarianism, made us realize once again that exhibition and art are still essential and should continue in this era when the ideal and purpose pursued by modern society and all broken boundaries are revived.

On the other hand, questions about democracy dealt with by the museum poured out from within me. I couldn't stop thinking about how much the message delivered through the exhibition as a media reflects the actual reality, whether it secretly reveals its political position and democratic practices and actions in art groups and institutions. We still have no choice but to raise questions about how free and open we are in repetitive and fragmentary messages, lack of sufficient research or understanding of delicate conflicts and complicated layers of relationships, narrow and rigid attitudes toward issues sometimes considered social taboos, interpretations under single perspective, neglected minority perspectives, and political considerations. We often face subversive situations where those who attacked vested rights amid complex interests and political power became the leading vested force. Regardless of interests or political concerns, the museum should handle all issues freely without hesitation. Regardless of political interests or concerns, the museum should address all issues freely and without hesitation. In addition to the fundamental purpose of the museum, such as exhibition, collection, and research, I want to examine further whether the museum reveals democratic values in terms of its actual operation and management.

Watching various old practices within the art world, rejection of horizontal leadership, the confrontation between institutions' management and labor unions, I realized how sincere the institution is to various voices and whether it shows the limitations of carrying out given projects. As the term of Freedom Union, the situations in which only simple stories of events are reported, accepted, and appropriately used based on political considerations and understanding occur more often than expected. I agree that this crisis of leadership exists in the art world.

The museum's task to transform itself into a sustainable and eco-friendly organization seems to be in the distant future. There was also a workshop program to exchange opinions on how it can be embodied. Taking some examples of how the museum's interest in the Green New Deal is realistically applied to the museum's operation policy, I could also feel how indifferent and distant the Korean art field is to these global and universal issues. In addition to emphasizing and advocating Korean and Asian things, as some Korean representative organizations aim, these issues should be more active to move away from local art museums and interact and grow more actively with the international community. I am worried about how the museum will be transformed without a strategy for the future. But still, I am more personally interested than ever in what the next director of the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art plans to open in the upcoming year.

In conclusion, this conference was a place to get a glimpse of various concerns about the leadership and direction of the art field. Furthermore, I think it has served as an opportunity to specify future plans for me, who currently works without the institution to which I belong. As a group of people who study and practice contemporary art, from CIMAM I expect to see clear and creative leadership and actions in the future.