In among the classical buildings around Trafalgar Square in London, it is unusual to find an arts space with an experimental flexible shell with all the services exposed. This, however, is the gallery space in the Korean Cultural Centre, with the added benefit of windows connecting with passers-by on the ground floor and allowing daylight into the gallery. The aesthetics of the space tie in with the current exhibition which relates to the experimental development of performance art in South Korea in the 1960′s and 1970′s, when the term “performance art” had not yet been invented.
“Rehearsals from the Korean Avant-Garde Performance Archive” explores South Korea’s performance art scene which developed from the difficult and rebellious political circumstances in the 1960′s, breaking new ground in creative expression in Korea and seeking to develop a distinctive national identity in the new work, rather than just copy western models. In doing so, the artists of the time laid the foundation for a growing contemporary arts and design reputation for South Korea. The archive material from the 1960′s and 70′s including material from the personal archives of leading artists Ku-Lim Kim, Kang-So Lee, Kung-Yong Lee,Seung-Taek Lee and Neung-Kyung Sung, is complemented by works, some newly-commissioned, from contemporary Korean artists Zadie Xa, Christine Sun Kim, Hyon Joon Chang, and Le Bul.
Among the riches of the arts scene in London are the nationally-focussed galleries which bring contemporary culture from countries around the world to the city and the Korean Cultural Centre is one of the best, as shown by the current exhibition. It is tempting to reflect on how and when artists in North Korea might be able to have similar exposure.