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Korea, Venice and art films

Posted May. 12, 2015 07:21,   


It has been a long time since installation artworks took the leading status in arts from paintings or sculptures. Before we know it, there have been an increasing number of video artworks that should be seen in a dark place. The first such forms were the video artworks created by Korean artist Nam June Paik. These days, many artists go beyond video arts and produce film-like creations. Someday, the distinction between films and artworks may disappear, leaving no need to hold the Venice Film Festival and the Venice Biennale separately.

South Korean director Im Heung-soon has won the Silver Lion at the Venice Biennale, which opened on Saturday, for his documentary film "Factory Complex." The biennale awards the Golden Lion as the top honor, followed by the Silver Lion and the Citation for Special Merit. Three Korean artists -- Jun Soo-chun, Kang Ik-joong and Lee Bul -- won a Citation for Special Merit in 1995, 1997 and 1999, respectively. Im`s Silver Lion is the highest award ever received by a South Korean artist. More surprisingly, he is not a professional artist but a film director.

Im`s film combines interviews with Asian woman laborers with fantasy-style video. If one focuses on the interviews, it would be a documentary film. To those paying attention to the video, it would be a work of art. On YouTube, there is only a two-minute clip from the film showing a wig factory. Despite the short length, it was surprising to see the director`s sense of combining the materiality of a wig factor with fantasy. His sense of subject was heavy, highlighting the common experiences by Asian women laborers from different times by showing scenes that are no longer seen at Seoul`s Guro industrial complex through factories in Vietnam and Cambodia.

Movies as a form of the arts are different from art films as opposed to commercial films. Not long ago, fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld staged a fashion show inspired by hanbok, or traditional Korean clothes, is also a filmmaker. Of course, his works are neither commercial nor art films but movies as art or fashion. Having said that, the border between the arts and films has yet to be drawn. The fact that a Korean artist has won global recognition on such an undefined border area makes us happier.