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  • Young-hwan Bae

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    Pop Song: March for the Beloved, ver. 2, 1997–9
    single-channel color video and 44 cement blocks
    1 min 23 sec, variable dimensions
    Courtesy of the artist

     

    Pop Song: March for the Beloved, ver. 2 quotes a song that was written in 1981 for the spirit wedding of activist Sang-won Yoon—who died during the May 18 events—and Gi-soon Park—a labor rights activist, who passed away years before him. Pop Song: March for the Beloved exists in at least three variations. All of them feature the song March for the Beloved (1982), together with a video and pavements blocks. The blocks were given to Bae by Gwangju Municipality, when a street that had been completed in the early 1980s underwent reconstruction. Bae carved a letter from the lyrics of the popular Gwangju protest song into each block. During each carving, Gwangju citizens’ hair was also embedded into the blocks. One version was presented in Scar, a satellite exhibition of the third Gwangju Biennale in 2000, and included footage of the uprising. Another version has stacked televisions showing growing grass, which for the artist symbolizes grassroots movements. The version presented in Spring of Democracy also includes footage of growing grass, this time alluding to the collective care, effort, attention, and patience required by the continued process of making democracy work.

    The song March for the Beloved has recently returned to public consciousness. It was sung by protesters that gathered in Seoul Democracy Plaza to demand the resignation of president Park Geun-hye in 2017. It was also adapted and sung during the Hong Kong protests in 2019.

     

    Bae Young-hwan (b. 1969, Seoul, Korea) uses a wide range of media including painting, sculpture, installation and video work to explore heavy themes that evoke introspective responses to civilization theories. Since the late 1990s, he has incorporated the double-sided nature of romance and resistance of popular music in his works, including Pop Song series. He has participated in a number of major international exhibitions, including the 51st Venice Biennale (2005). His solo exhibitions include Bae Young- hwan: Project Exhibition (Shinsegae Gallery, Seoul, 2017), Pagus Avium (Platform-L Contemporary Art Center, Seoul, 2016). His work has also been featured in group exhibitions including The Square: Art and Society in Korea (MMCA, Seoul, 2019), Ghosts, Spies, and Grandmothers (Seoul Mediacity Biennale, 2014).