The road to TRUST: a short history of Media City Seoul

This page will feature a look at “the road” the project has taken to arrive at TRUST in 2010; write-ups of each biennial in the past, photos,  and a final conclusive essay at the end that reflects on the exhibition’s history and looks at the future of the project in perspective.

2000: City: between 0 and 1

media_city seoul 2000
Theme: City: between 0 and 1
Duration/Venue: 2 September-15 November 2000/Seoul Museum of Art and 13 subway stations

Director: Misook Song
Curators: Barbara London/ Jeremy Millar/ Hans Ulrich Obrist/ Byong Hak Ryu

The 1st edition of the Seoul International Media Art Biennale took the name “City: between 0 and 1,” embracing the burgeoning digital revolution that was redrawing—and in fact erasing—the boundary between time and space . Investigating the Korean capital city’s emergence as an intermediary and hub of networking, exhibitions were presented at  a number of museums and public spaces in Seoul.  Accompanying the biennial’s binary code-inspired them were many sub-themes, such as ‘media art 2000,’ ‘city vision / club city,’ and ‘subway project,’ all of which reflected the desire  to find a new direction through dynamic communication between the analog and the digital.

2002: Lunar’s Flow

media_city seoul 2002
Theme: Lunar’s Flow
Duration/Venue: 26 September-24 November 2002/Seoul Museum of Art

Director: Wonil Rhee
Curators: Michael Cohen/ Marie de Brugerolle/ Gregor Jansen/ Kim Machan/ Gunalan Nadarajan/ Huang Du/ Azuyama Takashi

“Lunar’s Flow” was the theme for the 2nd edition of the biennale, which  explored the new sublime as a metaphor for the cyber sublime of the moon and all the utopian fantasies nurtured by the human mind imagined to exist there. Along with sub-themes like ‘Digital Sublime,’ ‘Cyber Mind,’ ‘Luna’s Children,’ and ‘Luna Nova,’ the exhibition framed media not as means of ‘conquest’ but as a tool for restoring romantic feelings long forgotten by human beings. Through this thematic approach, the 2nd Seoul International Media Art Biennale introduced a new model for the biennale format.

2004: Digital Homo Ludens (Game and Play)

media_city seoul 2004
Theme: Digital Homo Ludens (Game and Play)
Duration/ Venue: 15 December 2004-6 February 2005/Seoul Museum of Art

With the theme “Digital Homo Ludens (Game and Play),” the 3rd Seoul International Media Art Biennale took its inspiration from the changes in game and play—namely, the internet and digital interfaces—that were quickly and permanently altering the status quo worldwide.  Using art as a means to investigate these changes and examine their results, the exhibition based its inquiry in the lives of individualsin which games naturally became parts, the economic influence of the game industry, and the sociocultural messages embedded in game and play, all uncovered through media art.

Director: Jin Sup Yoon
Curators: Johan Pijnappel/ Liz Hughes/ Hans D Christ/ Tilman Baumgaertel

2006: Dual Realities

media_city seoul 2006
Theme: Dual Realities
Duration/ Venue: 18 October-10 December 2006/Seoul Museum of Art

Director: Wonil Rhee
Curators: Yuko Hasegawa/ Lev Manovich/ Inris Mayer/ Pi Li

The theme for the 4th edition of the biennale in 2006 was ‘Dual Realities,’ and focused on the New Physicality that was developing as a response to the increasing interrelation of the physical and virtual worlds, a result of the advancements in internet and multimedia technologies. The exhibition analyzed the relationship of these distinct realities, their mutual interdependency, and the paradoxical situation of the virtual world exerting significant influence over the physical The exhibition approached the concept of New Physicality with an artistic language and exhibition structure that sublimated notions of positive and negative, the division and integration of cyberspace, and even healing through three sub-themes, “Dual Realities: Encounter and Clash,” “Extension of Reality: Permeation of Experience and Play,” “Competitive Realities: Seeking A New Relationship.”

2008: Turn and Widen

media_city seoul 2008
Theme: Turn and Widen
Duration/ Venue: 12 September-5 November 2008/Seoul Museum of Art

Director: Ilho Park
Curators:  Maarten Bertheux/ Raul Zamudio/ Tohru Matsumoto/ Andreas Broeckmann

The 5th Seoul International Media Art Biennale, under the theme “Turn andWiden”, highlighted the changes and expansion that the emergence and dissemination of media art have brought to contemporary art practice. In viewing how the differences between media art and traditional art are producing new experiences and characteristics in art, the exhibition took three key terms– Light, Communication, and Time—as reference points for a comprehensive interpretation of the exhibition’s program.

2010: Trust

Media City Seoul 2010
Theme: Trust
Duration/ Venue: 7 September-17 November 2010/Seoul Museum of Art

Director: Sunjung Kim
Curators:  Clara Kim/ Nicolaus Schafhausen/ Fumihiko Sumitomo

Inaugurated in 2000 with a specific aim to enforce the image of the city of Seoul as a capital of technological development, the exhibition has been one of few international biennials with a focus on ‘media art’. As the possibilities of media continue to redefine and alter everyday life, it is an opportune moment to re-examine our basic notion of media, in order to intelligently and thoughtfully head forth into a new era. The curatorial team has modified the title from media_city seoul to Media City Seoul, a modest but important gesture that emphasizes individualness of these entities and attempts to move beyond catch words and compound terms to the co-existence of separate but equal parts. In doing so, Media City Seoul 2010 is proud to take the biennial one step further and think about media beyond its formal definitions.


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