These works are the results of a three-month artist residency in South Korea in spring 2015. They aim to capture and transmit the specific atmosphere of the city of Seoul between excitement and exhaustion, attraction and tiredness. My research on this topic was inspired by the writings of South Korean philosopher Byung-Chul Han, who referred to his homeland as a “fatigue socity in terminal stage”.
In the exhibition There is tiresome, but attractive (presented at Uqbar art space, Berlin, Nov 2015–Jan 2016) various photographs of the city’s business and shopping districts, especially from Gangnam and the “Smart City” Songdo, which is still under construction, were assembled in form of an installative setting. By working with big size prints and using the form of their presentation, I transform street scenes and architectures into Urban Characters (see also my series with the same title) – photographs of architectural bodies turn into representative figures revealing distinctive personalities and characteristics. In the case of Seoul these are ultra-modern buildings, but barely able to keep upright. They literally fall out of the frame or collapse in the exhibition space. It seems as if they act out the exhaustion that the depicted businesspeople – who all move within a tight time frame – do not concede. When asked “How are you?” the performance-oriented subject answers “Very busy!” The work Businesscard of a Full Body Sandwich Man refers to the importance of the business card as proof of such a busyness.
The need for a permanent commitment and optimized appearance exerts immense pressure and in order to keep up the motivation, suggestive encouragement is needed: Shown on a tablet, Korean Notebook Wisdoms is a collection of aphorisms that I discovered on the cover pages of Korean notebooks (the title of the exhibition was one of them). The slogans – written in incorrect English – oscillate oddly between reassurance and encouragement; originating in Confucian philosophy they fit seamlessly into a global neoliberal work ethic.