The Victoria & Albert Museum’s (V&A) new exhibition Hallyu! The Korean Wave opens with the frenetic vitality of Ok-culture – loud, vibrant, continually shifting – its title displayed throughout a number of screens amongst rotating clips of PSY’s viral 2012 hit Gangnam Model.
Curated by Rosalie Kim and Yoojin Choi, it’s the first main exhibition to survey the South Korean tradition that has just lately swept the globe, and, as Rosalie Kim explains, “It has reworked the nation’s picture from one devastated by the Korean Battle to that of a number one cultural powerhouse”.
It encompasses the rise of Ok-drama as much as latest hits equivalent to Boon Joon-ho’s Oscar-winning Parasite, in addition to the worldwide phenomena of Ok-Pop idols equivalent to BTS, G-Dragon and aespa.
However in an exhibition designed by Berlin-based Korean graphic designer Na Kim as artistic lead and Liverpool-based Studio Mutt as 3D designers, Hallyu’s world explosion can be given wider framing.
Invited to use for the position of artistic lead by the V&A, Na Kim was intrigued to deal with this now-global phenomenon with which, as a Korean nationwide, she has a “love/hate relationship”.
To grasp Hallyu, there was a have to look again to the broader Korean tradition behind it, however alternatively, she explains, how Ok-culture has taken off past South Korea’s borders. This cultural mobility is itself a part of what makes Hallyu distinctive, the place new concepts can “flow into or carry out [through] popular culture [or] a recent scene”, she says.
Formed by the social areas of Korean life
It was vital for Na Kim to root Hallyu in South Korean tradition.
The signage offers sturdy visible presence to Hangul, the Korean alphabet, by bilingual titles that place Hangul characters side-by-side with the Roman lettering, utilizing comparable typeface weight and width throughout each languages.
In the meantime, Kim additionally sought to specific the vitality of Ok-culture by collaborating with quite a few different Korean creatives, together with house designer San Jeon, graphic designer Yejoo Lee, and illustrator Joonho Ko.
Nonetheless, the core of the exhibition proposal was to form the exhibition by two contrasting settings acquainted to Korean life: the general public sq., and a personal room.
Na Kim explains how such areas have been key to the political and social milieu from which Ok-wave developed. Occasions such because the Asian monetary disaster of the late Nineties introduced individuals collectively in public, whereas in distinction, the extra intimate house of a room just isn’t solely a part of the normal Korean house however can be attribute of the particular public house of South Korea’s internet-café precursor, the PC Bang, now extra generally used for multiplayer laptop video games.
A deal with type
In a design which streamlined supplies focusing as an alternative on type, the 2 environments of public sq. and personal room had been realised by a 3D design by Studio Mutt, working with contractors Made Studio. Lighting design by Studio ZNA, helps to create these two atmospheres by lighting temperature and power.
The idea feels strongest within the part on Ok-drama and cinema, designed to seem like a set of a streetscape.
“We created this road scene the place we might use buildings [to hold] museum cupboards, but in addition in some cases we used the constructing to signify a bodily constructing you’ll be able to stroll into”, Studio Mutt director Alexander Turner explains.
Coming into one ‘constructing’ guests are dropped – nearly too shut for consolation – into
a “one-to-one” screening of a struggle scene from Park Chan-wook’s 2003 movie Oldboy, the large and shallow dimensions of the house neatly mirroring the digicam shot.
Ok-culture’s many shifting elements
To take care of the large remit of Hallyu, the exhibition is break up into distinct sections. After the introductory From Rubble to Smartphones, comes Spotlighting Ok-drama and Cinema, Sounding Ok-pop and Fandoms and Making Ok-Magnificence and Vogue.
Every house is saturated in a single color throughout its numerous surfaces, clearly distinguishing every part. The precise colors had been chosen by Na Kim for his or her relevance to elements of Hallyu, equivalent to a blue-purple related to the band BTS, which might be instantly recognisable to its followers.
The design is versatile: extra sombre moods are established for the part on Korean historical past, [which moves swiftly from the Josean Dynasty to the 1950 Korean war and the rebuilding of the country afterwards, and a restrained elegance is used for the section on the world-leading industry of K-beauty, which spans from the 13th century cosmetics boxes to the futuristic machinery to IOPE and Lincsolution’s 3D printed custom face masks. Against white walls, Joonho Ko’s silhouetted illustrations depict historical beauty products.
In contrast, the K-pop section features both intimate and open spaces. The walls of one room, featuring handmade fan banners, are lined with large cardboard tubes as if surrounding visitors with a giant curtain, while the next room is a riot of K-pop’s vibrant aesthetics, bordered instead with screens displaying K-pop music videos surrounding the exuberant stage costumes worn by the idols.
From hand-made fan banners to hi-tech collaborations
This section also showcases two examples of new technology. The first is a large transparent screen from LG Display which displays different K-pop lyrics.
Making use of its transparency, Turner explains, “we located [it] in a manner that created a type of enfilade […] a sequence of frames that pull you thru the exhibition.”
Behind it was one other collaboration, an interactive dance piece from Google Arts and Tradition the place guests can report themselves performing Ok-pop dance routines.
The delicate energy of tradition
Total the exhibition exhibits the large selection and hybridity of Ok-wave, juxtaposing historic objects within the V&A’s main assortment of Korean craft and design in opposition to the improvements of latest a long time.
There are design highlights all through; these may embody the set up of sunshine sticks, a handheld illuminated wand distinctive to every Ok-pop idol and waved in unison by followers at concert events; or the webtoon comics of the Nineties, each a Korean design innovation that tailored cartoons to be learn vertically by scrolling down on a cell phone, and a cultural product that bore witness to the tumultuous interval through the Asian monetary disaster, and which nonetheless present supply materials for Ok-drama, cinema, musicals and laptop video games to today.
One of many design’s strengths is a flexibility that enables for this selection, shifting between delicate historic content material, by wonderful artwork to popular culture. The historical past part alone options displays as numerous as propaganda leaflets, a poster from the Seoul Olympics, early smartphones and automotive fashions to the 33 TV screens of Mirage Stage – the 1986 work from “father of video artwork” Nam June Paik. It additionally exhibits the surprising beauty trade origins of LG – the electronics firm which is without doubt one of the supporters of the exhibition.
Turner explains how Studio Mutt has tried to play with this combine of ritual and informality all through, one thing laid out from the beginning within the transient from the V&A.
The exhibition is prone to enchantment to design followers, Ok-pop followers, and all these in between. Its design permits the viral hits to be proven alongside lesser-known highlights, whereas its singular however capacious idea exhibits what number of issues may come collectively in a specific place to explosive impact.
The exhibition Hallyu! The Korean Wave runs from 24 September 2022 – 25 June 2023 on the Victoria & Albert Museum, Cromwell Highway, London, SW7 2RL
Banner Picture: Set up picture, Hallyu! The Korean Wave on the V&A