In Korea, once something – be it a tv show, food, place, or anything in between – becomes popular, pretty much everyone here begins indulging in that thing. You see countless posts strewn across social media on any given day depicting everyone’s interaction with said craze, and it’s a phenomenon unlike anything I’ve experienced anywhere else in the world.
For example, in late 2014/early 2015, the nation was swept with the Honey Butter Chip craze, which resulted in the (admittedly delicious) snack selling out and being near impossible to find for months on end. Now that the obsession has died down somewhat, it’s possible to find these quite easily, but that doesn’t mean people are bored of them entirely; they became popular to the extent that there is now an entire cafe in Hongdae dedicated to the snack.
And, in a country obsessed with documenting everything, the more photogenic said recent craze is, the better. So naturally, when a new exhibition opened at the 디뮤지엄 (D Museum) featuring 9 different light exhibitions – including, most prominently, a room that could be straight of out the set of the Hotline Bling video – the internet became inundated with photos. We’re not talking Honey Butter Chip-level fame here, but after a while, my friend Hana and I had seen enough pictures to pique our interest, and once we’d finished this semester’s finals, we treated ourselves to a trip.
The D Museum itself is somewhat unassuming from the outside, located at the edge of an apartment complex which, as we walked through it to reach the gallery from our bus stop, curiously enough left us with a strong feeling of Europe as a result of its architecture. As you can see from the image above, the gallery too conveys this, and wouldn’t look at all out of place in London.
We paid the entrance fee of ₩8,000, stopped off to store some of our things in the free lockers provided, and then set off to explore. There’s only one course you can follow, and we arrived around 5pm, thinking that the gallery wouldn’t close until 8pm (because I had misread the website; in fact it only stays open until 6pm, except on Fridays and Saturdays, when it remains open for two extra hours). However, although we were a little rushed towards the end, an hour was more or less enough time to enjoy the exhibit, take plenty of photos, and even grab coffee at the end before the building closed.
First up was the installation by Cerith Wyn Evans, entitled ‘Neon Forms (After Noh II and III)’ (Noh being a form of traditional Japanese theatre).
Next, we were plunged into darkness to enjoy ‘Primary/Contour’ by Flynn Talbot, exploring fingerprints and primary colours.
The third installation was ‘Line Fade’ by Erwin Redl, which featured red and blue lights creating a large cylindrical space in the room.
The next installation, ‘Chromo Saturation’ by Carlos Cruz-Diez (the much anticipated and no doubt most photographed section of the whole exhibit), required us to wear these fetching shoe covers so as to keep the floor in pristine condition.
The room, divided into three sections – blue, red, and green – changed frequently, from vibrant versions of each colour to faded pastels, and back again. This was the room that had been dubbed the Hotline Bling room on social media, and we couldn’t resist (poorly) reenacting the video just a little. We weren’t sure if other attendees would do the same, but at one point we actually heard someone playing the song out loud, so we weren’t alone.
Next came one of my favourite installations, ‘Mirror Branch Daelim’ by Studio Roso, comprised of thousands of mirrors casting forest-like shadows across all surfaces.
Next was perhaps the most intriguing room, ‘My Whale’ by Tundra, a group made up of musicians, sound engineers, programmers, and visual artists. This installation featured eerie music and sounds, and an ever-changing tunnel of hexagonal lights.
Room number 7 featured Paul Cocksedge’s ‘Bourrasque’, depiciting what appeared to be hundreds of sheets of paper caught in a gust of wind. There was something particularly magical about this installation.
Room number 8, ‘CMYK Corner, CMYK Wall / “Don’t Look Into The Light”‘ by Dennis Parren used special lights to cast multicoloured shadows off any objects in the room.
Last but not least was Olivier Ratsi’s ‘Onion Skin’, an immersive video projection with accompanying sound that left me feeling a little strange; I couldn’t stay in the room too long due to the speeding lights and colours (which was just as well, really, as the museum was starting to wind down for the day).
After grabbing a coffee from the cafe and having a quick browse of the gift shop (I love a good gift shop, especially at an art gallery or museum, but this one sadly left much to be desired – perhaps not surprising, given the small size of the D Museum), we collected our things from our locker and headed outside to contemplate the exhibition and make our way home. I would certainly recommend attending if you can, especially if you want to take some interesting photos – or if you just want to pretend you’re on in Hotline Bling, which I’m sure has been reason enough for at least some of those who have visited.
The D Museum is located at 서울특별시 용산구 독서당로29길 5-6 / 5-6, Dokseodang-ro, Yongsan-gu, Seoul.
Entrance is ₩8000 for adults / ₩5000 students (8-18 years) / ₩3000 children (3-7 years) / discounts available online or in groups
This exhibition is running until 2016.05.08