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The Endless Story
There was a kid with three eyes in Lim Seung-chun’s painting. The child squatted on a stand in a worn-out sweatshirt. I thought I must have mistaken him for something else, or it was an illusory object caused by vertigo. The child, with slender arms and legs, gazed at me, sitting on the stand. His gaze pierced my body. Evading the gaze, and feeling unrest, I asked, “Who are you?” This child motif links Lim’s previous work to this exhibition. Without information about his previous paintings, we remain unaware of the symbolic meaning the child has.
An enormous ship called ‘Dream’ carries those who are lost among urban expansion and rampant development to a desert island in the Southern Pacific. Proving the desire and motivations in human activities anywhere, passengers in this boat who left for a utopia, reiterate the ugly scenes in the land in which they once lived.
A boat damaged by a storm is restored to a boat with three prows, but it cannot move. Three is a perfect, auspicious figure, but the boat cannot move because it has three prows. On deck are houses that look like those on a poor hillside. They wander and struggle for power, while others leave on a helpless ship, or take the path of self-destruction.
This kid called Nakta with three eyes and a curved back is the sole survivor in this process of self-destruction. The boy appears in this exhibition. Artist Lim Seung-chun interweaves his exhibition with serial stories, not momentary events. Will he convey a hopeful story this time?
In this show, Lim conveys another narrative, concerning the Arctic. The Arctic is the area north of the Arctic Circle (66° 33’N), which relates to the approximate limit of the midnight sun, and the polar night. This narrative might be unexpected, but it relates to his previous work, in that it speaks about a tragic conclusion due to a clash of desires, and it is developed by Lim blending his imagination, after observing reality with the cold eye. We have to follow his stories, and judge what is real or imaginary.
Lim’s work conveys stories about competition of superpowers for ownership of sizable natural resources like oil and gas, competition for securing the shipping routes available due to the melting of the ice by global warming, the Santa Zone set up at the geographical North Pole to prevent struggles, armed clashes caused by the exploitation of natural resources and shipping routes, and the memorial tower to offer solace to the killed and injured. Of these stories, I cannot distinguish between what is real and what is fictitious. Newspaper reports include fierce information wars among superpowers, territorial disputes, Arctic’s perpetual ice diminished by 57% between 2004 and 2008 due to global warming, competition for the shipping routes, and Arctic’s gas exploitation.
Unfortunately, it is not a fiction but a real story we humans try to gain profits, destroying nature. The stories end with survivors left in the Santa Zone, but nobody knows the following stories. These are open, and have no conclusion, but we feel restless. That is why reality is too suffocating to assert optimism, believing human reason and rationality.
How did the artist convey this story? What we see in the venue is a black billboard filled with corporate logos and a kid squatting and hiding his face with his hands. A memorial tower, set up to offer solace to victims, looks ridiculous due to the logos covering its surface. No images paying tribute to such victims are found here, and images of human violence are hidden between the logos. Unhappy aspects of human history are embedded in the flood of images hard to notice from a distance. Around it is L, who survived the Santa Zone, an imaginary relay station. He looks like a child squatting, hiding his face with one hand.
It is of course a fictitious story by Lim. The stories of the Dream ship’s voyage log and the disaster in the Santa Zone in the Arctic are eerie. He overlaps reality and the future, using gloomy images recalling Japanese science-fiction animation. He poses serious question too, using narrative structures, made almost redundant by contemporary art. Displayed in the venue is his own face, filled with anxiety about home. His head is jam-packed with houses shaping a mountain, with juice coming out of his ruptured brain. His face is cracked due to internal tension and anguish. Upon close examination, the face is mine and yours.     
Announcing the arrival of winter, it was cold, in just a few days, but now it is again warm. I expect this warm weather to carry on into next spring. Although it might not happen due to global warming. But I retain this expectation, because there are many people worrying about where they can endure a harsh winter. After I witnessed those ousted from their dwelling places, who lost their lives trying to keep their shelters, and the homeless in the Ulji-ro underground station, I could not have a romantic feeling.
It is so strange, why living becomes tougher, although the world has gradually evolved. I gave up touring the galleries, after I felt the distance between beautiful pictures and the reality I experienced. I felt disgust rather than solace. Was it Theodor Adorno who stated, Art isn’t possible after Auschwitz? In an age of light-hearted kitsch, an age of provocative, trivial stimulation and conventional beauty, an age of the arts, whose status is always in doubt, he speaks to us without compromising the idea of a utopia, and without concealing the shabbiness of reality. Unlike this gloomy appearance, a ray of hope is found in his narratives as he always leaves survivors, and Nakta who has three eyes, to see the place commoners cannot see, hoping wings will sprout from crooked backs. The story of these young survivors will begin. His narratives haven’t ended yet.

By Jo-Ehan

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