Recently announced in Art Forum and Art Asia Pacific, Ethan Cohen Gallery in New York is pleased to share the news of Mina Cheon’s participation in the 2018 Busan Biennale, directed and curated by a dynamic international team of Cristina Ricupero and Jörg Heiser with the biennale’s timely theme on “divided territories.” The exhibition will open from September 8 to November 11 at the Museum of Contemporary Art Busan and the former Bank of Korea building.
According to a statement issued by the [Busan Biennial], “the focus of the exhibition is not just on the documentary of fictional responses artists have made to [the issues addressed by the exhibition]. Crucially, it looks at how souls are inspired, or haunted, by these political divisions.” Among the artists participating are Mina Cheon (South Korea), Smardar Dreyfus (Israel), Mauricio Dias and Walter Riedweg (Brazil/Switzerland), Min Jeong Seo (South Korea), Lim Min-ouk (South Korea), Henrike Naumann (Germany), and Ming Wong (Singapore). The full artist list will be announced in the coming months. (Art Forum, May 7, 2018)
Mina Cheon has been represented by Ethan Cohen Gallery in New York since 2012 and the gallery enthusiastically supports her North Korean awareness, Korean unification, and global peace projects. Her two solo exhibitions at the gallery includes “Choco·Pie Propaganda: From North Korea with Love” (2014) and “UMMA : MASS GAMES – Motherly Love North Korea” (2017-2018). Both exhibitions highlight the cultural impact on global politics, how art intersects the political dimension with exchanges of imagery, symbols, news making, and civic engagement. In our time of political uncertainty and media consumption of the rhetoric of war, xenophobia, violence and discrimination, art is an act of social justice. Through global activism, Cheon’s work questions the masculine power common in totalitarian worldviews and presents an alternative imagined universe of motherly peace where children on posters are not used to propagate, but to represent actual lives. The fiction here notably functions as a reliable truth that uncovers the ongoing crisis of information war, fake news, and the global political soap opera that erases culture rather than producing it. Ethan Cohen Gallery is excited to see the works of a cultural producer and leader Mina Cheon with her political pop art “Polipop” staged at this inspiring Busan Biennale.
In a moving statement describing Cheon’s work, art historian and curator Emma Chubb incites:
Mina Cheon’s work moves across media and material, from the more “traditional” media of painting and sculpture to performance, video, installation, and activism. But this is not the only kind of mobility that characterizes her work. Hers is a practice invested in mobility across the time, space, and memory of militarized borders, both physical borders and internalized ones.
It is in her efforts to bring to the fore the kinds of split subjectivities and messy histories created by these borders that Cheon’s work, like so much politically engaged art, compels her viewers to ask questions that are as urgent as they are uncomfortable. What kinds of power are at play in Cheon’s creation of her North Korean alter ego and art persona Kim Il Soon aka UMMA, who is at once a hopeful alternative to patriarchal governance and a metaphor for the codified roles often prescribed for women during periods of intense nationalism … … can art really effect social and political change anyway?
To the last question, the answer is an enthusiastic yes. Art has the power to transform how people think and move about in the world and to change whose humanity is, or is not, recognized… … I think that’s a meaning that also resonates with Cheon’s art, scholarship, and teaching in which she attends to the stakes of collapsing umma—mother—with umma—the nation—and fosters community across the DMZ and between the Korean peninsula and the United States.
(Emma Chubb, Ph.D., Charlotte Feng Ford ’83 Curator of Contemporary Art, Smith College Museum of Art)