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Feminist Art' of 1980s in Korea: 《Wuri botmureul teuja》exhibition

Kim Hyeonjoo 1

1추계예술대학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

The history of feminist arts in Korea has now exceeded twenty years. Writing the history of feminism implies cultural discussions as well as activist movements for women's rights. So is the case of writing the history of feminist art. Most Korean art historians wrote that the feminist art of 1980s was led by the female activist artists engaged with Minjung art, and from the early 1990s, it was substituted by cultural inclinations. Considering that art practices in feminism had begun around the mid eighties, 1980s was a relatively short period in the history of feminist art in Korea. It is the 1980s, however, where we could notice strong resistance and dynamism in the process of adopting the completely new art practices and discourses. Those were the years in which not only old and new terms such as 'yeoryu misul(여류미술)', 'women's art', and 'feminist art' were vaguely used, but also activist and cultural movements in feminism were confronting and compromising. Most of the studies on art in the 1980s concentrate on 'Women's Art' which were prominent at the time. Refusing to be called as yeoryu(여류) or feminists, the term was designated by the female artists who took part in the activist movement in liberating working class women. As a result, alternative art practice in feminism, whose agendas cover gender differences, femininities, and female sensibilities in mind, was hardly visible. This paper explores alternative feminist art practices in the 1980s which are different from Women's Art. By bringing an unrevealed exhibition in 1988《Wuri botmureul teuja: yeosung heibang si wa grim eu mannam (우리 봇물을 트자: 여성 해방시와 그림의 만남)》to light, this paper proposes it was not unfolded in unilateral dominance of Women Art, as it was discussed in most previous studies. On the contrary, this study discloses that more than one voice was conflicting during the period. The exhibition was organized by "Alternative Culture", also known as "Tomoon", a feminist group which was founded in 1984. It was realized through one year of collaborations among four female artists, Suknam Yun, Tjinsuk Kim, Youngsook Park, and Jungyop Chung and female poets of Tomoon. Main subjects of this exhibition entail the reality of women's subjugation, the awareness of self and feminist consciousness, and the practice of women's liberation through experienced maternity and the bond of sisterhood. These were all 'women problems' proposed in the feminist cultural movement during the 1980s, and the four women artists tried to interpret poems, exploring to find unique ways to visualize them. The positions that the four artists took were different from those of male artists who did not accept the differences of women and men, and from the ones of female artists who ignored the differences among women as well. Even though it failed to attract attention, the exhibition has a profound significance because it is both the earliest fruition of cultural collaborations among feminists in other fields and a proof of alternative feminist art practices. Nevertheless, this exhibition has been neglected for twenty years. This paper discusses the exhibition in scrutiny, suggesting another mapping of 1980s' feminisms in art. In conclusion, it makes clear that the different levels of feminisms in art coexisted in the 1980s - one is the Women's Art engaged into the women's liberation movement in particular circumstances in Korea, and another is the feminist art intervened to cultural transformation with the awareness of gender differences

Citation status

* References for papers published after 2022 are currently being built.