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Artistic Responses in the Age of Mass Media: Theory of Media and Discourse on Kitsch in Early 1990s in Korea

기혜경 1

1국립현대미술관

Accredited

ABSTRACT

The democracy resistance in 1986 suddenly uplifted the social repression in Korea, welcoming the golden days of popular culture. The visual images produced by mass media of this period took the lead in everyday life, and started to substitute the traditional role of art. Through various means, the art world tried to respond to such trends of the time, and the discourse on media, intensified as a result, captures the social cultural context of the time. The Minjung Misul side, which aimed for political avant-gardism through such discourse on medium, not only maintained a flexible and open attitude towards medium through its reflection on instrumental literary thought, but also sought to eliminate the formal conservatism of art work. On the other hand, modernism group rejected the purity of Greenberg formalities and art for elites, accepting the art work’s narrative element which reflected its time and favoring the present relativity of art which integrated art with life. Such discourse on the medium made way for real criticism on the New Generation Art which embraced the idea of kitsch and collapsed the boundary between popular culture and fine art. The medium in kitsch art of New Generation where contradictory qualities intersect is read as an element of resistance defying the existing art world. Not only so, kitsch art demonstrates the social structural contradictions described in the theory of media, a tool of communication, in the sense that the context proposed by such medium of kitsch reveals the shallowness, meagerness and weakness of social structure in Korea, a country which has gone through a third world modernization of compressed growth. Such changes marking the Korean art world in 1990s signifies artistic means of reaction against the changes that took place in Korea, as the country entered the age of popular culture.

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