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Cody Choi - The Venice Biennale’s 11 Best Pavilions


Cody Choi, Wan Lee, “Counterbalance: The Stone and The Mountain”

Curated by Lee Daehyung

A new work by 1990s art star Cody Choi covers the pavilion’s face with mashup of neon sculptures that look as if they’ve been pulled from casinos in Las Vegas and Macao, then merged. The garish nature of global capitalism is the subject of this piece, Venetian Rhapsody (2017). And it makes way for an exuberant installation that mulls Korean culture and politics through the personal reflections of individuals from different generations.

Choi represents the 1990s, through his conceptual work that responds, often with humor, to what he saw as the West’s cultural takeover of Korea during this time. Wan Lee, more than a decade younger than Choi, explores his own relationship to globalism and how traditions and economic systems have transformed in its wake. One series of videos, “Made In” (2013–ongoing), follows Lee’s journey around several Asian countries in order to source the raw materials (wood for chopsticks in China, palm oil in Malaysia, coffee in Vietnam) needed to prepare a typical Korean breakfast.

The glue that holds the show together, though, is Lee’s sprawling, multi-part installation, Mr. K and the collection of Korean History (2010–17). It joins the personal archive of a deceased journalist named Mr. K (Lee purchased the archive at a flea market for $50) with a vast cache of government records, newspapers, wristwatches from the past that Lee has collected since 2010. And for Proper Time (2017), Lee asked hundreds of people how long they need to work in order to afford a meal. Over 600 clocks, set on pace with their answers, whir in one room of the pavilion. Each is inscribed with an interviewee’s name, birthdate, nationality, and job.


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