Song Sanghee winner Korea Artist Prize 2017 The National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea (MMCA)

January 24, 2018 by Laura Gomez

The National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea(MMCA) has selected Song Sanghee (b. 1970) as the winner of Korea Artist Prize 2017, an exhibition co-organized with the SBS Culture Foundation.

Co-organized by MMCA and the SBS Culture Foundation, the Korea Artist Prize was planned as an effort to support and foster artists presenting possibilities and visions for contemporary Korean art along with new alternatives. Marking its sixth edition this year since its 2012 launch, the Korea Artist Prize is establishing itself as a fully-fledged artistic award system representing South Korea, which seeks to advance Korean art and culture by encouraging new trends and discourses in contemporary Korean art.

Song Sanghee, Come Back Alive Baby, 2017, The winner of Korea Artist Prize 2017, Song Sanghee is presenting two new works for this exhibition. Come
Back Alive Baby uses the tragic heroic folk tale of the “baby commander” to address themes of ending and rescue, apocalyptic circumstances, and the energy of beginnings. Using video, drawings, and text, she transforms the “resurrections” that emerge even amid the most dramatic circumstances of despair and annihilation, including the sacrifices of individuals for the security of states and groups, major famines and local government bankruptcies, and historically catastrophic nuclear power plant disasters. Placed opposite this work is This is the way the world ends not with a bang but a whimper, produced by gathering numerous images of explosions. The effect is one of juxtaposition with the “hollow man,” who is accustomed to living amid the ongoing reality of disaster and threat of human annihilation.

Born in 1970, Song Sanghee began her artistic career with a requiem for the “soundless deaths of those without a share.” Through her work, she uses music, video, drawings, text, and performance to summon those “excluded by explosions to symbolic systems,” the “nameless ones” ever present in different forces through past and present, and bring them into a complex space-time of past and present within a more robust narrative context. During the 2000s
her work has adopted the perspective of a woman who has experienced modernity as it depicts tragic scenes and images of structuralized mythology, constantly posing
questions about the place of women in society. Since 2010, she has used historical materials collected and researched in a meticulous, multilayered way to focus on
forgotten details from history, engaging and establishing new relationships with the brilliant things lingering within those moments.

In assessing Song’s work, the panel of judges for the Korea Artist Prize 2017 exhibition said the artist has “therapeutically reconstructed dark and sorrowful moments from modern society through the introduction of historical allusions and mythology, using video, photography, and drawing as part of a meticulous reading, based on multilayered research and interviews, into the victims who have been unable to rise to the surface of history.”

The SBS Culture Foundation plans to air a contemporary art documentary on the artistic visions of sponsored artists and the final awardees on the SBS network on 4 February 2018.