Blazin’ up in of the Seoul Museum of Art, the mammoth exhibition PEACEMINUSONE offers a glittering addition to the canon of swag-as-art. While the group exhibition features work by such international artists as James Clar and Fabien Verschare and a broad range of contemporary South Korean artists, PEACEMINUSONE is for, by, and about one man: G-Dragon, K-pop enfant terrible, noted fashionista, and now—curator.
G-Dragon, for those living under the diamond-encrusted rock of his mega-celebrity, first rose to prominence as the breakout star of k-pop super-group Big Bang and cemented his golden boy solo status in 2009 after (maybe) ripping off a Flo Rida song and releasing chart-topper Heartbreaker. The world of G-Dragon is one of catchy auto-tunes, bouncy choreography, major fashion trendsetting, and an infinite sea of giant smart phone-wielding fans. The world of G-Dragon is PEACEMINUSONE. Grab a selfie stick and dive on in.
The first gallery of PEACEMINUSONE, “Made by G Dragon,” is posited as a peek inside G-Dragon’s head, which is apparently a mirrored chamber filled with lots of really expensive stuff. Shag carpets designate walking spaces, while Philippe Starck furniture and studded baseball caps from “G-Dragon’s personal collection” cozy up to a Tracey Enim neon and mannequins trussed up in costumes from G-Dragon’s more notable videos. A series of light boxes display photos of G-Dragon in his myriad forms: androgynous, real, glamorous, reflective, angrily gripping a bunch of colorful nuts and bolts. In these postures, G-Dragon is a Warhol in chains, and from these chains hubcap-sized pieces of bling are strung.
Bold neon tube installations by American artist James Clar transition the observer from “Made by G-Dragon” into the unwitting subject of live-feed CCTV cameras in a space titled “(Deep Sighs) Untelevised, Revolution on Wheels.” Among the craning necks of camcorders, dial-up internet noises, and a generally irritating buzzing, the far wall boasts the word “REVOLUTION” rendered in massive neon letters. Despite a conspicuous absence of wheels, wall text reiterates that “revolution” is nevertheless a word close to G-Dragon’s heart. Indeed, single word meditations are a big part of G-Dragon’s ethos in general. In another corner the PEACEMINUSONE labyrinth of spectacle, Fabien Verschare’s addition “Thirty Words” offers bubble letter paintings of words that are also presumably very important to G-Dragon: “Karma,” “Die,” “Sex,” Korea,” “Crayon.”
PEACEMINUSONE is an immersive journey and its myriad renderings of G-Dragon’s imaginative vision are engaging, bizarre, and utterly exhausting. Come with us now on “A Voyage with G Dragon,” in which Korean photographer Hyun-Geung Park’s photo-shopped renderings imagine the world of PEACEMINUSONE as a fantasy icescape. Or step into “Untitled G Dragon,” in which Osang Gwon’s sculpture of one large-scale ceramic G-Dragon harpooning another ceramic G-Dragon in the face occupies a mirrored room that has no doubt produced some of the strangest #artselfies of our time. Finally, try to puzzle out the addition of Donghyun Son’s “(Portrait of) The Hip Hop,” in which paneled drawings in the style of a deeply-regrettable tattoo spell out the words “Hip Hop.” The panels begin with grim illustrations of Tupac and Biggie and culminate with a “Say My Name”-era Rihanna and Drake, as well as an unidentified cartoon bear. In the intervening panels, the smoke from Jay-Z’s cigar smoke rises to form clouds reminiscent of those found in traditional Korean landscape paintings.
G-Dragon has conceived of PEACEMINUSONE as a platform to harness his massive celebrity and bring his fans closer to Korean contemporary art. A definitely worthwhile undertaking, but hard to focus on anything when the whole experience is not unlike being thrown down a k-pop video rabbit hole. Among the glittery pastiche of sculpture, fashion, installation, and grandiose wall text, any sense of the artists’ mission or work is eclipsed by a blinding spotlight celebrating the great G-man himself.
The promotional text for PEACEMINUSONE offers a series of English words with letters seemingly-strategically omitted: “PE CE, C LOR, INF NITY, BR ATH, A T, DIAM ND, L VE.” Seeking meaning in this apparent anagram—AOIEROO—a Korean-English dictionary was consulted for possible definitions. A hidden code? The secret to G-Dragon’s success? Does AOIEROO represent the addition that might give PEACEMINUSONE the desired plus one implied by its name? But no, the Korean-English dictionary reveals: it doesn’t mean anything at all. PEACEMINUSONE: Beyond the Stage, Seoul Museum of Art, 2015.06.09 – 2015.08.23