2016 Arko Solo Exhibition Series has selected Airan Kang (b.1960, professor at Ewha Womans University) who has achieved a solid style of art for the past 30 years with the “digital book” which is a book-formed transparent object with LED light installed, emitting light. This year’s Arko Solo Exhibition Series will be a turning point of reconfirming the established style as well as advancing to the next level to an artist who had little chance of a solo show in a museum despite the fact that her artistic competence has been sufficiently proven in exhibitions at home and abroad.
Airan Kang’s earlier works consist of objects of books wrapped in a cloth (Bottari Series) in an attempt to embrace the lives of individuals and women and at times to emancipate them through an artistic and cultural practice. Such practice has evolved with the artist’s extended awareness to reflect the foundations of civilization, life, culture, and knowledge. In terms of media, the artist has continued experimenting with engraving, object, and painting. And now, with the representative style of work, “lighting books,” she has settled with the medium of technology and video combined. In this exhibition, the artist shifts her attention from the surface of a “book” to the “inside of the book,” focusing on the narratives and lives of the women who were marginalized from our modern history.
The exhibition is centered around The Towering of Intelligence, a hexagonal tower of 200 or more digital books. And it includes 5 rooms that consists the excerpts from the books deposited in the tower. Each room serves to look into the lives of women, who raised their voices in adversity to defy the social conventions on women and led independent lives in the early 20th century in Korea, putting into display of various problems embedded in our modern history. These women include Na Hyeseok, Kim Ilyup, Choi Seunghee, and Yoon Simdeok as well as the comfort women who led unfortunate lives as victims of sexual violence during the war. The exhibition title A Room of Her Own is derived from the title of Virginia Woolf’s essay A Room of One’s Own (1929) in which the writer states that "a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.” The four individuals (Na, Kim, Choi, Yoon) mentioned above all refused to follow the social convention enforced on women at the time. They were against the war, and also desired for ethics and philosophy of the new era. Moreover, they asserted equality for both sexes and placed great emphasis on human instinct. Ultimately, “A Room of Her Own” is a place for repose and independence where they contemplated their intellectual and emotional views, and incubated the power of resistance. This “room” allowed them to see the humankind and the world in clearer vision. Furthermore, it may also be the artist’s will to lead an edifying life by reflecting on our modern past.