Park Seo-Bo Speaks Out About Prize Cancellation

Source Credit:  Content and images from Ocula Magazine.  Read the original article -

‘When I first heard the news, I was devastated,’ Park said after the Gwangju Biennale cancelled the prize named after him.

Park Seo-Bo Speaks Out About Prize Cancellation

Park Seo-Bo. Courtesy Park Seo-Bo.

Despite receiving a commitment to fund the US $100,000 prize for the next 10 years, the Gwangju Biennale cancelled the Gwangju Biennale Park Seo-Bo Art Prize this month after it was awarded just once.

Protestors objected to the prize being named after Park, who they accused of being silent during decades of oppressive military rule.

Park Seo-Bo, the pioneering Korean artist whose GIZI Foundation sponsored the prize, offered his thoughts on the abrupt cancellation.

How are you feeling after this setback?

When I first heard the news, I was devastated. But now I’m calm. There’s a Chinese proverb that we call ‘saeongjima’ in Korean. It means that luck can turn to woe, and woe can turn to luck. We can’t predict the good and bad things that will happen in the world, so we shouldn’t get too attached to the results in front of us.

What reasons did the Gwangju Biennale give you for cancelling the Park Seo-Bo Art Prize?

The Gwangju Biennale Foundation asked for my opinion on removing my name from the Gwangju Biennale Park Seo-Bo Art Prize but keeping the prize alive. My life trajectory was criticised due to political issues. Removing my name would not solve the problem.

What do you know about the people who protested against the prize and their motivations?

I’ve heard from the Biennale Foundation about the people who have been advocating for its cancellation, but I don’t know if that information is accurate, so I’m not going to pass it on.

The abolitionists have made their ideas and arguments known and organised picket lines and one-person demonstrations at the opening ceremony to achieve their goals. Everyone’s wishes should be respected in an open and free democracy. However, we regret the timing of the protests, which began on the day of the opening ceremony, when there was ample time for discussion [before the biennale]. The Gwangju Biennale is not a neighbourhood party.

What do you make of the protestors’ criticisms of you as an artist?

The Korean War broke out in the midst of extreme opposition between left and right. Korea has a long history of ideological conflict. People of different schools, political ideologies, and like-minded individuals banded together to argue fiercely about what was right and wrong. But this was a highly democratic process. The methodology of art was also debated for a long time.

Throughout my 20s and 30s, I led a new cultural movement against the older artists of the old school, accusing them of painting flowers in the midst of the devastation of war. But as the years passed and I reached middle age, I decided that teaching my students and painting my own paintings were the best things to do. I’ve been a fierce artist all my life. If people accuse me of cowardice for not speaking out loudly about political and social issues, I can’t help it.

How do you plan to use the funds that have been raised since the prize was abolished?

We will have all the funds returned except for the $100,000 that was given to the first winner. We entrusted the prize to the Gwangju Biennale because we believed in the fairness of the artist selection and judging process. Now we need to organise and run it internally at the GIZI Foundation. I will find a way to find talented and passionate artists. I had only one intention in creating the Park Seo-Bo Art Prize: the selected artist will be able to create a work that he or she has always wanted to try but hasn’t been able to because of financial conditions. Who knows, maybe he or she will take this opportunity and open a new horizon in art! —[O]

Source Credit:  Content and images from Ocula Magazine.  Read the original article -