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Current Exhibition Seoul: Performing Letters, Performers of Letters

Barakat Seoul is proudly presenting “Performing Letters, Performers of Letters,” an exhibition exploring the points of contact between ancient types of writing and contemporary typography.

In Eastern and Western civilization, visual imagery has been at the origin of inscriptions and written communication. Ancients cultures depicted their yearnings as well as aspects of their daily lives through forms and objects and such representations gradually developed into scripts after undergoing processes of simplification and interpretation. Writing is a method of communication that visualizes beliefs, ideas, language and emotion with signs and symbols and a medium that assist with human interaction and allows the development of written history. In the not too distant past, the knowledge and skill to be able to read and write was a sign of power and authority, with specific texts being considered sacred because they held metaphysical meanings. In consequence, those who used writing promoted and advanced education and culture, and writing was employed for a number of different purposes.

Ancient texts were used for practicality, were appreciated from an aesthetic point of view and were furthermore employed in a number of religious activities. Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs are representative pictograms and were used in funerary texts, such as the Book of the Dead , entombed along with the deceased. This collection of illustrated written spells and prayers offered information on the journey in the afterlife and were valued as an art form. The prayers were also performed during rituals relative to resurrection and rebirth. In other words, texts were devised to transform verbal communication into a written language, which has been perceived as an art form, often possessing .extraordinary godlike power.

In reflecting a human need for self-expression, text and imagery have a shared origin. However, as the process of simplification for practical reasons became universal, written form evolved over a long period as to finally become more simple and abstract in appearance. Especially as the boundary between text and imagery became clear, they developed an independence of expression from one another. With the passage of time, the practical aspect of written communication became more prominent in everyday life, with their initial aesthetic and ritual roles becoming subservient to other fields of human development, such as art, religion, and science.

Nevertheless, in the long course of universal history, the need for writing is in a state of continuous aesthetic development. At Medieval monasteries in Europe, scribes considered the manual transcription of the Bible to be holy labor and added to the text decorative initials and miniatures, creating illuminated manuscripts. In the Islamic tradition, the exclusion of pictorial representations of Allah and the emphasis given on the sacred text of the Quran led to the development of calligraphy, an art form based on writing. The calligraphic culture of East Asia also developed within the concept of shuhua dongyuan, or the common roots of text and imagery. Today this tradition of an art form based on writing continues through those who continue to embrace and convey its spirit, namely typography designers.

Typography is the technique of artistically making written language legible, based on the arrangement of type. When focusing on the aesthetic presence of texts over their practical sense, then typography allows the act of writing to be read beyond its literal meaning. In that sense, artisans of the past who were able to attain artistic integrity through their achievements, share common ground with contemporary typography artists.

In the same way, ancient texts, which once were tools of transmitting information, and documents in contemporary typography are accompanied by a performance on different levels. The juxtaposition of typography artists and ancient inscribed artworks allows for the connection of these works to be taken into consideration.

The exhibition “Performing Letters, Performers of Letters” aims to evoke the artistic and ritual nature of texts. The contemporary typography artists, Ahn Sang-soo, Nojisu, and Rhee Pooroni, presented in this exhibition, go beyond the mere role of writing as a simple performance for the purpose of conveying information but wish to restore writing to the level of culture.

This becomes particularly obvious with Ahn Sang-soo, who shares the concept of tracing the archetypes of writing from the times when text and imagery were once what typography had become today. Ahn Sang-soo has collaborated with important personalities in the fields of poetry, art, philosophy and religion but also with environmental activists and has always maintained a strong tendency towards questioning and analysis, by visiting sites where ancient scripts are kept, by tracking down the archetypes of writing and by trying to find the truth shared by civilisations. Thus interweaving different areas and eras, his wide trajectory has resulted into a modern revival of the cultural significance of ancient texts, as methods of seeking and possessing the truth, in addition to the modern invention of typography. Nojisu and Rhee Pooroni will be introduced as artists-designers, which based on the foundations and the legacy of artists producers of images, such as Ahn, have created and expanded further the boundaries of their artistic universe.

“Performing Letters, Performers of Letters” is the first experiment in a series of exhibitions which the Barakat Seoul will be looking into presenting in the future, striving to conceive and develop exhibitions which will enrich the audience’s imagination by bringing together a number of artists from different disciplines and artworks inspired by the Barakat Seoul awe-inspiring collection of ancient art. .

December 16th 2017 – January 28th 2018

Opening Reception Saturday 16 December 2017 15.00 – 17.00

There is not a car parking facility at the Gallery, please use the nearby commercial parking lot. (National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (MMCA) Seoul or 56, Hwa-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul)

RSVP | barakat@barakat.kr | +82 2 730 1949 Barakat Seoul 58-4 Samcheong-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul


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