From Bosintang to puppy face is a drawing installation comprising a series of illustrations displayed in cages hung from the ceiling in a venue belonging to the Bilbaoarte Foundation. These illustrations feature a series of characters, which, despite their diverse origin: North Korea, South Korea and the United States, all have something in common: a dog’s face.
The consumption of Bosintang or dog soup has recently sparked great controversy in and outside South Korea. Measures to control it were first introduced as far back as the Olympics of 1988, and further attempts were made during the Football World Cup finals of 2002. The polemics are likely to resurface next year, when Seoul is due to host the Winter Olympics and the city becomes, once again, the focus of the eyes of the world.
In her novel The Vegetarian, South Korean author, Han Kang tells of a woman’s decision to turn her back on the acts of violence taking place in the society in which she lives. Her personal drama leads her, first, to stop eating animals; then, to stop ingesting any type of food and, eventually, to become essentially a vegetable. Along the way, the vegetarian, finds herself confronted with reactionary aspects of capitalism and the patriarchy; with some men who try to get her to break her resolve; and with others who interpret her radical decision something exotic, subjecting her to the tyranny of desire. Han Kang thus tells the story of an individual revolution, and how the system surrounding the individual feels threatened by an alternative.
Having succumbed to American imperialism after the Second World War, South Korea opened up to a process of economic growth that gave free reign to savage capitalism. This “opening up” at the expense of traditions such as Confucianism, is inspiring thinkers like the South Korean, Byung Chul, to speak in terms of the “transparency society”; a term he uses to describe the insatiable impulse to voluntarily share all kinds of information, including selfies with puppy face filters. US-made apps, such as Snapchat or Instagram and their Asian equivalents, have made those “puppy face” filters universally popular among millennials. From the point of view of the South Korean critic, what does this trend reveal? A desire for love and affection? Narcissism? Self reference? Individualism?
From Bosintang to puppy Face is therefore an invitation to use the critical potential of the anthropomorphic dog image as a prop to help us refresh our thinking about South Korea-North Korea-US relations. In the caged illustrations of the installation, the anthropomorphic dog appears in various historical, current and mythical settings made with the help of an specific influence of the residence at the Sema Nanji institution at Seoul, as well as having meetings with some artist from the city.