An Ambiguous Boundary between the Public and Individual Spaces in Asian Democracy

By:
Dr. Haeyoung Youn
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After adopting democracy as a part of western modernization, Asian countries have shown a contradictory position between human rights and Asian values, which is a unique system of traditional values kept by an Asian cultural area. In contrast to the respect of the individualistic ideal in the western democracy, Asian countries, despite the democratic principles, have emphasized national sovereignty and community’s precedence over individuals for the social and economic stability. Thus, Asian democracy has been identified as a dictatorial system of Asian development, which is the mixture of the Confucian tradition of patriarchal system and community spirit with capitalism. Experiencing the same paradigm, South Korea has formed “new totalitarianism” by the collusion of “Jaeber”(a group of monopolistic enterprises) and political parties, which was revealed in an economic crisis in 1997.

Critically representing a space between the individual and the community, Do-ho Suh’s works shows fragile human rights in Asian (or Korean) democracy. For instance,“Some/One,”displayed at the 49th Venice Biennale, shows a nine-foot tall, long, flowing robe made by approximately 100,000 military dog tags. While regular dog tags identify the wearer through name, birth date, and blood type, Suh’s manufactured ones show random assortment of letters and numbers as they represent a required individual anonymity in front of the authority of community. In addition, the viewer can enter inside of the robe and see their distorted reflections in mirrors which lined the robe’s interior. The artist awakes the viewer to the violated human rights by totalitarianism or authoritarianism, which has been done in the name of national development. This paper will look at contradictory aspects between Asian (Korean) society, emphasizing new Confucianism and human rights with Do-ho Suh’s works. Furthermore, Slavoj Žiižek’s theory, which extends Jacques Lacan’s psychoanalytic concepts such as the imaginary, the symbolic, the real, fantasy, and jouissance to a political discourse, will be applied to understand the relationship between reality and a democratic ideology in Korea. In conclusion, this paper will attempt to demystify Asian values, which have been abused in the name of national development.


Keywords: Do-ho Suh's works, Asian style of democracy/ Asian values, Slavoje Zizek's concept of mapping ideology
Stream: Art in Communities
Presentation Type: Virtual Presentation in English
Paper: Considering Do-Ho Suh’s Installation Art within the Context of Asian Democracy


Dr. Haeyoung Youn

Ohio University
USA


Ref: A06P0168