Atelier Hermes Presents Rho Jae Oon Mulian Mulian

Atelier Hermes presents Rho Jae Oon Mulian Mulian a solo exhibition on view 28 October–13 December 2011. Opening: Thursday, 27 October 2011 at 6 p.m.

The Mulian Sutra, one of the many Buddhist canons, illustrates the tale of Buddha’s disciple Mulian (Maudgalyāyana) liberating his mother who had fallen into the realms of hell. A long-cherished story in many Buddhist cultures of East Asia, artists have continuously reinterpreted it into film, dance and theater. The sutra is commonly read as an allegory of Hyo, the virtue of filial piety; but it is also an archetype of humanity, calling upon the liberation of every human being.

Rho Jae Oon merges Mulian’s story with his own artistic experiment or, in a way, adventure which roams through disease, famine and hell, transforming it into a filmic as well as artistic interface. Rather than reflecting its traditional representation, Rho’s hell is a space dominated with features of the contemporary world resetting itself as a passage to reality. Viewers will themselves become Mulian and travel this “hyper-inferno.” Willingly accepting starvation and sickness, disasters and miracles, one will experience a certain sentiment of impermanence and humor, the capacity and depth of desire. Viewers will also encounter various forms of nature mutated by raging artificiality; these hellacious forms are, of course, open to the possibility of being rediscovered and recreated by the viewers.

Atelier Hermès is transformed into the hell’s realm; the viewer is invited to become one’s own version of Mulian and follow the journey. The first work that the viewer/Mulian comes across is Bonsaeng-gyeong. Fusing both conceptually and literally, Bonsaeng-do-Jakata paintings, concerns the previous lives of Buddha before the one as Siddhārtha Gautama—and Ub-gyeong—the mirror of Karma—this work is a mirror structure built with framesize that have subsisted through the centennial history of film making. Allowing the viewer to encounter reflections of one’s present self and also those of others, this is none other than the gateway to hell; the reflections are images of not only their current life but also their previous life, or their previous life of the previous life: one’s Karma visualized through the movie frames.

In the following work Saminmunnyeon, based on a “sci-fi” concept of time, brings to hell three legendary comedians (Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, and Jacques Tati) of film history. They are the filmized character of Ksitigarbha, a bodhisattva who vowed to save all sufferers in hell and refused to reach nirvana unless the task is achieved; they are also Taoist figures who argued upon who is the oldest of the three. The former will bring consolation and relief, while the latter presents humor and wit. But then again, the ineffable feeling of perpetuity strikes, along with an alarming chill, witnessing the longevity of these men alluding to the immeasurable eternal time in hell.

Chilean Capsule, based on the 2010 Copiapó mining accident, recreates the two-seater rescue capsule that was used to retrieve the miners underground. But Rho’s interface refers only partially to this incident, and gives it a different nuance; the accident is no longer rendered with objectivity and specificity, but translated into our everyday disasters. This capsule may stand for the slightest hopes we cling onto, or the question we raise before the need of a miracle.

Rho Jae Oon
While producing publicly accessible web projects (, Aegipeak, Bite the Bullet!, God4saken), Rho has presented solo shows at Insa Art Space, art space pool, Gallery Plant; participated group shows at various sites including PLATEAU, New Museum, and the Gwangju Biennale. Currently running C21Pictures, he was selected as one of the three finalists for Hermès Foundation Missulsang in 2009.

Atelier Hermes
3rd Floor, Maison Hermès Dosan Park
630-26 Shinsa-dong, Gangnam-gu
Seoul, Korea

Image: Rho Jae Oon, “Chilean Capsule,” 2011.

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