[Serendipity] To see, to be seen
Published : Oct 29, 2021 - 09:01
Updated : Oct 29, 2021 - 09:01
A cacophony of images, a riot of colors.

That is what I saw at an exhibition in Itaewon, central Seoul, heralded as a hip show.

It surely had all the elements of an of-the-moment show: Provocative images, saturated colors, all the glamour of glossy artwork. “Toiletpaper: The Studio” at Hyundai Card Storage in Itaewon is a literal replica of the photography-based magazine Toiletpaper’s Milan studio.

The exhibition is touted as the first to ever look inside the studio of Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan and photographer Pierpaolo Ferrari. And the show delivers. The colorful studio space -- from the walls covered with the creative duo’s surreal work to the whimsical, bold furniture -- is said to be an exact re-creation of the magazine’s Milan studio.

It appears nothing was off limits. The exhibition includes a replica of the studio’s laundry room, with clothes spilling out of a washing machine. Even the lush, green courtyard has been re-created, complete with its garden ornaments. Walking through the courtyard, I wondered if even the scent lingering in the air had been imported from the original garden in Milan.

If you ever harbored any curiosity about the working environment of creative types who seem to possess infinite imagination, this exhibition will perhaps more than satiate your curiosity. 

An installation view shows “Toiletpaper: The Studio,” running at Hyundai Card Storage in Itaewon, Seoul. (Hyundai Card)
The exhibition includes closed-circuit television footage of the inside of the Toiletpaper studio playing on monitors. If that is not enough, you can also hear the phone ring in the studio and other assorted noises, as if you were in the studio: There is an audio feed from the studio playing at the exhibition as well.

The exhibition reflects perfectly the zeitgeist of today -- the desire to see, to be seen.

For a small admission fee, visitors get an exclusive look inside the studio that is otherwise closed off to outsiders. The visual overload of the studio space can be made one’s own with the touch of a smartphone button. You can sit on a velvety chair with bold floral prints and pose for a selfie, as if you own the room.

I have been told that a particular mirror, its edges decorated with Toiletpaper’s iconic image of a man’s hand holding red lipstick, was a hit with celebs during an exclusive preview of the show. Indeed, pictures of stars looking at themselves in the mirror are not hard to find on social media.

But, selfies are not the exclusive purview of the rich and famous, although they do get the most attention -- tens of thousands of “likes.” If you search various social platforms for the exhibition, you will get seemingly endless scrolls of the show, many of them selfies taken by visitors.

In this age of “sharing,” selfies are uploaded on social media to be “consumed” by everyone else. And people are eager to see what others are up to, stoking fear of missing out. So the cycle is perpetuated.

Whether this is a vicious cycle that erodes one’s self-esteem the more one shares and consumes, as has been pointed out by the experts who warn against the dangers of spending too much time on social media, is up to you to decide.

For now, perhaps we all need to spend a bit more time looking inward, at ourselves, rather than constantly looking at others. 



Kim Hoo-ran is the culture desk editor at The Korea Herald. - Ed.