Artist Ryu Sung-sil satirizes capitalism at Atelier Hermes show
After winning the 19th Hermes Foundation Missulsang last year, Ryu showcases solo exhibition “The Burning Love Song.”
Published : Jul 31, 2022 - 17:59
Updated : Jul 31, 2022 - 19:03
An installation view of ”The Burning Love Song“ at the Atelier Hermes in Seoul (Atelier Hermes)

Starting a few years ago, the newly coined term “bulmeong” – staring at the fire in a trance, like when one stares at a campfire – has become prevalent among young people. The expression is usually associated with “healing” or “emptying one‘s mind” while watching a burning fire, but sculptor and media artist Ryu Sung-sil added a twist when she named her solo exhibition at the Atelier Hermes in Seoul “The Burning Love Song.”

“What I wanted to focus at the exhibition was ‘bulmeong,’ which means to stare at a burning fire. I think that could also include someone’s house burning down. People enjoy watching others’ downfall with their arms crossed. And there are those who would ‘bang their head against a calculator‘ to manipulate that for their gain,” Ryu said on Thursday during a press interview, referencing a Korean idiom meaning someone who exploits situations for profit.

The 29-year-old artist won the 19th Hermes Foundation Missulsang last year, becoming the youngest artist to ever win the award. She has captivated audiences with the character BJ Cherry Jang – who Ryu performs as on platforms such as YouTube and AfreecaTV – blurring the lines between art and reality. South Korea’s one-person media trend, where fake news overflows, is critiqued by the bold character in her satirical style.

An installation view of ”The Burning Love Song“ at the Atelier Hermes in Seoul (Park Yuna/The Korea Herald)

Ryu invites audiences to a world that revolves around the characters Lee Dae-wang (Mr. Big King) and Natasha. Lee used to run a travel company, Big King Travel, which faced financial problems in the aftermath of the pandemic. He decides to open a dog funeral service as a way of making money. 

Lee focuses on dogs, as they live shorter lives than humans, which means a relatively fast turnover rate for business. He is an ambitious entrepreneur who wishes to operate an airline one day after earning enough money. Natasha is Lee’s employee and marketer of the funeral business.

The video played at the exhibition entrance shows information about the deceased -- a dog – with Lee speaking about the funeral business. “I did not want to do a funeral business, but if it were not for me, who would understand the hearts of our grieving customers?“ Lee said. 

An installation view of ”The Burning Love Song“ at the Atelier Hermes in Seoul (Atelier Hermes)

"Often, I see the passion for money in the businesspeople around me, including my family, and I am often impressed by their innocence and creativity. I think that creativity is not an innate ability but a by-product of desperation. But their creativity is sometimes expressed in the form of pure evil, which creeps me out,“ Ryu said during a conversation with artistic director Ahn So-yeon. 

Hermes Foundation Missulsang was launched in 2000 by Hermes Korea. The art award earned a prestigious position in the country by supporting many rising artists over the years. The exhibition runs through Oct. 2.

By Park Yuna (