Airan Kang, ‘Luminous Days of Korean Empire’, 2017, National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea

Airan KANG began this work wondering what kind of books or objects Emperor Gojong would have placed in his own library. Composed of hundred digital books that emit light, actual books, old furniture, video and more, Luminous Days of Korean Empire is a reenactment of the emperor’s library arranged with The True Record of the Joseon Dynasty that preserves records of every king from Taejo to Gojong, literature and diplomatic documents enjoyed by Emperor Gojong, and the imperial culture, arts, architecture, music and etc. of the Korean Empire era. This work only implements materials before the death of Emperor Gojong in 1919, and enables the audience to imagine the trivial hobby of Emperor Gojong, who collected great number of foreign books as he was deeply interested in Western culture. Kang retraces the history of the Joseon Dynasty and the Korean Empire, further portraying the utopia of their dreams and takes Deokhongjeon as its spatial medium to actualize Korea’s historical, cultural product in contemporary thinking.

About Airan Kang

Airan Kang is best known for encasing book dust jackets in resin shells with LED, transforming them into colorful light sculptures programmed to vary in brightness, hue, and intensity. Since 1999, Kang has presented various iterations of this in her ongoing “Digital Book Project”. For the 2010 exhibition “Light Reading,” she drew inspiration from classic works of literature (by Nathaniel Hawthorne, William Blake, and Lord Byron, among others) and art books (on the likes of Edward Hopper and Pablo Picasso), recreating their covers with slight modifications. Stacking the digital books thematically on shelves in the gallery, Kang refashioned the libraries and bookstores from around the world in which originally she found (and photographed) the paper versions of these titles. In tune with contemporary expectations that knowledge be readily available, text excerpts from each book scrolled across the surfaces.

Korean, b. 1960