This exhibition is composed of two archives from KECC’s back catalogue and seven new works by individual artists or collectives. The archives, named ‘Absent Archive’ and ‘Emergent Archive’ respectively, provide the context needed to understand the new works created by the participating artists. The square brick room1 of the Korean Pavilion contains the early history of KECC around 1968, which serves as the starting point of the exhibition and a reference point for the new works created by the participating artists. It allows us to explore the work of some representative architects who worked at KECC in the era when Korean society had the greatest desire for the future and a belief that this desire could be realized through architecture. Ironically, the Absent Archive is a memorial to four projects of KECC that were not realized in full: Sewoon Sangga (1967); the 1st Korea Trade Fair (1968); Yeouido Master Plan (1969); and the EXPO ’70 Korean Pavilion (1970). While the ideals of the architects attracted the government’s attention, some parts of the designs were not chosen, amended, or discarded entirely by the government. Yet the original plans that departed from the government’s intent still remain in institutional archives (Archerion), such as the National Archives of Korea. As such, the architects’ unrealized proposals depart from the four existing places today, but reveal the gap and conflict between the two. The Absent Archive is a paradoxical space that collects such failed ideals. It reconsiders the reputation of the architects and their ideals, which were not recorded and are only left in the drawings and reports. Meanwhile, the Emergent Archive, which is located in the lobby of the exhibition hall, is an ambiguous area that exists only to create a situation and atmosphere for visitors.2 There are short texts and images, and the audience’s actions are incorporated into the illusion while the works of today’s young Korean architects illuminate each other. It enables audiences to imagine the time to come rather than suggesting concrete predictions. The Emergent Archive is the starting point of a critical story that can be written now that we have faced the ‘Spectres of the State Avant-garde’. This will be a new way to understand the relationship between Korea’s modern architecture and the state legacy of the past, as well as the starting point of artistic practice.

1 The Korean Pavilion, the latest national pavilion built in the Arsenale, was designed by architect Seokchul Kim (1943–2016), who was a member of the Urban Design Division of KECC. The pavilion, which looks like a sailboat, was a projection of the imagination of the dreaming architect. This year’s exhibition aims to revive the initial intention of the architect by removing the traces of past biennale exhibitions, built up over 20 years, while keeping the brick room—which is the only space remaining in its original form—as a core space for the exhibition.

2 This exhibition pays homage to the design of the EXPO ’70 Korean Pavilion, which was the last project of Kim Swoo Geun’s team at KECC. It adopts the intention of the KECC architects who sought to create a situation rather than a form through elements including reflection, amplification, and repetition.

Sewoon Sangga under construction, 1967, Seoul Museum of History
President Park Chung Hee and Mayor of Seoul Kim Hyonok attending the opening ceremony of Sewoon Sangga, 1967, National Archives of Korea
The main pavilion of the 1st Korea Trade Fair, 1968, National Archives of Korea
An aerial view of the 1st Korea Trade Fair, 1968, National Archives of Korea
Yeouido Master Plan, 1968, ©KECC
Architect Kim Swoo Geun (in the middle of the photo) and Mayor of Seoul Kim Hyonok (far right) at the office of Hanriver Development, 1969, Seoul Museum of History
The opening ceremony of the Student National Defense Corps in Yeouido, 1975, National Archives of Korea
A model of EXPO ’70 Korean Pavilion, 1969, ©KECC
A performance of the National Day of Korea at EXPO ’70, 1970, National Archives of Korea