Technology as Resistance: Pioneers of Korean Media Art during the 1960s to 1990s

Activity: Conference/talk/lecture/symposium/speech/workshop, etcEvent organized by non-HKBU units


The political situation in 20th century Korea greatly influenced the formation of and formal experimentation in Korean modern and contemporary art. From 1961 to 1987, the military government constrained freedom of speech across all fields, including art, music, literature, and the press. Under the tight censorship, early avant-garde artists, prohibited from artistic experimentation and social engagement, failed to establish a distinctive style or norm, and, in turn, remained on the margins of the Korean art scene. For that reason, the belief has been widespread that resistance art or activism has had no place in Korea’s avant-garde. Among the avant-garde artists of the time, however, some pioneers did, in fact, use technological materials as a means of resistance.
This paper calls for reassessment of this early stage of Korean avant-garde and experimental art as the cornerstone of Korean media art in particular. The aim is to discern a new genealogy of media art in Korea by tracing and linking the activities of early avant-garde artists and media art pioneers who have been neglected in the dominant art historiography, which has shown a preference for painting and video art. My detailed analysis of the experimental artists of the 1960s and 1970s, small groups in the mid-1980s, and the Art Tech Group in the early 1990s demonstrates how they revealed and articulated their spirit of resistance against academism and the mainstream through the use of technology, in doing so following a different trajectory from that of the Western avant-garde or Minjung art.
I argue that the use of technological materials served as a strategy of defiance in the face of the dictatorship and the oppressive atmosphere in which the small groups in the 1980s and Art Tech Group in the 1990s operated, tracing this strategy back to the avant-garde artists of the 1960s. Seeking alternative forms of expression, these earlier artists similarly turned to media experimentation and the incorporation of technology in response to an environment in which political speech was impossible. By rethinking these artists’ activities in the context of Korea’s early industrialization and digitalization, this discussion will shed light on media art pioneers whom mainstream discourses have overlooked so as to establish a new historical narrative that better accounts for the myriad digital arts being practised in Korea today.

Number of attendees (for events)

Period16 Sept 2023
Event titleThe 10th International Conference on the Histories of Media Art, Science and Technology (RE: SOURCE) 2023
Event typeConference
LocationVenice, ItalyShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational

User-Defined Keywords

  • Media art history
  • media art
  • art and technology
  • Korean art history