Seung Woo Back


Imagine being able to visit Angkor Wat, the Vatican, Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, and Grand Central Station in a single day.  Such monument hopping is possible at Aiins World, a theme park on the outskirts of Seoul, and the subject of the group of photographs Seung Woo Back has titled Real World.  In each of his photographs the monument appears with the clarity of a picture postcard, but along the edges the skyline of Seoul intrudes, making disconcerting juxtapositions. 

First trained in Korea and then in Great Britain, Back has the ability to observe Seoul as both an insider and an outsider. The photographs are Back’s commentary on Seoul’s place in a global community. In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries the West held fairs and expositions that brought Asia to London, Chicago, or Paris. Today, all the world has come to Korea, in the form of diminutive versions of its monuments from different cultures. Yet, these small-scale reproductions are fictions, providing only the illusion of cosmopolitanism to people who most likely will never see the real thing.  Moreover, the buildings that make up the city are uniform, modern, and devoid of people, further calling into question the relationship between the real and the imagined.


Seung Woo Back. Born in Daejon, Korea, 1973. Lives and works in Seoul. Real World I #47, 2006. Lamda print. Smith College Museum of Art. Museum purchase with the Carroll and Nolen Asian Art Acquisition Fund. ©2015 Seung Woo Back