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Artist Choe U-Ram standing in front of his Little Ark exhibition. He is wearing a black shirt and has his arms folded across his chest. Behind him the Little Ark piece is moving and there is a white human sculpture sitting above it with a hexagonal gold piece set behind it.

MMCA Hyundai Motor Series 2022: Choe U-Ram - Little Ark

6 minute read

The latest MMCA Hyundai Motor Series features an eye-opening exhibition by renowned Korean artist – Choe U-Ram. Read on to find out more about the exhibition and what it means to humanity.

Art can go further than just about any other medium when it comes to raising difficult questions. It can help us to delve into what it means to be human, what the future might hold, and what our relationship with robots might look like. Together with artist Choe U-Ram, we are exploring all these questions and more thanks to his innovative and boundary pushing exhibition called Little Ark, which is being hosted at MMCA Seoul. We invite you to explore the exhibition with us and find out more about the artist.

A gold statue of an angel hangs from the ceiling. The angel is slumped forward with its wings extended behind. Below the statue there are three shadows of the angel shape.

MMCA Hyundai Motor Series 2022: Choe U-Ram — Little Ark, Angel, 2022, resin, 24K gold leaf, stainless steel, 162 x 133 x 56 cm. Image provided by MMCA.

MMCA Hyundai Motor Series

MMCA Hyundai Motor Series is a ten-year art project that has been organizing annual exhibitions of esteemed Korean artists since 2014, with the aim to expand the boundaries of Korean contemporary art and provide a platform that connects leading Korean artists with a wider global audience. Choe U-Ram is the ninth artist to be selected for the project.

Choe U-Ram

Born in 1970, artist Choe U-Ram is renowned for his “anima-machines.” These kinetic artworks represent narratives that reflect how human desires are projected onto technology. Over the past 30 years, Choe U-Ram has taken inspiration from social context, philosophy, and religion to explore and question the meaning of human existence through his work.

Choe U-Ram stands in front of one of his artworks. He is wearing a black pullover and blue jeans and has his arms folded across his chest. He is looking to the left and is standing in a spotlight.

Choe U-Ram, Photo by Kim Sang Tae,
Image provided by MMCA.

Introducing – Little Ark

Choe U-Ram’s latest exhibition, MMCA Hyundai Motor Series 2022: Little Ark is now on view through to February 26, 2023, at MMCA Seoul.

MMCA Hyundai Motor Series 2022: Choe U-Ram - Little Ark is an exhibition designed as a form of a performance that reconstructs the reality that we are in now. It reflects on the situation we find ourselves in, whereby humanity's survival is threatened by an unprecedented crisis and through doing so Choe re-examines and questions things that have long been taken for granted.

The Little Ark piece from the side. All of the black oars are pointed upwards towards the ceiling and look like wings.
The Little Ark piece in the center of the exhibition room. The black oars of the piece are all standing up and facing the ceiling and in the middle of the piece sits a white human sculpture with a gold piece set behind it.

MMCA Hyundai Motor Series 2022: Choe U-Ram — Little Ark, Little Ark, 2022, recycled carboard boxes, metallic material, machinery, electronic device (CPU board, motor), 210 x 230 x 1272 cm. Images provided by MMCA.

With the heightened anxiety and polarization caused by climate change and socio-political, economic crises, Choe explores this current era of disorientation by constructing the exhibition with the ‘Ark’ as the main theme surrounded by society’s contradictory desires, which create a sense of juxtaposition.

Through the exhibition, he explores various questions about the meaning of being human and our coexistence with life-like machines such as robots and looks at the idea of whether a sustainable future is possible for humanity. There is also plenty of space for the audience to ponder and ask questions about where we are headed.

MMCA Hyundai Motor Series 2022 will offer a unique perspective exploring the relationships between nature, humans and machines through the lens of the sustainable future of humanity. THOMAS SCHEMERA, EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT, GLOBAL CHIEF MARKETING OFFICER AND

Little Ark and Round Table

The main piece of the exhibition, Little Ark is a symbolic ark made of heavy iron and recycled cardboard boxes that are fitted with cutting-edge technology. Thirty-five pairs of oars stand up like a wall that cuts us off then begins a majestic dance as if spreading its wings.

The accompanying sculptures called Lighthouse, Two Captains, James Webb, Infinite Space, Angel, Anchor and the video work Exit are all arranged to harmonize with the ambient sound that fills the exhibition space. The exhibition invites us to delve into our deepest desires, reflect on the present, and ask questions about our conflicting human desires and the directions we could take in the future should we need to escape the world we live in.

The Round Table piece from the side. There is a black round table and underneath it are multiple human-like bodies made of straw.


MMCA Hyundai Motor Series 2022: Choe U-Ram — Little Ark, Round Table, 2022, aluminum, artificial straw, machinery, motion capture camera, electronic device, 110 x 450 x 450 cm. Image provided by MMCA.



Hovering high above the Seoul Box, three Black Birds look down upon the exhibition space, watching the movements of the Round Table. Round Table is an analogy for the innate human desire for power, the structure of our competitive society, our polarized reality, and the ever-deepening classism in society. This piece is made up of a round table and 18 headless straw figures that stand underneath it. The figures cause the edge of the table to rise and fall and each time it does so it causes a round head to roll around on the tabletop. As each figure tries to claim and inhabit the head, their efforts cause the head to roll further away.

The Red piece mounted on a red wall. It is a red flower shape made of metallic material.

MMCA Hyundai Motor Series 2022: Choe U-Ram — Little Ark, Red, 2021, metallic material, acrylic on soft Tyvek, motor, electronic device (custom CPU board, LED), 223x220x110cm. Image provided by MMCA.

The <i>One</i> piece mounted on a gray wall. It is a silver flower shape made of metallic looking material.

MMCA Hyundai Motor Series 2022: Choe U-Ram — Little Ark, One, 2020, metallic material, acrylic on soft Tyvek, motor, electronic device (custom CPU board, LED), 250x250x180cm. Image provided by MMCA.

Making art with sustainable materials

For the exhibition, Choe U-Ram actively incorporated reused and sustainable materials into his works. Little Ark and Black Birds used recycled cardboard boxes while his other new pieces One and Red are made of a protective clothing material called Tyvex, which was widely used by medical staffs during the pandemic – signifying how we move forward as part of the cycle of life.

URC-1 and URC-2 are two huge circular sculptures which are made of lights that were taken from cars that were scheduled to be scrapped after testing at Hyundai’s Namyang R&D center: URC-1, the white star, is made from headlights, while URC-2, the red star, is made from taillights.

The URC-1 piece sitting on the floor of the exhibition. It is a silver globe made of headlights, in the distance the URC-2 piece can be seen, this piece looks like URC-1 but is red and made of taillights.

MMCA Hyundai Motor Series 2022: Choe U-Ram — Little Ark, URC-1, 2014, Hyundai Motor headlights, steel, COB, LED, aluminum radiator, DMX controller, PC, 296 x 312 x 332 cm. Image provided by MMCA.

Sketches of Little Ark laid out in a line across a wall. Each sketch consists of black skeletal looking shapes on a white background.

MMCA Hyundai Motor Series 2022: Choe U-Ram — Little Ark, Drawing for the Design of One,
2021-2022, acrylic on Korean traditional paper, 30 x 42 cm (28). Image provided by MMCA.

Collaborating to bring art and robotics closer together

To bring movement to his pieces, Choe U-Ram worked with a number of experts, including engineers from Hyundai Motor Group Robotics LAB. They provided technical advice, especially when it came to designing Little Ark as it required various technical aspects to make the arms of the ship fold and unfold repeatedly.

This is not the first time that artists have collaborated with our team of robotics experts. We also worked with artists MOON Kyungwon and JEON Joonho to create art with our robot – Spot, and are planning to continue to push the boundaries of what robotics can do.

Check out @hyundai and @hyundai.artlab on Instagram to find out more about how we’re supporting artists and bringing robotics into the world of art. Also, click here to find out more about Hyundai’s art initiatives.


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