Review: Moon Kyungwon and Jeon Joonho, News from Nowhere

Moon Kyungwon and Jeon Joonho, El Fin del Mundo (The End of the World) 2012)

Sci-fi, filmed here in Liverpool, opens up a window on the future as Moon Kyungwon and Jeon Joonho tour their ongoing News From Nowhere film project to the city.

Shadowed by the major new Fernand Leger exhibition, the ground floor installation at Tate Liverpool might not hit the headlines, but will probably be the exhibition visitors leave the gallery talking about.

Understated in its own way, the central film explores the future of civilisation with art as a strict narrative focus. The artists call it fable, but there is far more fact than fiction in these imagined stories that use the streets of Liverpool as their backdrop.

The commodification of art has long been talked of as a problem, but the point put across is that that commodity is potentially what will outlast the value of thought that went into it.

In an apocalyptic vision of world culture, where humanity continues to exist, but history and documents of what went before have been forgotten, the potential to forget what led to some of the most significant creations in human history is really quite scary.

The value of Art is so reliant on historical context, and the exchange of information. If that information goes away, art is very separate from craft, and could easily be entirely devalued.

The artists’ own opinion on art is maybe not the best place to defend it from either. They seem to have quite an open relationship with their audience in their doubt of arts value.

Questioning it at all poses that risk – if you ask your audience what the value of art is, they will inevitably place that question on the work that provoked the question.

Which leaves us with a fairly simple task; answer: what is the value of News From Nowhere?

While it’s not the most confident film, or the most accomplished, and parts of it are actually quite clumsy, but the vulnerability of that makes it easier to engage with its central subject. There is an honest and human side to the film – forgetting the rest of the installation – that is easy to listen to, and relate to.

An affinity with the film’s subject is built before even watching it though. Knowing that what you’re going in to is in fact self-doubting, and really quite normal means that when you walk away, you’re separating yourself from quite a trusting bond, not with the artists, but with their work.

It would be a shame if there was an apocalypse and art was suddenly valued entirely objectively.

at Tate Liverpool until 17 March 2019
Words, Kathryn Wainwright