Picnic on the Ocean: Documentation of a Korean-Japanese Project

October 24, 2004–February 21, 2005

P.S.1 presents documentation of a collaborative project between by Korean artist Seung Young Kim and Japanese artist Hironori Murai, both of whom were participated in the P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center Studio Program in 1999-2000. Conceiving their own form of resistance with their Picnic on the Ocean, the artists attempt to eliminate the cultural barrier between Korea and Japan, formed by differences in cultural, religious, and historic backgrounds.

Following the 36-year history of the Japanese colonization of Korea, as well as the underlying racism that remains from feudal times, it has been extremely difficult to initiate a truly equal, sincere, and open dialogue between the two nations. Since the 6th century, Korea has strongly influenced Japan, most prominently through forms of religion such as Buddhism, and in arts and crafts. During the medieval era, feudal Japan was aggressive toward Korea and, as a result of its victory over China and Russia before and after the turn of the 20th century, imperialist Japan colonized Korea in 1910. After Japan's defeat in World War II, Korea was freed from this colonization. Almost sixty years later, foreign relations between the two nations have been normalized but remain awkward, and at times even antagonistic. Skepticism and distrust on the part of the Koreans, and chauvinism and paternalism on the part of the Japanese still limit their contact and prevent mutual understanding.

Between the Korean Peninsula and Kyushu Island in southern Japan, a strait with a turbulent tide and the national border keep the two territories apart. In July 2002, Kim and Murai set out toward the Korean-Japanese border in small, traditional wooden fishing boats without sails. Remaining on opposite sides of the border, they indulged in an ephemeral Picnic on the Ocean alongside a floating bed of flowers and exchanged toasts to celebrate their cultural interchange.

The rendezvous in the ocean, which symbolically embodies the notion of a bridge that connects rather than isolates people, lasted from dawn until noon. This fantasy marked a small inconsequential spot on the globe, in which the past was transcended, and in which the artists modus operandi opened up a new future for both nations or, at the very least, for the two artists.

  • Kim Seung-Young and Murai Hironori
    Flower Raft

  • Kim Seung-Young and Murai Hironori taking a nap.


Picnic on the Ocean: Documentation of a Korean-Japanese Project is organized by P.S.1 Adjunct Curator Kazue Kobata.