And you thought your neighbors were strange. Some topics require a more delicate conversation than others, like if your cousin is in love with a body pillow bearing an image of his favorite female otaku character. For South Korea’s Gwanju Design Biennale, the London-based studio Aberrant Architecture built a scaled-down version of a traditional Korean housing block to address some of these uncomfortable topics in Korean society.
In one room, the studio created a spoof television reality show that addresses the Wild Goose Daddy phenomenon (in which Korean fathers work in Korea alone to support their wife and children, who have moved abroad to get a better education), and the 2-D Lover, who treats his otaku pillowcases like they’re his girlfriend. In another, they’ve built a fictional academy to produce a new generation of “super maids” to service the growing Wild Goose Daddy population.
This isn’t the first time that Aberrant, founded in 2008 by David Chambers and Kevin Haley, has turned cultural quirks into cheeky art. Last year, they created a giant interactive landscape based around the British game of egg rolling and built it in collaboration with local community groups. In 2009, they installed a tongue-in-cheek mobile canteen so that people working from home could feel like they were part of a big corporation.
Their current installation, however, addresses some pretty serious issues by appealing to everyone’s inner voyeur. To highlight the mistreatment of migrant workers in South Korea, they redesigned the traditional Korean card game Hwatu. Elsewhere, an installation of origami T-shirts references an incident this past July when 35 million Korean Internet users had their resident registration numbers--the equivalent of Social Security numbers--hacked. And in yet another room, they created a satirical game show that encourages Western leaders to do what South Korea did during their economic collapse in 1998: Ask citizens to contribute personal gold jewelery into a common pool, melt it down into bars, and use that to pay off the country’s debts. Actually, that doesn’t sound like a bad idea. Greece, we’re looking at you.