ETOY at KUNSTHALLE Presents: Mission Eternity

The latest twist in the ETOY oversized installation, that takes up a good hunk of the circle, was a Friday-night talk called Mission Eternity held on October 15th. Kunsthalle has hosted ETOY for over a month now and whose adjacent neighbor in Berlin for a stretch, was coincidentally also ETOY: an incorporated art collective from Zurich Switzerland, which travels the globe in search of pleasure, art and very complex and delicious conceptual/performance art pieces.

Upon first walking around ETOY’s exhibit at its opening, I was impressed by its ability to stick to very hard to figure out concepts, even if they were going to fly by the Gwangju audience like a high-altitude crane at midnight, with no full moon.

Before and After

I’ve often belated about HATING to be told what a piece of art means in order to understand what a piece of art means.  However, in the case of Mission Eternity I was happy to hear the idea and delighted they may pick their third “Test Pilot” from among 65-and-older women in Gwangju who ideally, are connected to the 518 Gwangju Uprising in some way.

Before I heard that the Mission was to collect and store data of people so that their lives may be immortalized, I didn’t much care for the ETOY exhibit. Once I heard that the ashes of the bodies of the dead pilots on Mission Eternity (some of Timothy Leary’s remains and a microfilm and copying magnate named Keiser, are the first two pilots encapsulated by ETOY) were being flown around to spots like Beijing, I thought, “Wow how cool, I want in.”  Sadly, I don’t fit any of the three sought-after categories: over 65, female, 518 participant.  I’m not sure how many families in Korea are going to want granny (halmonim) tooling around the planet with Leary and Keiser, but the fun doesn’t stop there. Also invited, at a special event coming up October 29th, are stowaways, who can take part in a segment of this ongoing concept piece, after their indoctrination Friday next.

Okay, so more before stuff I feel compelled to let loose with, before I go into why I think ETOY is a hoot.


When a platoon, Kunsthalle or otherwise, comes to a city to promote art and it’s funded by that city and other locals (even provincial government agencies) and gets a plum location at the future site of the Asian Cultural Center, to plunk its cargo containers, doesn’t it have the responsibility to represent local art at least for part of its stay?… Okay, this may have been solved by inviting a local to have her ashes go globetrotting upon death.  Death as art. Too hip for Gwangju by a long shot… but I like it.

Is it too much to ask that the space hosted, along with the very interesting ETOY show – the only exhibit that covers ALL previous ETOY exhibits since 1994 in one place ever – also include some time and space for local talent?  I guess some local talent was represented in the first ever Biennale satellite Gwangju Art Fair out at the KDJ (Kim Dae-Jung Convention Center). However, with all the time available, it seems a more welcoming approach would have spread the ETOY message to a wider audience. In other words, one or two containers could have hosted multiple shows, maybe even one per week and broadened the eyes that saw the ETOY Corporation. The movies on October 14th were dandy, so that was a good supplement.

ETOY attempts to grasp us provincial art lovers with industrial jungle gyms, interactive conceptual art and art-as-corporation. Of which you can buy shares and the share values go up and down, not based on demand but on how well the group makes fun and art out of mega-concepts. There are 640,000 outstanding shares right now and a large enough investment could add you to the list of stowaways on Mission Eternity or maybe even gain “Test Pilot” status.


In the post-modern, globally warmed, computer geeked information age, ETOY, who has made a name by hacking and destroying (once worth four billion dollards and then brought to rubble by hacker robots and friends) ETOY’s relevance couldn’t be more clear. If conceptual and performance art and the occasional art movie is in fact what is left of the art world “that matters” then the new MOMA is Oprah Winfrey, or God forbid Jerry Springer.  At least Massamiliano doffed his hat to local realities in the Biennale’s 10,000 Lives. With all the effort it took (political and fossil fuel consumption) to bring Kunsthalle here, did anyone consider Korean’s obsession with where bodies of their deceased are buried before offering to give a local 518 victim/participant/caretaker halmonim a chance to travel the globe once dead?

Perhaps for this exact reason, I am still fascinated by Mission Eternity, which had an audience spellbound with TAMA balls (not the drums, but the spirit of the soul of the dead) that dance and sing around a room with the life-force of the soul of the dead people they represent.  Who thought up this stuff?  I am serious. This is beyond the normal scope of conceptual art.  If you haven’t been to see the ETOY exhibit, you should go through and keep in mind the concept of each segment as you play along.  You can play Pachinko (thus poking your finger into the ear of speculators that not only make money in stocks but also drive up the price of wheat, for instance. So that a good hunk of people starve just so they can cash winnings on the Chicago Board of Exchange), or track ETOY’S stock price, or read about its computer exploits.

Having heard about all the data that will be permanently stored for each pilot on Mission Eternity and the continual ability of people to add to the date, even after the participants are dead, my feeling is that this is a fantastic concept art piece.  The thought that by joining the mission, your ashes would continue to span the globe in an effort to magnify the exploitive nature of globalization, as a part of an ongoing studio (music, art, and experimental) seems like the perfect body-disposal solution for the activist community.

Please join the crowd on the 29th, and you too may be amazed to see what ETOY is up to. It’s a lot more than men in white and “clockwork” orange outfits.

WRITTEN BY Doug Stuber


















3 Responses to “ETOY at KUNSTHALLE Presents: Mission Eternity”
  1. koreamaria says:

    I adore this commentary and the 518 Travel Granny idea.

    All I can picture is this photo that one of the former 518 interns posted on facebook this past May. At the rainy day event at the 518 Memorial, this one granny kept pushing this young soldier who was there as “crowd control.” The woman was pushing ‘the power’ just as she has done her whole life – a symbolic ‘let these deaths never be forgotten’ action. But it is the face of the soldier that touched me most. Young, almost too youthful to be in the military, the boy looked like “Gramma, I know, I’m sorry. Push me. Don’t stop. We need to remember. Because that’s all I can do to help.” The idea of one of these brazen, brave sisters of freedom letting her ashes continue her story and her work to never let the memory of 518 die is steadfast inspiration to me.

  2. doug stuber says:

    Thanks Maria! I had gotten away form my lifelong gonzo journalism bug lately, and it was killing me. Never let loose like this fully in the Gwangju News. I will continue to write for this blog, thus ignoring my own stale ones.

    • koreamaria says:

      excellent to hear. I love gwangju news, but we are certainly fettered from dialog that is not sensitive or mainstream. GN is an important safe space to gather the voices of Gwangju, but I also have lots of things to say, usually about art and culture, that would be inappropriate to publish in GN. And I LOVE hearing how people think through the chaos of life and art, whether sharing their art or commenting on art/life around them.

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