- An Interview with Jongsung Yang, Curator of the Exhibition Mediator between Heaven and Earth-Shaman
Jongsung Yang (email@example.com) is a curator of the National Folk Museum of Korea (NFMK), where he focuses on its international exchange program, performance arts, and journal publication. He has worked at the NFMK as a curator since 1993 and also as a member of the editorial staff of the International Journal of Intangible Cultural Heritage, which was launched by the NFMK in 2008. He earned a PhD in Folklore and Cultural Anthropology (Indiana University, 1993) and is the author of Cultural Protection Policy in Korea: Intangible Cultural Properties and Living National Treasures (Jimoondang International, 2003). He has conducted anthropological research on the shamanism of various ethnic groups and countries, such as Nepal, Mongolia, and Korea. As a curator of the NFMK, he has organized several special exhibitions, including "Wood and Paper" (2008) and "The Twelve Signs of the Zodiac" (2010), as well as performance events of shamanic arts. He has been a member of the Korean Committee for Cultural Assets since 1998. [End Page 73]
Introduction to the Exhibition
The National Folk Museum of Korea (NFMK) designed an exhibition on shamanism—"Mediator between Heaven and Earth-Shaman"—which was presented from November 30, 2011 to February 27, 2012. The objective was to present a comparative exhibit of shamanism viewed as an expression of the primordial religious nature of humankind. The exhibition aimed to provide an opportunity for visitors to experience shamanism through a variety of displayed objects, multimedia, and hands-on activities. The contents of the Exhibition allowed for a comparison of the widely dispersed shaman cultures of Central Asia and East Asia, centering on the Himalayas and Siberia.1 Exhibition components and loan sources came from private collections and various museums.2 In addition to the exhibition of shamanic objects, during the course of the Exhibition the NFMK also hosted special performances, such as a Nepalese shamanic ritual performance from the Himalayas, a Siberian shamanistic ritual, and four local Korean shamanistic rituals.
The Exhibition was composed of four parts, which were organized not simply to allow for the comparison of various forms of shamanism from throughout the world, but to convey a story about the essence of shamanism. The first part was titled "Standing in the Center of Universe," in which a symbolic sculpture of the 'cosmic tree' along with symbolic sculptures of each ethnic group's (or country's) shamanist rituals and related artifacts were installed. In the second hall, named "Visiting the Scene of Shaman Rituals," visitors could sense the ritualistic atmosphere which was rendered by different shrines for shaman rituals from the Himalayas, Siberia, Korea, Evenki and Ainu groups, along with related artifacts to display their relevance. The third part was designed to exhibit a variety of symbols, sculptures and images representing the divine spirit and was entitled "Representing the Power of Heaven and the Wish of Earth." Finally, visitors could recognize the world view of shamanism in the last hall, which was titled "Expressing the Universe" and described the mythical worldview expressed by various ritual artifacts and symbolic images. Here, visitors could note the similarities and differences of shamanism in each area and ethnic group. As an epilogue, such artifacts as [End Page 74] Christ or the Archangel Michael carved in Evenki shamanic objects were exhibited to show how shamanism has been adopting external aspects and transforming its nature to fit the time and environment.
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In the following interview, the curator of this exhibition, Jongsung Yang, explains the purpose and significance of the Exhibition as follows: "Shamanism, I believe, is the origin of energy from which various cultural manifestations are rendered. It has also given rise to the distinctive shape of the 'spiritual culture' of Korea. By exhibiting tangible artifacts of mankind's shamanic heritage, I wanted to show the intangible value and spirituality of shamanism." In order to learn more about the Exhibition, the interview was conducted by Prof. Seong-nae Kim, Prof. Daniel Kister and Dr. Dong-kyu Kim on June...