Ugo Rondinone's 'yellow red monk' (2021) stands guard at the schist-encased Nam June Paik Hall in Museum SAN in Wonju, Gangwon Province, as part of the Swiss artist's morst comprehensive exhibiiton to date in Korea titled 'burn to shine.' Courtesy of Museum SAN

WONJU, Gangwon Province — Within the grayscale concrete-and-stone museum, which embodies the signature structural vocabulary of Japanese architect Tadao Ando, unfolds an eye-popping explosion of fluorescent colors and devouring flames.

The mastermind behind this striking juxtaposition is the versatile Swiss artist Ugo Rondinone, who, through neon boulder totems, a blazing film installation and a collaboration with 1,000 children, composes searing meditations on elemental nature and the circle of life.

All this may sound dauntingly abstract, but a trip down to Museum SAN atop a lush mountain in Wonju, Gangwon Province makes it an immediately tangible experience.

“burn to shine,” the title of his largest solo exhibition to date in Korea, already hints at the artist’s poignant contemplation on the cycle of death and rebirth.

The phrase takes inspiration from a 1993 poem, “You Got to Burn to Shine,” by Rondinone’s late partner and American poet John Giorno — which itself originates from a Buddhist mantra acknowledging the inevitable coexistence of life and death.

It’s also the name given to the show’s centerpiece: A film playing in an infinite loop across six large screens, where a crowd of dancers 추천 and percussionists circle a fire in the desert as they move to the pulsating rhythm from sundown to sunup. The performance, blending ancient rituals of the Maghreb region in Africa with contemporary dance, beckons viewers into a mystical, trance-like state and allows them to experience the never-ending cycle through their whole bodies.

“It starts with the sunset and ends with the sunrise, and then it starts again. That cycle of life, you are going to see it throughout the whole exhibition,” the 59-year-old said at the museum in April.

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