Artists seek non-gallery space
By Kwaak Je-yup
Popular interest in art is booming, with lines forming outside museums and exhibitions drawing record numbers in Seoul.
But a handful of artists want to bring their works even closer to the people, displaying them in unordinary places outside the walls of galleries that could intimidate ordinary citizens.
American-educated Yoon Ji-woong, 34, opened his week-long solo show “Minimal Abstract,” Saturday at a small underground club in Hongdae, the paragon of youth culture in the western Seoul area around Hongik University, because he liked “unconventional spaces.”
“Ten or 11 years ago, I used to come to this club three to four times a week,” said Yoon. “My sweat is seeped into these floors and walls.”
Yoon is best known for another art-outside-galleries exhibition, the widely-acclaimed Haein Art Project, which showcased contemporary art works last year within the premises of Haein Temple, the depository of the Tripitaka Koreana and UNESCO World Heritage site in the Gaya Mountains, South Gyeongsang Province.
At the opening at Club Gate (formerly Club VIA) in the heart of Hongdae, Yoon’s paintings were also hung in unlikely places: walls next to a bar, above plush sofas, behind the toilet bowl and, most notably, on the ceilings.
“I looked at the club’s structure, and there were only objects on the ceiling, not on the walls (given that people may bump into them during the primary use of the space). When people move to the beat, they tend to look above, and I wanted to follow that natural movement.”
He tested that theory out on Saturday, putting himself in the middle of the dance floor as a part of his performance art piece. He moved to his own soundtrack, which had sporadic changes in tempo. He replayed “different movements from the most important moments of (his) life,” starting with the embryonic position, he said.
With just a single light on the dancer and the rest of the room in almost pitch black, the viewers’ eyes moved with his bodily directions. At times, one wished one could participate in the process, too — with or without a beer in hand.
The rest of the evening, Yoon was behind the DJ booth, spinning bass-heavy electronic music, its style quite minimalist, following the exhibition’s main theme.
“I love the word minimal because it applies to all three: dance, music and art. I hope my attempt will bring together the three different worlds.”
Even further outside the usual realm of art are the members of the collective Seoul Urban art Project (S.U.P.), who have been splattering street art over the Ahyeon-dong redevelopment zone in western Seoul.
Strategically located in between Ewha Womans University campus and the Central Business District, the 900,000-square-meter area is currently undergoing an organized demolition process. The vast space which changes on a daily basis has been the canvas of choice for the 15 S.U.P. artists in the last month, painting on the walls of half-knocked down buildings and even on excavated rocks on the construction sites.
On this reporter’s Friday visit, there were no artists at work, but there were abundant remnants of their works on various parts of the surprisingly quiet area. Still, their works will eventually be destroyed in its entirety, making way for concrete apartment blocks.
This is only the beginning — “the episode one” — of their movement, according to S.U.P.’s Facebook page. Look around Seoul, even outside the urban renewal zones, in the future for their colorful traces.
The artists in the collective did not return the request for an interview at the time of reporting.
Meanwhile, the message is lost on some bystanders, who expressed disinterest.
“I’ve seen those kids doodling and painting those things on the walls, but I couldn’t stop them,” said an elderly resident of the neighborhood Friday. “I think they’re students who need practice.”
Yoon’s show, “Minimal Abstract,” runs until this Friday.
The Seoul Urban art Project continues its adventure throughout the year, with a showcase at the Ahyeon-dong site to be held later this month.
For more information on Yoon and his works, visit blog.naver.com/yoonjiwoong. Visit soundcloud.com/yoonjiwoong to download Yoon’s DJ sets.
For the Seoul Urban art Project and more photos of their now-destroyed works, visit www.facebook.com/SUProject.