Pushing things to the edge

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Pushing things to the edge

Scotland has the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, France has the Festival Avignon Off and Australia has the Adelaide Fringe Festival. In Korea, it’s the Seoul Fringe Festival.
As the name implies, the more than 200 performance teams in this year’s alternative art and music festival take an off-the-beaten-track approach to their various crafts. In its sixth year, the festival opens Wednesday in the environs of Hongik University in western Seoul. Under the theme of “Asian Fever,” the festival is not limited to theatre arts; offerings include musical performances, visual arts and experimental film screenings, as well as several street festivals. Workshops, too, for revelers interested in picking up a bit of knowlege along the way.
When describing the works appearing at this year’s festival, Lee Sun-ok, a member of the festival’s organizing committee, says, “All the artists have their own ‘color.’ ”
With a name that contradicts Ms. Lee’s assertion, the first act to go on will be the Japanese Monochrome Circus. This dance troupe has a history of bringing dancing “directly to the audience’s door.” Consider yourself warned. From Wednesday to Aug. 24, Monochrome Circus will be presenting the 2003 “Shukakusai Project,” an interactive performance with a harvest festival theme.
Ssamzie Media Theater, Theater Zero, Changmu Post Theater and Soguk group are hosting indoor performances that range from plays to modern dance to mime. Tickets for each are 12,000 won ($10).
But the official, three-day opening festivities don’t actually kick off until 7 p.m. on Aug. 15. For those three days, artists will be taking to the streets. Parades, percussion, tap dancing, hip-hop and mime are just a sample of the smorgasbord of events on the first day. On Aug. 16, jazz performers from So What, BMK, Malo, Team Player and JS Culture will play outdoors from 2 to 6 p.m. On the last day of the weekend, underground rock groups will do their thing from 5 to 6 p.m for the Street Music Festival. Several indie musicians will play at six live clubs throughout the neighborhood. Sugerdonout, Rumble Fish, BB, 14left and Jolly are just a few of the groups featured from Aug. 22 to Sept. 6. Tickets for their performances are 12,000 won.
After the kickoff wears itself out, the festival proper is divided into themes. “Core-holic” falls on Aug. 23 at the live club Slug.er, as four teams take on society’s foibles in front of an audience. On Aug. 29, “Folk Release” comes to Cafe Bbang, with several musicians grabbing their guitars. On Aug. 30, the focus is on females, with bands such as BB and Rumble Fish performing at Jammers.
From Aug. 16 to Sept. 7, artists using digital media, short animations, illustrations, graffitti and tattoos will be showcasing their works at six galleries ― Art Space Hue, Multi-Space Kitchen, Cafe Siwall, Artinus, Gallery Hanty and Ssamzie Space. Artists from Hong Kong are bringing digital graffitti, photographs and handmade craftworks.
The Asian Experimental Film Festival section runs from Aug. 22 to 31. Fifty-seven films are being shown from four countries ― Japan, Hong Kong, Thailand and Korea. Tickets are 5,000 won for each screening.
Seoul’s festival has grown to become one of the largest in Asia, eclipsing Hong Kong’s in size. “We hope to continue growing,” Ms. Lee says. Committee members continue to visit other festivals for inspiration.
When the Seoul Fringe Festival began in 1998, the vision was twofold ― to bring alternative art to the public, and to give artists, many of them young, a public forum. Even as the festival grows, that vision still remains. “We’re creating a space for new artists to be recognized, and we wish them all the luck,” Ms. Lee says.

by Joe Yong-hee

For more information, visit www.seoulfringe.net.
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