On the fringes, for the massesIt’s probably fair to say that the Seoul Fringe Festival has become more faithful to the idea of embracing the independent spirit than to its origins as a festival of “fringe” theater productions.
Starting today and continuing for the next two weeks in the Hongdae and Sinchon neighborhoods, the seventh annual festival (originally known as the Independent Arts Festival) will include more than 300 shows in all, encompassing live bands, plays, street performances, dance, gallery shows, film screenings and experimental productions.
Every year, it seems, the festival appeals to more and more average citizens, as opposed to cultural fringe-dwellers.
The hybrid spirit of the festival may be owed mostly to Hongdae, which, with its growing number of live clubs and leaky-roofed spaces for small, eclectic theatrical performances, has become the place to be when it comes to the alternative arts in Seoul.
Here we have compiled a list of live clubs, galleries and fringe theaters participating in the festival. Immerse yourself in “fringe” culture, and in art of all forms and styles.
Geek Live House (02-3141-5292)
This cozy live music club in Sinchon usually hosts young musicians in genres from hip-hop to death rock. Tonight at 7 p.m., the club hosts a hip-hop night; on Aug. 29 at 7 p.m., modern rock; on Sept. 4 at 7 p.m., a party with live bands.
Rolling Stones 2 (02-332-9439)
If funk was the thing for Hongdae musicians in the mid-’90s, in Sinchon it was heavy metal. Back then, Rolling Stones 2, a popular live club in the area, nurtured what are now some of the most established rockers in the mainstream music scene, such as Sinawe, Cherry Filter and Nel Pia. The club, which recently underwent a major renovation, presents a mix of styles, ranging from independent rock to stylistic hybrids. On Sept. 4 at 7 p.m., the club stages “Diva Live Special,” featuring all-female bands and vocalists.
This relatively new club in Hongdae was opened last December by the people behind Drug and Blue Devil ― two of the oldest and most legendary live clubs, which opened up the music scene in Hongdae. At 7 p.m. Aug. 21 and 29, DGBD will host local bands including Front Line Madness, Swallow and Radio Fruit.
Cafe Bbang (011-9910-1089)
This Hongdae club, which focuses on modern rock and folk music, recently moved from near the rear gate of Ewha Womans University, where it got started in 1994. During the day, Bbang is a cafe and a space for lectures, flea markets and other functions. On Sunday at 7 p.m. it presents “Folk Release,” featuring musicians who focus on acoustic folk. On Sept 4. at 7 p.m., it’s Oh Brothers, a retro Korean band that covers popular British and American songs from the ’60s and ’70s, mostly the Beatles and the Beach Boys.
Club Soundholic is the largest live club in Hongdae with the most up-to-date sound and video system, presenting groups from alternative to mainstream. The club has its own technical team, which is a rarity for live clubs in Hongdae. Tonight at 7 p.m., Soundholic presents “Do the Punk,” with bands including No Brain and Starfish; on Sept. 5, it’s “In Da Soul,” with a mix of acid and urban soul.
This cozy live club, presenting a variety of styles from Tuesdays to Sundays, regularly hosts hip-hop performances. Tonight SluG.er hosts “Hip-hop Day,” with student teams and professional DJs and dancers.
Baram, located within the Ssamzie Space gallery, has adopted a live Webcast system, spotlighting bands who are currently central to Hongdae’s underground. On Tuesday and Wednesday at 8 p.m., the club presents a multimedia performance by musicians, dancers and installation artists, inspired by Gabriel Faure’s “La Chanson d’Eve.”
This Hongdae club, which calls itself a “musical playground,” has hosted popular bands like Jaurim and Cherry Filter. On Saturday at 7 p.m., Jammers hosts “Groove, Groove,” featuring a mix of bands playing music from blues to funk rock.
Queen Live Hall (02-313-7777)
This concert hall, which opened two years ago, has been hosting musical events, producing albums and organizing concerts for alternative bands like Deli Spice, Bulldog Mansion and Emerald Castle. On Friday at 7 p.m. the venue presents “Shout Loudly,” a concert featuring a number of local rock bands.
Free Bird (02-333-2701)
This is a local live music mecca, presenting a mix of emerging and big-name Korean bands. On Aug. 29, Free Bird stages performances by the club’s “dream team,” the best of their regularly performing bands.
Art Space Hue (02-333-0955)
This gallery normally exhibits contemporary work by young, local artists. For the festival, however, Hue is putting together a video installation by young Australian artists titled “Eyes for Other Skies,” a show that was presented in public spaces at this year’s Australia Next Wave Festival in Melbourne.
The gallery will also host a series of academic forums by Southeast Asian artists during the festival. On Aug. 27 at 7 p.m., panelists from Thailand, including Ping Hunng, the director of Taipei Artist Village, will give a lecture on the problems involved in maintaining an artists’ village.
Multi Space Kitchen (02-338-4020)
Multi Space Kitchen hosts contemporary works including installations, videos and paintings. Through Sept. 5, the gallery exhibits video installations by three young artists, dealing with imagery from our daily surroundings.
Gallery Hanti (02-334-9136)
Hanti says it promotes art that’s “sharp, eclectic and refreshing.” For the festival, Hanti presents a display of objects and images that the gallery describes as “strange, lovely and strong,” created by three local artists.
Ssamzie Space (02-3142-1693)
This is a center for alternative arts in Hongdae, run by the clothing and accessories company of the same name. The gallery, which recently opened up a branch in Heiri Valley near Paju, is currently displaying an installation and performance by Mun Gui-sun, who has filled the space with “objects that have crawled inside out.”
Sup Gallery (02-326-1255)
This gallery, whose name means “forest,” aims to form a new “ecology” of contemporary Korean art with a “jungle” of various art forms. The current exhibit features a mix of young artists, some fresh out of college and trying to define their ideas about art.
Team Preview (02-337-7932)
This gallery has been hosting many programs and forums with an eye toward helping local artists form a network in the industry. Currently, Team Preview is presenting conceptual works.
Gallery Cott (02-6414-8840)
“Strangling” is a show in a variety of genres by artists dealing with issues of cultural identity.
Alternative Space Loop (02-3141-1377)
Loop was one of Seoul’s first nonprofit alternative galleries, featuring works by young and emerging artists. The current exhibition is titled “Reconstruction.”
The Post Theater (02-337-5961)
This theater opened in Oct. 1992 as a venue for dance performances. Since then, it has hosted a number of international events featuring dancers and choreographers of all genres, including Japanese Butoh, contemporary ballet, African dance and traditional Korean dance (though the theater is best known for its experimental flair).
During the festival, the Post will stage a mix of modern dance pieces, including mime by Choi Hee, nightly from Aug. 31 to Sept. 2 at 8 p.m.; “And Then,” by Hong Kong choreographer Andy Wong, Sept. 4 and 5 at 3 p.m.; and a techno version of “Design for Death,” by Singapore’s KYTV troupe, on Aug. 31 at 6 p.m.
Theater Ye (02-322-0152)
This is one of the classic fringe theaters in Hongdae. At 6 p.m. tonight, tomorrow and Sunday, Ye presents “The Scent of Chekhov,” a play based on short stories by Anton Chekhov, including some that haven’t been staged in Korea before. On Aug. 27 and 28, the theater company Stunning Playground stages “Fast Food: A Day,” a piece that depicts disposable contemporary reality through a mix of mime and other kinds of performance.
Theater Choo (02-3142-0538-9)
Established by the family of the late veteran stage actor Choo Seong-woong, Theater Choo screened experimental films on a regular basis until recently, when financial difficulties forced it to change its programming.
For the festival, Theater Choo will present a series of Asian independent films. Under the theme “Personal Is Political,” the series focuses on autobiographical documentaries by three emerging filmmakers ― Korea’s Choi Jin-seong, China’s Shuri Ching and Japan’s Yamauchi Yoko.
During the festival the university will open its facilities for forums and academic panels. On Wednesday at 2 p.m., at the university’s seminar hall, the festival hosts a symposium on funding alternatives for independent artists, looking at examples in music, art and film.
One of the joys of a festival like this in Hongdae is that it makes just walking around such a pleasure. From Tuesday through Sept. 5, there will be live performances at various locations in the neighborhood, including jazz, mime, rock and folk. Some of the major Hongdae bands, including No Brain, will appear on opening night.
by Park Soo-mee