Our city, our game: The art of urban fun

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Our city, our game: The art of urban fun

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Faced with the dynamic pace of street life in Seoul ― the zooming cars, shouting vendors and jumbled shoulders shoving onward ― many citizens dismiss the city as an impersonal zone of nameless faces shuffling from place to place.
But a handful of young Korean artists are defying this notion in a new exhibition titled, “Urban Vibe: The Art of Playing City,” currently on display at Art Center Nabi downtown. The show challenges visitors to break out of their habitual view of the metropolis as a grey, lifeless city, and invites them to take charge by making the city a playground for personal games.
The 12 projects by eight artists create amusing situations that provoke a sense of “play” in the city. Every weekend, a different project holds its game, and the images and recordings of the play are displayed as part of installation works during the following weeks. Visitors to the gallery can either simply inspect the exhibits or actually participate in the weekend game events.
In one project, titled “Shoot Me If You Can,” players shoot the members of an opposing team using cell phone cameras. The game is a life-size version of a video game, played out on in the bustling Myeongdong neighborhood.
The creator of the game, Choi Tae-yoon, said he was surprised by the positive responses from all age groups. “At first, [participants] were quite hesitant, but after a while they totally took on the theme of ‘interactive city’ and were very enthusiastic,” said Choi.
Another project named, “Handphone Broadcasting Station” by the media artist, Yangachi, examines how mobile phones users feel about their phones. “I find that how we use our cellular phones is controlled by cell phone content makers and not by us, the consumers,” said Yangachi. A computer screen displays two random anecdotes told by a schoolgirl and a man ― the sort of communication that the artist wishes would be more common on cell phones.
This new type of media art stems from a workshop called the “Interactive and Practice Group,” which was first initiated in 2004 by Park So-hyeon, the curator of Art Center Nabi, which is known for showcasing cutting-edge media art.
“I wanted media artists, engineers, cultural theorists, and others who have an expertise in media art to get together, exchange ideas and join in artistic projects,” said Ms. Park. “The different professionals in each group makes the projects more colorful.”


by Cho Jae-eun

The exhibition, “Urban Vibe: The Art of Playing City” runs through Oct. 28. Art Center Nabi, located in Jongro-gu in central Seoul is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. The nearest subway is at Gwanghwamun station, line No. 5, exit No. 5. For more information call 02-2121-0912 or visit www.nabi.or.kr.
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