Art in ‘Our Town’ shows Hongdae’s creative side

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Art in ‘Our Town’ shows Hongdae’s creative side

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It was Friday evening, and the three hip young men wearing lab goggles and covered in glitter boogied through the streets of Hongdae, northwestern Seoul, with a stereo blaring the “Ghostbusters” theme song.
It was just another performance by the Joketda Project (the “That’ll be Good Project”), this one to kick off its “Our Town” exhibit at Ssamzie Space. For those familiar with Hongdae and its art community, this may have seemed ordinary, but the street performance captured the essence of Hongdae culture in ways that words couldn’t. The performance worked: Curious passersby followed the three to the exhibit at the gallery in Ssamzie Space.
“Our Town,” the sixth annual “Pick and Pick” exhibit, features six pieces by emerging artists who are all either Hongik University graduate students or are actively pursuing work in the university area. The show encompasses various styles and media, including the Joketda Project by Kim Jong-woo, Yoon Young-hwan and Lee Won-woo; “My Room,” a digital media project by Lee Jung-min, as well as two sculpture shows, “The Camouflaged Rabbit” by Kim Min-kyung and “Art Actually” by Hong Jung-pyo. The seven artists and three art organization represented were selected by Hong Sung-do, a professor at Hongik University.
The event allows Ssamzie Space to showcase a different exhibit each year and gives young artists the chance to display their works in an official exhibit.
Though the pieces presented in this year’s exhibit seemed to be just a random collection of contemporary art, Shin Hyun-jin, the curator at Ssamzie Space, explained that the artists were all selected as part of the exhibition’s “Our Town” theme, one goal being to show how the community has become the center of Korea’s art scene.
“Our Town” is a good way to spend a laid-back afternoon. The show is quite small, taking up only three rooms, and most of the pieces are together in an open, white room on the main level, with the Joketda Project and “Monster Story” being separately displayed on the ground level. The exhibit might be boring or seem a bit cliched for connoisseurs of modern art, as it offers no truly original ideas, but it’s interesting and worth visiting.
Though the original works are on display at the Ssamzie Space gallery, several other works by the artists can be purchased at Alternative Space Miccle, Art Space Hue, and Gallery Skape, all located near Ssamzie Space.
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“We wanted this exhibit to be a chance for the people in Hongdae to walk through the neighborhood, stopping from gallery to gallery to see and buy work that’s produced by their fellow community members,” Mr. Shin said.
Those who have hung around Hongdae on “Club Day” ― a monthly event in which one ticket allows a partygoer to enter most Hongdae clubs ― have probably seen the Joketda Project. The three artists, who have been friends since their school days together at Hongik University, go out around Hongdae clubs carrying a boom-box while they dance down the crowded streets as if they were making a music video.
“We chose to do this project on Club Day, because Club Day itself is a time when there is a lot of energy,” said Kim Jong-woo, one of the artists. “Also, by performing in a crowded environment we were able to include other ‘club-day goers’ in the performance, which helped us create and form new and different energies.”
When asked why they chose to portray energy through music, dance, and video, the group explained that energy was something that could not be explained in words or through any other medium.
“The Camouflaged Rabbit,” an eye-catching work by Kim Min-kyung, is a sculpture of a female mannequin dressed up as rabbit, or as Kim pointed out, a rabbit dressed up as a human depending on how one views it. The 24-year-old artist said her idea for this project originated with the camouflage or disguises that normal people use every day. The work is an attempt to symbolize how people constantly disguise their true identities and inner elements. In line with the theme of disguise and costume, this piece was made from molded plaster and was decorated to create the perfect female image.
The exhibit also includes the intriguing “Untitled” story. From afar, the wall-hung piece, about a meter long and a half-meter wide, appears to be nothing more than a khaki-colored canvas. The piece, by the artist Ko San-keum, is a collection of pearls that tells stories that have run in the media. Each pearl represents one letter of one word, and the pearls are arranged exactly according to the word order in Ko’s text. For example, the word “the” would have three pearls positioned side by side to represent the letters t, h and e. By telling the story this way, the artist created what looks to be some sort of coded pattern. The work took Mr. Ko nearly three months to complete.
In this piece, the artist touches on how much of life is focused on the associated meanings and symbols that allow people to communicate. Ms. Ko has lived in New York City for nearly a decade, where she gathered her inspiration for this piece by reading local newspaper publications every day. “Reading newspapers and magazines made me think about communication and how easy it is to misunderstand something. From there, I started thinking about symbols and associated meanings and how much of life relies on them,” Ms. Ko said. Among the artists participating in the “Our Town” exhibit, she has participated in numerous individual and group exhibits in New York as well as having had her work published in several journals.


by Brett Stewart

The “Our Town” exhibit is on display at Ssamzie Space Gallery from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. until March 10. Admission is free. Ssamzie Space is located near Hongik University’s main gate. The nearest subway station is Hongik University, line No. 2, exit 5. A map is available at www.ssamziespace.com (Korean only).
For more information, contact Hyunjin Shin at .
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