Spring festival cuts through the fourth wall
On stage, a man was speaking to the audience when another man appeared on a screen behind him. Without missing a beat, the man and the projection started communicating with each other, the man reading from a book while the projection took notes.
Hundreds of people came to see this performance by William Kentridge, which was presented on Monday evening at the Arko Arts Theater, in the theater district of Daehangno in northern Seoul.
The renowned South African artist, who is known for his distinctive animated short films and charcoal drawings, was in town to participate in Festival Bo:m, an annual international festival of performing and visual arts held in Seoul.
Kentridge’s work, “I Am Not Me, The Horse is Not Mine” is the artist’s operatic interpretation of Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich’s opera “The Nose.” The opera, first performed in 1930, was based on Russian novelist Nikolai Gogol’s absurdist short story by the same name, which was written in 1837. It tells the bizarre story of a St. Petersburg official whose nose leaves his face and develops a life of its own.
“This is a story of a man who loses his nose,” Kentridge said during his performance Monday, which took the form of a reading. “While it is highly unlikely for a nose to disappear in the way described in the story, it is hard to believe that Kovalyov [the protagonist] was so ignorant that he thought a newspaper would advertise his nose as lost.”
In his interpretation of the work, Kentridge has projected the story forward to the 1917 Russian Revolution and the Russian avant-garde, and then into the twentieth century to include allusions to Stalin’s purges of the 1930s. In this way, the artist’s performance is a conduit for his interest in the rise and fall of Russian modernism. He also explores the concept of the artist’s control over his own creations through his presentation of his own “multiple selves.”
The work was commissioned by the New York Metropolitan Opera, where it premiered in March.
Festival Bo:m, which originated as the Spring Wave Festival in 2007, marks its fourth anniversary this year and features 26 works by Korean and international artists.
The festival kicked off late last month and will run until May 4 at 10 different venues around Seoul, including Arko Arts Theater, Arko Art Center and Marronnier Park in Hyehwa-dong; the World Cup Stadium in Sangam-dong and the Namsan Arts Center in central Seoul.
Another notable performance work in the festival is by Korean visual artist Yeondoo Jung. Jung was chosen as Artist of the Year by the National Museum of Contemporary Art in 2007 and has displayed his work in Korea and abroad.
His work, “Cinemagician” is an interactive theater piece that is being presented in Korea for the first time, following its premiere in New York.
In the performance, a magician, Korean celebrity Lee Eun-gyeol, puts on a magic show while a camera captures what’s happening on stage. The filmed material is projected back onto a screen above the stage so the audience can see it, but as the performance progresses, the images on the screen become divorced from the situation on stage, thereby inviting viewers to contemplate their own perceptions of reality while admiring the grand illusion unfolding before them.
*Cinemagician will be presented in the Great Theater at Mary Hall at Sogang University at 8 p.m. from April 26 to 27. Tickets cost 30,000 won ($27). For more information on this and the many other performances and exhibitions that are part of the festival program, visit www.festivalbom.org.
By Park Sun-young [email@example.com]
Upcoming performances at Festival Bo:m
Technical Problem (Dance, Design)
Geumhyung Jeong, Chungwoo Lee, Jackson Hong
Date: April 23 at 8 p.m., April 24 at 5 p.m.
Venue: Arko Arts Theater, Main Hall
A Certain Contradiction (Dance, Text)
Lee Na-hyun, Seo Dong-uk
Date: April 24 at 5 p.m., April 25 at 5 p.m.
Venue: Sogang University, Mary Hall, Small Theater
The Chittendens (Video exhibit)
Date: March 27 to May 2 from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Venue: Arko Art Center, 2nd Floor
Telematch Series (Video installation)
Date: March 30 to May 2
Venue: Arko Art Center, 1st Floor
We Are the Team (Performance)
Date: May 8 at 5 p.m.
Venue: Seoul World Cup Stadium