New and novel in an old coffee house

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New and novel in an old coffee house


Project Namkim, a sound performance project group, stages “Running Machine” on Saturday at Jungdabang Gallery in Mullae-dong, central Seoul. Jungdabang Gallery used to be an old coffee house that has been turned into an alternative art space for young artists. By Park Sang-moon

On Saturday evening, dozens of young people came to watch “Running Machine” by the performance art group Project Namkim at Gallery Jungdabang in Mullae-dong, central Seoul. Instead of being escorted to their seats, the audience was told to sit on the floor, stay standing up or even lie on the floor to watch the performance. The 10,000 won ($9.34) ticket included a free bottle of beer or a glass of champagne that the audience was encouraged to enjoy during the show.

Project Namkim, a sound performance group established last year, has been changing the “way the audience watch the show,” according to the venue. Gallery Jungdabang is now being used as an alternative space for artists and performance groups like Project Namkim. Charmingly, it has maintained the old interior and even the old signboard outside that reads “Jungdabang,” meaning Jung’s Coffee House.

“For our past works, the audience had to use headsets or be in separate spaces to listen and watch the performance. But since Jungdabang Gallery is located on a basement floor, the sound reverbed very well. So we decided to use speakers and to allow the audience to watch the show up close, we decided to make them sit on the floor, stand up or lie down wherever they want,” said Nam Seung-youn, director of Project Namkim.

Unlike other sound performance groups, which focus purely on delivering sound, Project Namkim’s works always include a story, turning them into something like a play.

“Running Machine” starts with a man on a running machine. He runs alone without stopping and realizes that his life is like this, running incessantly but remaining alone in the same spot.

“We aim to create a new form of performance, in which there’s no division between the actors, the audience and the stage through sound performance. There’s no right or wrong. We are looking for a new form of performance,” said Nam.

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