City streets are the stage at art fest

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City streets are the stage at art fest

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Left: “Earthquake” by Korean performing group Modern Table will be staged on Friday in Seoul Plaza. Right: KTO Theatre’s moving performance “Peregrinus” from Poland will be held in Gwanghwamun Square at 2 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. [SEOUL FOUNDATION FOR ARTS AND CULTURE, FILIP RUDNICKI]

Seoul Metropolitan City’s signature Hi Seoul Festival, which celebrates its 14th year this year, decided to venture on a new journey by changing its name to the Seoul Street Art Festival. Starting Wednesday, various spots in central Seoul will turn into stages for five days, holding a variety of outdoor street performances.

Despite criticism from some experts and the public for abandoning the well-established brand, Kim Jong-seok, the artistic director of the festival, who has been organizing the festival for the past four years, said that “the organizing committee believed that it is more important to imprint the identity of this city-run festival than the name value.”

“We’ve agonized over changing the name since 2012 and were hesitant because we knew how ‘Hi Seoul Festival’ has become a brand that represents this festival in Seoul Metropolitan City,” said Kim. “But when I hear the name, I can’t really imagine what kind of festival it is. I thought that it is more important to let people know what this festival is about.”

According to Kim, street festivals are widely enjoyed in western cultures and Koreans are beginning to enjoy them as well, adding that it’s their goal to make the Seoul Street Art Festival, the ultimate street festival in Korea.

“The charm of a street arts festival is that it demolishes the boundaries between the audience and performers. It brings the city, the people and art together,” Kim said

For this year’s festival, 47 shows by performing groups from nine different countries have been invited to showcase their work and mingle with the citizens.

This year, there will be a temporary installation titled “Fire Installation” along the Cheonggye Stream. The stream will be ablaze each evening of the festival thanks to this flaming installation by French group Carabosse.

Some of the other highlights of the festival include a collaboration of Korean acrobats and B-boys with the Australian Stalker Theatre, who have worked together for the past two years to create “Frameshift.” This multi-performance show will be staged on Friday at 8 p.m. at the Culture Station Seoul 284.

Based on T.S. Eliot’s’ poem “The Hollow Men,” a movement theater company KTO Theatre from Poland has devised a performance that “explores boundaries between intimacy, power and people.” Members of the theater walk along the streets in formal gray suits and large masks with a forlorn-looking face over their heads. The show will be put on twice during the festival in Gwanghwamun Square in central Seoul at 2 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.

“Last year, about a million citizens enjoyed the festival together and 8,000 people participated in the street parade on the last day,” said Kim. “After watching and enjoying such high-quality free street performances, they become theatergoers and finally started to really enjoy arts and culture.”

For more information about the Seoul Street Art Festival, visit www.festivalseoul.or.kr/html_eng.

sharon@joongang.co.kr

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