'Mindfulness' exhibition gives patrons a chance to focus in trying times

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'Mindfulness' exhibition gives patrons a chance to focus in trying times

OMA Space's installation "Slow Walk" is currently being exhibited at "Mindfulness" at Piknic in central Seoul. [OMA SPACE]

OMA Space's installation "Slow Walk" is currently being exhibited at "Mindfulness" at Piknic in central Seoul. [OMA SPACE]

 
It’s been months since the outbreak of the coronavirus in Korea, and people continue to go about their daily lives while feeling suffocated behind masks. 
 
And every time the country appears to get a grasp on the situation, a new cluster seems to emerge.
 
What we need now is peace of mind. And there’s no better way to do it through meditation, or mindfulness.
 
Those that practice meditation and mindfulness say the two are similar but differ in that the latter focuses more on the psychological process in which our attention is more on the present state without the intrusion of judgement.  
 
This takes training, and an exhibition currently ongoing at Piknic in Jung District, central Seoul, is helping people to do that with the aid of art. 
 
The exhibition is titled “Mindfulness.” Piknic got together a group of nine artists and artist groups interested in the field of mindfulness to help people train and learn how to see themselves exactly as they are so they can alleviate many of the different issues people experience in the contemporary era, such as depression, anxiety, addiction and even the corona blues. 
 
Participating artists and groups include Park Seo-bo and 10F0; Miyajima Tatsuo; David Lynch and Tete-a-Tete; OMA Space; Fabrikr; Plastique Fantastique and Marco Barotti; Charwei Tasi; Jawshing Arthur Liou; and Seungmo Seo.  
 
“From day to day, human beings experience over 60,000 different thoughts. Amid this endless torrent of past regrets and future worries, mindfulness helps usher us away from this chaos so that we can properly enjoy the moment we are living in right now,” said the organizer. “This exhibition presents works that either help to initiate the practice of mindfulness or that elicit similar changes to those that emerge when we practice mindfulness.”
 
The exhibit is divided into eight sections using the whole exhibition space from the basement floor of Piknic to the top fourth floor. Visitors are ushered in one by one with a set interval, not because of social distancing, but because the exhibition should be enjoyed alone, as the purpose of it involves, according to the organizer, “letting go of your complicated thoughts and giving yourself over to the senses and experiences the artists share.”
 
There are installations, videos and lighting art that help visitors to enter a “mindfulness” state.
 
The highlight is from OMA Space — the “Slow Walk” section.  
 
In this section, people should take off their shoes and socks and as the title of the artwork illustrates, walk “very slowly,” as artist Jang Jiu, who also heads OMA Space suggests, to fully experience and become immersed. 
 
The installation is shaped in a spiral to make people walk in a circle with an object in the center — in this case water in a circular plate — which is taken from rituals that existed in different forms across generations from the ancient geoglyphs of Nazca to the labyrinth of today’s Chartres Cathedral. Jang says she also drew inspiration from the slow walks that Zen Buddhist monks take around pagodas as they clean their minds and meditate.  
 
“This is more of a contemporary ritual walk that brings the participant into more intimate contact with their deepest, most interior self,” she said.
 
Artist Jang Jiu of OMA Space  [PARK SANG-MOON]

Artist Jang Jiu of OMA Space [PARK SANG-MOON]

  
She divided the spiral path, which stretches 10 meters, into 10 different sections and used different materials in each section, such as rocks, pebbles, stones, sand, wood, straw, fabric and so on — going from rough materials to delicate — to help “awaken the senses by stimulating the feet and encouraging full attention, focus and equilibrium.”
 
“As the walk progresses, the texture people will feel on their feet will become softer and lighter,” said Jang. “This will ease their mind and help them to loosen up, which will be drastically different to the earlier stages where they felt pain and had difficulty balancing and walking.”  
 
The path is also walled to help people focus and they are also given headsets with music especially composed to help this “journey of mindfulness,” said Jang.
 
OMA Space presented a similar project last year as the final presentation for an artist-in-residency program at Google in Paris. OMA Space, an art and design studio based in Seoul and Europe, was chosen to participate in the residency program run by Google’s Project Jacquard and Google Arts & Culture. Unlike “Slow Walk,” the Google project involved a more interactive installation that featured “dialogue between art and technology.”
 
“It would’ve been good if we could exhibit the same work but because of the space limitation we couldn’t bring in the same one so we had to use different materials on the path and use headsets that may hinder focus,” said Jang.
 
“But I think it turned out nicely for this space and people seem to really enjoy the experience. I recommend people to try the 'Slow Walk' at least twice to really feel inner freedom.”
 
Visitors are guided to walk up the stairs, following the light. [FABRIKR]

Visitors are guided to walk up the stairs, following the light. [FABRIKR]

 
Another piece that’s gaining attention is artist duo Fabrikr’s “Space.” 
 
Visitors are guided to walk up the stairs, following a light. Then a large room appears. The space is filled with smoke, blurring your vision. When you sit down, as the guide tells you to, a low-toned voice is played from a speaker, telling you to take a deep breath and to empty your mind and think about nothing for two minutes. 
 
Then there’s a literal blackout for two minutes. No sound, no light. Real meditation.  
 
BY YIM SEUNG-HYE   [sharon@joongang.co.kr]
The exhibit runs until Sept. 27. Tickets cost 15,000 won ($12.50). For more information, call (02) 318-3233.  
 
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