Taehwa River Eco Art Festival highlights the concept of home
ULSAN — It is said that Korea now has too many art festivals in the provinces including those that make critics furrow their brows due to their lack of harmony with the venues. However, local art festivals still exist that show their raison d'être such as the ongoing Taehwa River Eco Art Festival (TEAF) in Ulsan, the southeastern port city known for heavy industries.
Now in the Taehwagang National Garden Migratory Bird Park, which opened in 2013 along the Taehwa River flowing across Ulsan city, are scattered 12 installation works by 12 teams of Korean and foreign artists as part of the 15th edition of the annual TEAF, whose title is “Unhidden/Unseeable.”
Many of the works are made of wood, steel or synthetic materials in achromatic colors and embrace the environment as part of them. Therefore, they don’t cause a sense of disharmony with the surroundings, while still stimulating passersby's curiosity. In addition, most of the artworks invite the viewers to touch and experience them.
On Wednesday, a group of children were enjoying themselves playing hide-and-seek in the spaces of Korean artist Dongwan Kook’s work. The work consists of many low-rise steel structures shaped in hangul, or Korean alphabet, that together make a sentence that translates to “I came here for the first time, but it’s a place I’ve been playing at since I was young.” The work invites the viewers into its spaces and intends to “turn any place into home and to recall unknown memories,” according to TEAF. The work seemed to be perfectly achieving its intentions, as seen with the happy children.
Saudi Arabian artist Manal AlDowayan’s work “Now You See Me, Now You Don’t” is also favored by children and adults alike. It consists of large and small trampolines installed at ground level so that they look like puddles of water from the Taehwa River at a glance. Visitors are free to bounce.
The installation work by Korean artist Inbai Kim looks like a primitive ritual place made of stones arranged in a large circle. Actually, it's not stones the make up the circle but so-called “return balls” fixed to the land by elastic ropes. Viewers can play with the work by kicking the balls and seeing them come back.
The theme that embraces these works is “home,” not in the conventional and narrow idea but in an extended concept, Park Sohee, art director of the 2021 and 2020 editions of TEAF, said. “As for Kim’s work, it is based on the understanding that ‘home’ is a place to return to, an abstract concept generated by the repeated act of entering and exiting,” she said.
“The festival itself is an attempt at interpreting the different and changing ways of weaving a ‘home’ — be it a physical space or a mental state — as practiced by the participating artists in the situation that the meaning of ‘home’ is changing at a faster pace amid the pandemic,” Park said.
Other Korean participants are Siha Kim, Kim Young Woo, Min Ye-eun, Kyoung Jae Cho, Tout à coup, artist duo Seo Jeong-Bae and Kwon Jae-hyun, and Satoshi Murakami from Japan, Harold Mendez from the United States, Aaditi Joshi from India and Emmy Skensved from Canada.
Taehwagang National Garden was officially designated as the second Korean national garden after Suncheon Bay National Garden. The festival, hosted by the Kyungsang Ilbo Newspaper, is scheduled to run through Nov. 7.
BY MOON SO-YOUNG [firstname.lastname@example.org]