Friday, May 30, 2008

MODAFE-International Modern Dance Festival in Seoul

The 27th International modern dance festival (MODAFE 2008) is held from May 27 - June 7, 2008.
Top overseas and Korean artists will present a range of performances and seminars.
The program includes some interesting interdisciplinary pieces from international choreographers such as David Zambrano, Jan Fabre, Benoit Lachambre and Philippe Combes.

You can see the performance schedule on the MODAFE website .

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Busan Biennale 2008 - mark this in your diary for September

Theme: Expenditure
Period: Sep. 06. - Nov. 15. 2008 (71 days)
Opening ceremony: Sep. 06. 2008
Venues: Busan Museum of Modern Art and others
Contemporary Art Exhibition
Sea Art Festival,
Busan Sculpture Project
Participating artists: 183 artists from 34 countries
Busan Metropolitan City
Busan Biennale Organizing Committee
Contact: telephone: +82-(0)51-888-6691~9
fax: 82-51-888-6693


The 2008 Busan Biennale shows uniqueness of contemporary art from both east and west. 183 artists from 34 countries will represent a distinctive philosophy of "expenditure" and a vivid scene of contemporary art through a variety of artworks including paintings, photographs, videos, installations, outdoor sculptures, etc. Made up of the Contemporary Art Exhibition, the Sea Art Festival and the Busan Sculpture Project, The 2008 Busan Biennale unfolds at the Busan Museum of Modern Art, Gwangalli Beach, APEC Naru Park from September 6th to November 15th.

The Contemporary Art Exhibition will be hosted in the Busan Museum of Modern Art, employing not only the interior spaces of the gallery but also the walls, parking lots, and outdoor spaces nearby to highlight the characteristics of individual art fields. Special exhibits are planned in the measurement room of the Busan Yachting Center, arranging the works of major artists or large-scale installation works. There will be 103artists’ works from 25countries exhibiting.

The exhibits seek to approach contemporary art from critical viewpoints, believing that contemporary art is mired in the trap of reproducing the false images of saturated, oversupplied, repeated symbolic values. Since the symptoms of expenditure appear not only in contemporary society and culture but also in art, especially, in the whole spectrum of contemporary art, it will become a major keyword to reading the latest art trends, which seeks to visualize features of provocation and disintegration.

The Sea Art Festival, which is expected to be a festive venue composed of a variety of works, performances, art and music, will unfold on Gwangalli Beach and nearby areas as a project crossing the boundary between art and everyday life, emphasizing the friendliness of contemporary art. A wide variety of participation art will be exhibited, including ecological works made of environmentally-friendly materials, which will naturally disappear, performance art, and artworks that allow visitors to find or look into something, etc. 58 artists from 18 countries will participate in the festival.

The theme of the Sea Art Festival, "Voyage Without Boundaries," symbolizes the navigation of desires moving toward unfathomable areas. The future seen from the perspective of quantum mechanics is uncertainty itself, emphasizing randomness and unpredictability. Since the future is not determined, it presents freedom and choice, with several factors and motives complementing to participate and engage. The Sea Art Festival brings to the world of reality the conditional "if," which cannot exist in history. The history that we believe is inevitable is rewritten through the distortion of time and space. New artists, who create new artistic - not historical - events, will serve as explorers navigating to find new routes. These new pioneers discover and revise new routes, based upon their intuition and judgement, to find the present address of contemporary art.

The Busan Sculpture Project is inviting 20 artists from 12 countries. The exhibits will be hosted in APEC Naru Park. Materials like stone, concrete, brick, metal, wood will show harmony with grass, flowers, and trees in nature. Going beyond the existing boundary of the sculpture genre, the Project will pursue to harmonize spatial geographical works, such as installation, architecture, landscape architecture, sound, etc. with a city, art, and a garden.

The exhibits will not seek to visually transform a park itself, but rather, extend the epistemological denotation of the space itself. Thus, in addition to artistic and utilitarian works, such as site-specific sculptures and street furniture, the Busan Sculpture Project will be made up of synesthetic works that will change the whole space into one creative space. By installing artworks on the boundaries of a park, the Project will naturally connect what used to be a divided landscape, revealing contemplation on a divide in communication amid advanced information technology and the cure for the problem. The Project will also deal with introspection into an unproductive consumption activity in contemporary consumption-centered society through a stroll on a garden, which is categorized as an "unproductive activity," in contemporary society, where every system is arranged according to the mechanism
of production.

183 artists from 34 countries participate in the 2008 Busan Biennale. Please find how many artists are invited from each country in the followings.

Contemporary Art Exhibition
Georgia 1, The Netherlands 2, Denmark 1, Germany 2, Romania 2, Morocco 1, USA 17, Mexico 1, Venezuela 1, Sweden 1, Switzerland 1, England 4, Israel 1, Italy 2, India 2, Japan 9, China 8, Cyprus 1, Canada 3, Trinidad and Tobago 1, Thailand 5, Portugal 1, France 6, Australia 1 and Korea 29

Sea Art Festival
New Zealand 1, Germany 2, Taiwan 1, Sweden 1, Switzerland 1, Singapore 1, Ireland 1, England 2, Indonesia 1, Japan 7, China 3, Trinidad and Tobago 1, Thailand 1, Poland 2, France 2, Philippines 2, Australia 1 and Korea 30

Busan Sculpture Project
New Zealand 1, The Netherlands 1, USA 2, Vietnam 1, Scotland 1, Ireland 1, England 1, Indonesia 1, Japan 2, China 2, Canada 1 and Korea 6

Busan Biennale 2008
Sep. 6 - Nov. 15, 2008,
Press Opening
Sep. 5. 2008, Auditorium at the Busan Museum of Modern Art
Opening Ceremony
Sep. 6. 2008

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Free monthly Art and Culture tour in Hongdae, Seoul

I found this notice in the May edition of Art Map -
Seoul art & culture project with Sangsangmadang:
"Recovering Hongdae".
Date: April - October 2008, the 4th Sunday of each month. 1.30 - 5 pm.
This program is a cultural tour through items of interest in Hongdae. "Recovering Hongdae" with Sansangmadang and SFAC occurs once a month with 20 members for free who applied through the Sangsang madang website.

The 4th Sunday of this month is May 25, and in June it would be on June 22. The Sangsangmadang is a swish new arts centre with cinema, gallery, theatre etc located in the Hongdae area, in Seoul. The website is all in Korean so you might need a Korean friend to help get you on the tour list. I'm not quite sure what Hongdae is supposed to be "recovering" from (maybe that's a mistranslation and it should be "re-discovering Hongdae"?) , but sounds like a good way of sticking your nose into the Korean art scene.
Web page info: Culture Planet sangsangmadang

**STOP PRESS: Email from the organisers received May 21. 2008:
"Rediscovering Hongdae" is currently being operated only in Korean as participants are mainly natives at the moment.

However, from September or October, we are planning to prepare exclusive programs for foreign participants proceeded in English.
For this month May) , we have closed the application process, and as present programs in Korean might be inconvenient for you, I would recommend you to take part in the exclusive program that, as I mentioned above runs in English expected to start in September.
However, if you want to try to join this month’s program, please feel free to contact me again. (E-mail :

I will happily set it up for your convenience.
최하나 매니저 / 상상마당, 마케팅팀
Choi, Ha-na / PR&Marketing / Manager
Tel. 82 2 330 6206 / Fax. 82 2 330 6220 / Mobile. 82 10 9864 0915
Tel: 02-330-6206

Here's a map of the Hongdae area - click on it to see more detail:

The author of this blog, Penelope Thompson, is an Australian contemporary artist living in Korea who works in performance, installation and community art events. You can see her personal exhibition blog at

Monday, May 12, 2008

Calling all Creative Aliens...

I know you're out there - trained artists, dancers, musicians, actors, writers, film makers… all probably working off a student debt or saving for your next project by teaching English somewhere in Korea. If you're like I was when I first arrived, maybe you don't know how to get involved in creative arts projects here, or that a vibrant art festival scene even exists.

It was quite a shock for me to discover that performance art is actually quite big in Korea - with numerous festivals happening all over the country especially in the summer months. Now what I'm talking about here is not the "performing arts" - which is a general term for entertainment in the form of theatre, dance, music, but rather art-based performance, sometimes called "live art". If you think of the art "happenings" in the '60s and '70s when artists did strange things in galleries and public spaces you're on the right track.

Nowadays with new technology, the forms of performance art are ever expanding, and the boundaries between "performing arts" and "performance art" are blurring. I guess the best way of describing performance art is as an event that involves the live presence of the artist(s) and expresses a concept through any kind of media. While that definition may sound kind of dry and boring, it actually means that anything goes and so it's one of the most exciting and energetic art fields today.

In Korea, many provincial cities hold annual performance art festivals, often with a community focus, and organisers would like to invite foreign artists to participate, but the language barrier and lack of any centralised network of communication for in-country creative foreigners usually prohibits contact. Sure there are foreigners who get together, usually in Seoul, and make music or have the odd solo exhibition, but that's usually targeted only at the foreign/English-speaking community. There is an exciting opportunity to also share creative ideas and have cultural exchange with the Korean community - if we can make contact.

If you would like to connect with the Korean creative community I will post links on this Art'n'about blog, and I'd also love to hear from you about any upcoming art projects or existing groups. So watch the side bar and upcoming posts...

The author of this blog is an Australian contemporary artist living in Korea who works in performance, installation and community art events. You can see her blog at

Monday, May 5, 2008

A trip to Seoul National Museum of Contemporary Art (MoCA, Seoul)

Sunday at the MoCA

In a recent burst of springtime enthusiasm, I headed for the first time to Seoul Grand Park for a Sunday outing to the National Museum of Contemporary Art. To do this I actually had to overcome my general aversion to large-scale, government-run cultural institutions and my prior impressions of the MoCA as an uninviting fortress-like building in a seemingly remote location. But having done it I can now honestly say the trip was well worth the effort.

It was a very pleasant surprise to step off subway Line 4 after only 30 minutes and enter a lovely, uncrowded park, and stroll with my friends past a scenic lake and through a grassy sculpture garden leading up to the entrance of the museum. The current main attraction until June 15 is a world-class exhibition of contemporary installation art by French artist Annette Messager, for an inexpensive 3000 won entry fee.

So after relaxing with a good coffee on the museum's outdoor deck, my friends and I entered the gallery.

It was immediately obvious that Annette Messager's work has truly taken over the space in Gallery 1 and 7 of the MoCA. This retrospective show is a surprising mix of very large-scale kinetic works, intense black and white photographs, and installations consisting of everything from stuffed birds, netting and children's toys to collections of books, clothing and drawings. At times, you can feel like you are watching a colorful circus or visual theatre show rather than what you would normally expect to see in an art museum. As many of the works are also displayed in specially constructed spaces that deliberately restrict the audience's view, this exhibition is doubly stimulating to the mind and senses.

'The black spots' is an installation housed in a very large darkened space, which can be viewed only through slit-like windows in the wall. The viewer sees multitudes of constantly moving tiny black balls of feathers apparently floating in space for almost as far as the eye can see. These "black spots" hang almost invisibly from the ceiling by fishing line while hidden electric fans disturb the air, creating a strange and mesmerizing effect.

This movement of air is used in many pieces, notably in the very dynamic installation 'Casino' where a huge wave of red silk rolls towards us through a door-like opening.

This red wave seems to threaten to engulf us only to subside while mysterious objects light up as if under a red sea, followed finally by a mass of black skull-like symbols rising up on wires to the heavens. Likewise, the almost magical 'Inflate/Deflate' (2006) presents a jungle of inflatable silk bodily organs, that "breathe" in a synchronized, cyclical group movement, like a grotesque parody of our own visceral existence.

There is certainly a lot to see in this exhibition and it is often colorful, strange, intriguing, disturbing, humorous, bizarre, and at times, beautiful. It's the kind of show one can enjoy on a purely experiential level, or take the time to mull over the artist's concepts of life, death, gender roles and emotional realities. A particularly thought-provoking work is the installation piece called 'The Boarders' (1971-1972).

This is a collection of hundreds of dead small birds (like sparrows), clothed in tiny hand-knitted woolen jackets symbolizing healing and representing the nurturing role of women. I also found myself spending a lot of time looking closely at Messager's very striking large black and white close-up photographs of body parts such as an ear, foot, hand, mouth etc in her series 'My trophies' (1986 - 1988), on which she has painted strange and symbolic images that seem to tell dream-like stories.

In another room a 70-minute video of the artist discussing her work is shown, but unfortunately the language is French (with the audio levels set so low it's difficult to hear anyway) and the subtitles are only in Korean.

So if you want to know more about the artist you'll have to wait until you get home to search the Internet. You can read an in-depth interview with the artist here.

Surprisingly there were no exhibition catalogues or postcards available at the museum shop on the day I visited - a full month after the exhibition opening - although the staff did assure me they were "coming soon".

My friends and I left the MoCA feeling inspired and refreshed and we chose to stroll again through the leafy, green park back to the subway station. Even some days later, many of the images from the Annette Messager exhibition were still fresh in my mind, and the whole MoCA experience counts as one of the highlights of my time in Seoul so far. I strongly recommend that you too make the effort to get down to Seoul Grand Park and catch this unusual exhibition before June 15.

For more information visit or call 02-2022-0600. The National Museum of Contemporary Art is located near Seoul Grand Park (Subway Line 4). For those who don't want to walk to the Art Museum there is a shuttle bus every 20 mins from Exit 4 of the Seoul Grand Park subway.

The author of this blog, Penelope Thompson, is an Australian contemporary artist living in Korea who works in performance, installation and community art events. You can see her personal exhibition blog at