South Korea Day 11

Just realising today is our last day in Korea makes me a bit sad and just can’t believe how fast this experience has gone, but looking back we had such a great journey that I feel inspired to reflect and produce work in response to my global exploration and therefore acting locally, back home.

This morning I had my Formative Presentation at Kookmin University for which I was dreading as I am nerveous in general and usually not really good with audiences but doing these more often will hopefully boost my confidence. The presentation was a way of reflecting and pondering some questions to the rest of the group as well as Gareth and Jongjin. I was especially intrigued by why Korean crafts, especially ceramics so skilled?

Looking into traditional porcelain Celadons, to traditional production craft, towards everyday-ware and even work evolving self-expression, I began by exploring Kookmin University and viewing the amazing work of the students which just strengthened my perceived ideas as to why were Koreans so skilled.

Not being able to work alongside the students was a real shame as to view them working, however, viewing their work all out during the exhibition was as enriching. I was able to speak with some of the students and got to know some of their ideas. I was intrigued by a particular students when she said that west was more creative. But why? Their way of being taught is very much different  from the west.Firstly, I was intrigued as they don’t really look much at concept. They tend to concentrate more on aesthetics and functionality more than what the actual piece is all about. Another glimpse of the university just informed my thought by observing a professor going around giving advise as to how to improve their work aesthetically in which they spends so much more time in contrast with us back home, because much more is expected from them and therefore they need to put in the hours. Going to Yuhki Tanaka’s lecture just reenforced my views and gave me some ideas  as to why Koreans are o skilled. Their work is very much about based on commercial values, pricing, target markets, popular culture, small, cute, aesthetically pleasing, tableware. Something that is reflect around them within their culture and they have to catch up if they want to make it. But what is the difference between here and back in Britain? Firstly, Britain is a multicultural society for which communication and ideas are shared creating a loss of individualism and further, a different education and different environment is in effect on our ideologies and ways of seeing and therefore make us different. But does that mean we are more creative? Not necessarily. This all comes down to taste. What is being creative? What is good design? Artistic values? Is this cultural dived important?

Currently there are more questions than answer but something that I could potentially be exploring more when I get back and perhaps by speaking with the exchange students from Dong-A in Cardiff.

img_8426After our presentation we had a few hours to do what ever we wanted, so me being me, I went and done last-minute shopping for gifts and souvenirs plus a few bottles of Soju.

In the evening we headed to a local restaurant for our last meal before we headed to the airport, and I don’t know if it was because it was our last korean meal, but the food was simply divine, a bit spice but still fricking delicious.

Finally headed to the airport and headed back to Cardiff, for which im going to try to sleep as much as possible as I have Constellation tomorrow and can’t miss another session again. Cries very profoundly inside.

고맙습니다

(Gomabseubnida – Thank You)

South Korea Day 10

Tomorrow we have our presentations at Kookmin University, so earlier today we had our tutorials with Gareth for the clarification of what is expected of us.

Having finished our tutorials quite early I decided to go to the Dongdaemun Design Plaza, which in fact wasn’t too far from our hotel. The Design Plaza is a major urban development landmark designed by Zaha Hadid and Samoo, with a distinctively neofuturistic design characterized by the “powerful, curving forms of elongated structures”. The landmark is the centerpiece of South Korea’s fashion hub and popular tourist destination, Dongdaemun, featuring a walkable park on its roofs, large global exhibition spaces and futuristic retail stores.

A monumental piece of architecture in which exciting and innovative pieces of design and craft are sold. I was emotionally invested on the little ceramics store, but unfortunately I couldn’t take to many photos inside in which now are only retained in my memory. Manage to speak a couple and get the names of a few artists. Although we might think that Korean craft is really traditional, contemporary craft really reflects on the cities rapid growth by the use of their material and processes in which the integral idea of still reflecting on the historical context still coexists. And apart from these little stores which include craft goods, the Design Plaza has exhibitions that are beautifully curated in their architectural interiors.

After some extensive look around, I went and looked at the shopping area around Dongdaemun, in which I manged to get this amazing Korean jacket, soo happy. And talking about fashion, not to forget to mention how well dress Koreans are, which makes me want to pumper myself a bit more on my day-to-day life.

Time to go to sleep as tomorrow we have our formative presentations at Kookmin University and just realising how this was our last full day in South Korea just makes me want to cry.

 

South Korea Day 9

Still a bit hangover from yesterday’s eventful evening, we headed to Dong-A University for a lecture with Gareth to begin thinking about the whole idea around this not being a simple holiday but exploring ways how we could be a global explorer. The whole idea around this field module is to  immerse myself into the creative life in South Korea and questioning, comparing, contrasting, thinking and acting on cultural differences, similarities, and opportunities that these experiences provoke within my subject area, ceramics.  This included looking at theories as those of Banks, Brookes and Kitano’s Model.

Following our lecture with Gareth we were separated into two groups and either allocated into the k-pop group, were they sang and played guitar or the traditional folk music society, were I was put on and learned to play with some folk instruments.

We picked our instruments and Jess was make to use this traditional hat were you would dance with the rhythm of the music. Apparently it was suppose to be a stress-free session, however, I was far from stress-free. The students showed us how to play this rhythm, but I was simply not getting it and clearly one of the students was so frustrated for my lack of rhythm and had to put me aside to teach me, after God know how many attempts, and me having the most stressful experience of this trip if not my life. After some intense one to one I managed to get there and managed to play with the rest of the group in which he was super proud for what it seemed a never ending nightmare.img_8309Having a bit of time before getting the KTX back to Seoul, we visited the Dong-A University Museum which was established in 1959. As of 2007, its collection includes over 30,000 artifacts, among them 2 national treasures and 10 treasure.

Being told that Busan was a more conservative and perhaps more discriminatory than Seoul for it having less foreigners I thought our preconceptions were eradicated and he had an amazing time with the students which often younger generations tend to be less judgemental. Even tho we were introduced to a nice group of people and were surrounded by nice people it doesn’t mean all the population is not as nice but I think that goes everywhere else in the world. Although found the image bellow particularly funny.

img_8335
China Town – Choryang shopping area for foreigners

Definitely one of the best experiences from the trip interacting with the students but it is time to say goodbye after an astonishing couple of days.

South Korea Day 8

Today we headed all the way to the southern part of the country, Busan. It is South Korea’s second largest city after Seoul, with a population of approximately 3.6 million. We were told that foreigners didn’t visit Busan as much and therefore to prepare ourselves to be looked at more. However, throughout the day I didn’t feel like being looked and really comfortable walking through the beautiful city.

Our aim was to visit Dong-A University were we would meet up with ALUMINI Eifion Davies from product design and meet his students. When we got to Dong-A we had a little introduction by Eifion about the university and the course that he was teaching, product design and with that, him being a foreign professor and its complication while teaching there. Although he has been living in Busan for around 5 years and speaking really good korean, he feels that students don’t look up to him as much as they do to Korean professors. And clearly him being a foreigner within Busan he had some experiences where they treat him differently for instance being kicked out from a restaurant for his origins. And people around him introducing or talking about him as a forgein friend/teacher.

After the talk with Eifion we were taken on a tour around the university and we were put into groups with some of his students. We were given a task looking into interaction with the city, but it was more of an opportunity with the students than anything else, as well as a great opportunity to make a bunch of Facebook friends.

We headed to our hotel to drop our bags and went for some lunch with our groups. The food was simply beautiful and a great opportunity to get to know all of them individually and add them on Instagram and Facebook hah.

After lunch we were taken on a tour around the city. We explored a bunch of shops which are pretty much the same, massive corporate capitalist businesses that you see around the globe. And in a way its a bit sad, taking Great Britain as an examples every little city looks pretty much the same with the same shops in their town centers, boots, marks &spencers, costa. There is not sence of individuality and I think that’s possibly a massive problem when it comes to multiculturalism.

Do British towns look too similar? – BBC Article

We also went to Busan Tower. Although not as big as N Tower in Seoul, nonetheless the views up there were really impressive and a great opportunity to see the famous port. Busan’s port is the largest in the country and the 5th biggest in the world.

Everyone met at Dong-A University’s Museum (yes they have their own museum which includes a few world heritages) and we took a photo before heading for an amazing evening meal with all the students and professors.img_8218The traditional Korean barbecue was just simply amazing, just the whole gatherness  was so nice and lets not start with the drinking games, definatly a night to remember.

It was a great opportunity to go to a Karaoke bar as it was something we wanted to do and it was amazing to do it with this bunch.

South Korea Day 7

We had the day to explore the city, so it was a great opportunity to head to the N Seoul Tower which we could spot from our hotel. The walk to the tower was advisable as the views were beautiful, however, we got on a bus and headed there and don’t regret a thing, especially realising how not as close it actually was from our hotel. After getting to the top of the mountain we decided to actually go to the top of the tower, and let me tell you, the views up there are just breathtaking. During the four decades following the Korean War, it evolved from one of the most abject states in the region to one of the most vibrant, a manufacturing powerhouse that has virtually eradicated poverty, malnutrition, and illiteracy. In a region of fast growth, since the 1960s Korea has increased it’s per capita GDP more quickly than any of its neighbours and coming up here has opened my eyes on how large and developed South Korea has grown especially after its destruction not too long ago.

The N Seoul Tower as well as a observation spot it is a communication tower located on Namsan Mountain in central Seoul, South Korea. At 236m, it marks the highest point in Seoul. Built in 1971, the N Seoul Tower is Korea’s first general radio wave tower, providing TV and radio broadcasting in Seoul. Currently, the tower broadcasts signals for Korean media outlets.img_8023Wanting to visit Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art, I done the massive walking journey but managed to find a little shortcut. Leeum is a museum where traditional art, embodying the beauty of Korea and contemporary art, representing the energy of its times, and international art, reflecting current coexisting values. We ponder the future based on our understanding of the past and the present, and its an institution where culture is enjoyed collectively through active communication.

Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art has two permanent exhibitions/museums as well as an amazing exhibition on Olafur Eliasson. The Museum has collected, preserved, exhibited, and researched important Korean artworks from prehistoric times through the Joseon Dynasty (1395-1910). As a result, the museum has built a collection of fine artworks representative of Korea’s long history across diverse fields.

On Museum 1, there is a traditional art collection which includes all genres of Korean art, ranging from ceramics, painting and calligraphy, metal works, and Buddhist art to wood furniture, folk painting, and printed books and manuscripts.img_exhibition_main1 Celadon is a very unique porcelain which is created in only a few countries such as China and Korea. Goryeo Celadon which displays the epitome of Asian beauty and elicits praises is recognized as international treasure. Its uniqueness is in its elegant and sophisticated shape, exotic jade green glaze, and nature-inspired romantic pattern. Especially, the one which reflects graceful and subtle ethos is considered as of the highest quality.

The modern and contemporary art permanent collection galleries in Museum 2 consist of three exhibitions under the overarching theme of Beyond Space. Each floor is respectively arranged around the topics of the expressionist tendency in modern art, investigations on the fundamental elements of art and expanded and hybrid art practices of recent. The clash and harmony between the local and the international is a common issue in non-Western countries including the ones in Asia. In these galleries, we eschewed regional or historical arrangement, and thematically exhibited Korean and international art in order to show the correspondence of influences.img_exhibition_main2.jpg

img_8050The parliament of possibilities, Olafur Eliasson‘s major solo exhibition at Leeum, introduces viewers to a wide range of notable works from throughout his career, spanning from the early nineteen-nineties to the present. Over the years, Olafur Eliasson  has engaged in continuous experimentation, creating works that encompass his broad interests in topics such as nature, philosophy, science, and architecture, as well as the visual arts. Many of Eliasson’s works are composed primarily of immaterial elements, incorporating optical illusions, movement, light, and mirrors, visual experiments with light and colour, and quasi-natural phenomena produced by machines. His works completely transform the museum into a new space, generating a wealth of new experiences for viewers.

%ec%9b%b9%ec%82%ac%ec%9d%b4%ed%8a%b8-%ec%a0%84%ec%8b%9c%eb%a9%94%ec%9d%b8Although I wasnt allowed to take any pictures of the exhibition it was such an informative visit, reflecting of traditional Korean art in contrast and its similarities to international art showing the correspondence of influences.

After an immersive experience in Leeum, I still had a bit of time and decided to head to the famous Gangnam district. It was a great opportunity to visit the massive Coex mall which houses a massive range of western and Korean stores. Also spotted Jung dong ha, although I didn’t know who he was. South Korea is really know for their pop stars, especially the ones from their k-pops and Korean dramas.

Talking about K-pop, I managed to see the statue dedicated to the South Korean music hit Gangnam Style. Gangnam Style was released by Psy in 2012 and remains the most-watched YouTube video ever.

South Korea Day 6

One of my biggest anticipations for this trip was our trip to the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ); however, this morning we got to know that the Joint Security Area (JSA) tour was cancelled due to a miscommunication with the travelling agency, which we were pretty upset to say the least.

Heavily patrolled and possibly the most tensions area in the planet, the DMZ is a strip of land running across the Korean Peninsula. It was established at the end of the Korean War to serve as a buffer zone between the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea(North Korea) and the Republic of Korea (South Korea). The DMZ is a border barrier that divides the Korean Peninsula roughly in half. It was created by agreement between North Korea, China and the United Nations in 1953. The DMZ is 250 kilometres  long, and about 4 kilometres wide. The area now has become one of the world best natural habitats as the wide strip of land that runs along the whole country which no one is allowed to live in so is now inhabited by wild birds and animals, occasionally blowing themselves up by land mines. img_7892

Within the DMZ is a meeting-point between the two nations in the small JSA near the western end of the zone, where negotiations take place. There have been various incidents in and around the DMZ, with military and civilian casualties on both sides. Several tunnels are claimed to have been built as an invasion route for the North Koreans.korea_demilitarized_zone_map_-_1969

img_7852We headed with Steve Kim to the Imjingak Pavilion this morning. The pavilion, now at the forefront of tourism related to the Korean War, was built-in 1972 with the hope that someday unification would be possible. Within the Imjingak Pavilion, there are a few landmarks, including the emotionally powerful steam locomotive.  It used to go to Sinuiju before separation. Since being bombed and derailed during the Korean War, the steam locomotive has remained in the same spot for more than 60 years. According to former conductor Han Jun-ki, who was in charge of the locomotive, it was on its way to Pyongyang from Gaeseong, transporting military supplies. However, when it encountered Chinese troops, Han decided to go into reverse and to head back to Hanpo Station in Hwanghe-do, now in North Korea. When the train arrived at Jangdan Station, now in Paju, it broke down. The old rusty locomotive has more than 1,000 bullet holes and the wheels are tilted.

After exploring Imjingak Pavilion, we headed to Dorasan station. The railway station situated on the Gyeongui Line, which once connected North Korea and South Korea. Dorasan station is currently served by four daily trains from Seoul, which are used mostly by tourists but hopefully will be open in the near future as a connection point with North Korea and the rest of the world.screen-shot-2016-11-28-at-19-27-24We further went to Dora’s Observatory. The observatory looks across the Demilitarized Zone and it is the part of South Korea closest to the North. We could catch a rare glimpse of the reclusive North Korean state through binoculars. The surreal experince actually sunk in when observing the North Korean flag situated in the middle of its propaganda village, a remnant of the old prosperity of the North.

Next stop was the 3rd infiltration tunnel.  Scarily enough, around the time that the North and South were having peace talks, North Korea began digging underground tunnels to infiltrate the South. They were never completed, but were discovered in 1984. The 3rd tunnel is one of 4 known tunnels under the border between North Korea and South Korea. Initially, North Korea denied building the tunnel. North Korea then declared it was part of a coal mine, the tunnel having been blackened by construction explosions. Signs in the tunnel claim that there is no geological likelihood of coal being in the area. It is estimated that approximately 30,000 soldiers could move through the tunnel per hour. The scale is similar to the 2nd Tunnel, but it was thought to be more threatening as an invasion tool than the 1st and 2nd Tunnels.

Overall, it was really interesting seeing this area in which scarily enough could it be broken into war and with that millions of lives could be taken away. Partaking in the DMZ tour allowed myself to gain much more depth on a humanitarian crisis that the world does not know enough about. Still a bit disappointed on not being able to visit the JSA and technically stepping in North Korea, but at least I managed to have a glimpse of North Korea.img_7914

South Korea Day 5

What a busy and exciting day it was today. We were suppose to go to Kookmin University today, but I believed that I wasn’t going to do as much as I wanted as the exhibition was still up, so instead I decided to go with Jess around some museum in Seoul and getting to know some more about South Korea’s history and culture.img_7472

We began our day by exploring the National Museum of Korean Contemporary History. The Museums is Korea’s first museum recording the nation’s comprehensive history from the late nineteenth century to current time.

After the immersive experience into Korea’s history we went to the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art and what an inspiration.The Korea Artist Prize is recognised not only as the flagship of the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, but certainly as the most prestigious art award in Korea. Intended to support the most capable and creative artists in Korea, the Korea Artist Prize always draws tremendous interest from the art field and general public alike. 

We began by going to Gallery 1 which had an exhibition on Kim Eull. He constructed a life-size two-story building that people could enter and explore. Blurring the boundary between the real and virtual, the interior of the building included a replica of the artist’s studio, allowing visitors to observe firsthand the process of artistic creation. Hence, the world of the artists collides with our own world in an explosion of thoughts and ideas, perhaps represented by the 1450 glittering stars that are drawn in the gallery, forming a small galaxy.

Installed in the open space of Gallery 2 was the works of Back Seung Woo, showing his diverse attempts to shatter the formal limitations and rigid interpretative frames of the medium of photography. By altering the brightness and colour of certain parts of his photos from various ways, or rearranging the photos from their original order, Back recalibrate the audience’s reception of the works, inspiring a wealth of new meanings and possibilities.

Gallery 2 also featured the works of Ham Kyungah and Mixrice(Yang Chul-mo, Cho Ji-eun), all of which deal with various forms of immigration, from the movement of people for their own survival to the differences between political, economic, social, and cultural systems. Famous for her embroidery works made by North Korean craftspeople, Ham Kyungah presents sculpture, installation, and performance on the themes of defecting and settling. Meanwhile, Mixrice addresses the social phenomena of incessant movement, where people, especially migrant workers, who are invisible to Korean society, are forced to continually move because of their inability to secure a steady job, education, or income. To examine these issues, Mixrice directly collaborated with different groups of immigrant workers to produce a variety of works such as installations, murals and videos.

Within the Museum we moved to perhaps my favourite exhibition, Craft Narrative: Place, Process, Perspective which was both a site through which the human hands imbue new meanings to heatless objects, and a craft workshop which demonstrates the history and labor of specific craft artists. The exhibition focused not only on the material, skills and technology required for the birth of craft in the site of life, it also sheds light on the attitude and worldview of becoming a craft artist, reproducing the narratives of space and time.

Based on understanding, respect and timeless experience in life, creating objects through the ‘gestures of hand’ comes with thousands of repeated hammering in order to overcome the limitations of the material. Craft artists stand face-to-face with the speed of machines today, engaging in a lovely but firm struggle with slower, the process in the creation of a work of craft, and the sense of manual labor in it can propose meaningful alternatives to the infinite consumption of mechanically produced products and resulting worldview.

‘Craft’ demands that objects transcend the originality and uniqueness which separates them from everyday life. Though craft, objects are invited to return to the human life where they belong, where they can provide the psychological foundation for us to realize humanity and establish bonds and exchanges with each other. Therefore, we must acknowledge the true values of craft and the hand, and focus on craft artists who work in a more humane way by applying in full their entire body, unique expertise and diverse material so that craft can be imbued in to human life. Also, we must realize that human emotions like happiness, sense of aesthetics, accomplishments, and at times despair accompany the repeated and subconscious gesture of craft which marks no beginning and end, and that new questions are being formed in the process of such series of rumination and transformations, Therefore, it’s imperative that we reread reclaim craft today, as a means to restore the intimate communication between people, reclaim and meditate upon daily life, and rediscover the lost meaning of handicraft and craftmanship.

My favourite, KiHo Kang, which I previously saw his work at Ceramic Art London 2016. His which work relies completely on the potential and possibility of clay. The technique of coiling relies absolutely on time and the senses remembered on the fingertips as the thumb and index finger press the clay for it to form into a certain thickness and to stick together. Such way of working applies minimum use of tools and machines, and completely adapts the body of the artist. The artists wedges the clay and repeats the endless cycles of questions and answers within himself. The audience of his work who can understand and appreciate such process, is able to bond with the artist, collapsing the rupture between artist and the form, and mutually exchanging sense. His white porcelain jars don’t strive to retain the original form in horizontal and vertical symmetry, rather, each line becomes a manifest through the artist’s breath, bulging out in the belly of the jar or tightening in the slender shoulders.

I tried to find the video that was shown on the Museum, however, I didnt manage to find it, but found one in which he produces a teapot using the same techniques.

Addressing issues of self and others, Kimsooja‘s work spans site-specific installation, performance, video and photo using sound, light and bed covers. With the gaze of a mirror and a needle that reveals and brings us to an awareness of self, Kimsooja investigates questions concerning the conditions of humanity, while engaging politics, environment and various issues that we are facing in this era. Kimsooja brings together a conceptual and structural investigation of performance, installation, video and photography, as well as painting, drawing and sculpture, through an exploration of materiality/immateriality, mobility/immobility, in a manner of non-making and non-doing, that inverts the notion of the artist as the predominant actor. It will also provide viewers with a forum where they reflect on life and the art of our generation through their engagement and communication.

We further went to The National Folk Museum of Korea. It is the only national museum devoted to the history of traditional life, and most of the collection is closely related to the daily routines and occupations of pre-modern Koreans. The diverse range of items includes wooden kimchi containers acquired during a folk research project in Gangwon Province mountain communities; skirts and jackets worn by newlywed brides; Joseon-era ornaments unearthed from graves; farming implements, and records of real estate transactions. The various pieces are organized and classified according to function and exhibited in our three interior exhibition halls and one open-air exhibition space.

Just by the Folk Museum there was the Gyeongbokgung Palace. Gyeongbokgung Palace, was the main royal palace of the Joseon dynasty. Built in 1395, it is located in northern Seoul. The largest of the Five Grand Palaces built by the Joseon dynasty, Gyeongbokgung served as the home of Kings of the Joseon dynasty, the Kings’ households, as well as the government of Joseon. Today, the palace is arguably regarded as being the most beautiful and grandest of all five palaces.

After such a long and immersive day we went to Hongdae, known for its urban arts and indie music culture, clubs and entertainments. Jongjin Park kindly took us to a restaurant in the student district and after to this bar in which we experienced the Korean drinking culture.

p.s. I had to backtrack the date of this blog post because clearly soju and blogging don’t mix.