The Second Term Residence Artist's Open Studios and Exhibition 2011

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The Sociological Imagination of the City
Kim Hee-young
Manager, Seoul Art Space_Geumcheon

Seoul, the old capital having six hundred years history, is practically the new constructed city because whole cities except a few old palaces had been destroyed during the Korean War (1950~1953). Seoul also is expanding currently as metropolitan area inhabited population over fourteen millions, almost one-third in the South Korea. This city is composed of regional characteristics by influx from various other regions and is complicated with the diverse cultural layers, not integrated the culture trait by just one specific genre such as ‘contemporary art’ or ‘movie’ nor symbolized the city feature with just some specific buildings or cultural areas.
With this reason, analyzing heterogeneous cultural and economic characters resulted to design eleven independent districts for creativity, and Seoul Art Space_Geumcheon (hereinafter referred to as SASG) is located at Doksan-dong, Geumcheon-gu in which it has activated manufacturing industries such as publishing and steel since 1970s. SASG provides artists with space for creativity as an inherent function as well as includes to improve old-style image of ‘industrial zone’ and to enhance cultural pride of residents consequently by the positioning as a public function.
<The Rich Disorganization> (August, 2010), the exhibition for achievements of 1st residential artists of SASG in the opening in October 2009, was focused on the method of interpreting the space ‘Geumcheon’ by artists from different countries with their own views. The next exhibition to <The Rich Disorganization>, highlighting mixed reminiscences of cattle market, tools market and Garibong industrial complex in the southwestern of Seoul, <The Sociological Imagination of the City> is schemed to enlarge the physical scope to unique metropolitan of ‘Seoul’ with continuous influx of people and expansion since industrialization in 1970s.
This ‘sociological imagination’ in the title refers to the systematical thinking-ability required to understand ‘how the grand history influences the inner thoughts of diverse individuals’, mentioned by C. Wright Mills (1916~62). The residential artists in SASG focus on reconstitution in both an intellectual and aesthetic way with their personal experiences and memories to this city through ‘process of critical imagination’ over the ‘thing to make by this society as a material’(sociological imagination) settled down from three months to a year. With the artist who tried to interpret the city is the part of the city himself eventually and is the reflection of internal potentials in the city, this is for inspecting the level of sociological imagination of this city itself as well as suggesting of alternatives with their works.
They kept the distance from both institutionalized knowledge to urbanization in early 2000s and research of urban field blending humanism to protest developmental theory, that is a series of moral codes like ‘Livable city, Space not betraying for the livings and Development for local residents’, and they rather concentrate on ‘How to present this city by what kinds of artistic formats’ than make issuing ‘Publicness’.
The artist Im, Heung-soon (1969~), who investigating the relationship between ‘Individual lifetime’ and ‘History’ beginning from <The Letter from Vietnam> in 2009, presents sociological imagination as hiring display techniques of gallery and museum. <Personal Museum> is the following work of arts workshop <OO talkative> for nineteen housewives from Geumcheon region for eight weeks started from the late of 2010 when he joined as residential at SASG. They are varied from local residents, who living apartment nearby SASG and coming with leaflet inserted her Mailbox by Im, Heung-soon, to teachers of after-school programs at primary school and mothers expecting professional arts lessons. <Personal Museum> displays highly personal collections of eight housewives including belongs when they were single, marriage photos and certificates which she acquired to free herself from her father’s influence economically and psychologically and even lasted after marriage. Im, Heung-soon tries to show how their generation is stamped the ‘universal history’ in their personal experiences and memories by displaying these personal items.
The artist Abigail Collins (1986~), who investigating relationship between ‘soldier’ and ‘city’ on the subject ‘How veterans would settle down in cities after their return’, attempts to visit the US military bases on Uijeongbu, Pocheon, and Yongsan to interview with soldiers and to record the military facilities. She had formerly interviewed with veterans dispatched several places included Iraq and focused how they are influenced on returning home by already deployed structures and space and how, on the contrary, these structures and space are influenced by veterans. When a group of persons try to settle down a certain place, they transform the space according to their own thoughts as well as are obeyed and adapted themselves according to the physical constraints, simultaneously. Like environment is carving in the memories, new circumstances are composed to certain forms within a city. For this reason the city itself is the place where is inhabitants’ collective memory, which causes the transform of space by the collective character, and this transform is meant to be the limited transform by physical factors being an obstacle to change.
The communication media based on location such as GPS and other mobile devices, produce a sociological interaction in the real world, and it is comprehended to be recognized one of methods for ‘Location’ and ‘Relationship’ between others. Such locative media art connecting closely with the space in the city is considered to be solution to the problem of loss of places and the lack of communications. Recording and sharing movements of people delivers sharing unexpected short-cuts and memory and knowledge of hidden places.
The artist Lee, Byung-su (1980~) works <Chasing Hope in Seoul>, which is process of entering abstract concept ‘Hope’ into navigation and chasing routes by a bicycle. This project is entering ‘Hope’ to GPS, searching shop name including ‘Hope’, like ‘Hope Laundry’, ‘Hope Bar’, ‘Hope-publish house’ etc. in Seoul, and recording the process going in and coming back one place day after day. “Personal life is too harsh to think about ‘hope’, and even this word might belong to be ‘Ideal’?” as mentioned in the proposal, Lee, Byung-su arrives at destination and hands towels printed “Chasing Hope in Seoul” to the shops naming to expect ‘Hope’ and customers visiting to look for hope as consolation and present (just like the original purpose of a towel to cover up someone or dry their sweat, etc.).
The artist Julien Coignet (1979~), who had developed on a gigantic drawing series by using actual maps of cities around the world, has stayed at the SASG since March and completed <Continuous cities #15 SL> applied maps of the Seoul city by working eight hours a day. He discovered the character of Seoul through his new works and indicated that Seoul is larger than most of the European cities such as Paris where he lived in. While most European cities have developed with a ‘Central Area’, Seoul is difficult to be decided on one specific center because there are several zones simultaneously. He reveals that drawing Seoul is very interesting for the different format of maps between Seoul and European cities. Although his work was based on an actual map, the distance among each region within the city was reconstructed completely, and finished product, therefore, is transformed to actual urban pattern out of recognition.