Beyond the Factory into Space, Beyond the Region into the Center

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Beyond the Factory into Space, Beyond the Region into the Center

Do-Sam Na, Research Fellow, Seoul Development Institute

1. Our Long-harbored Dream
The doors of the Art Factor are finally open. Our dreams are becoming true, one by one … the dreams that we have long habored …
I would like to take this opportunity to express my deepest thanks. First of all, I’d like to thank the administration of SeoulforpurchasingthefactoryanddesigningtheArtSpaceevenamiddifficulties. In September 2007, when we first conceptualized this idea, we had many doubts whether it would be feasible, but bold investment strategies and new changes in direction has allowed us to achieve our goals.
I would also like to thank the team that implemented the Arts Space Utilization TFT. I am infinitely grateful to those of you who came to this unfamiliar site of public work and seamlessly applied the autonomous vision of artists to the municipal administration and brought us to this day of completion. Without your devoted efforts, it would have been difficult to achieve such success in the opening of our Art Space. It is because of you that it was possible, and we still face many challenges that need your help. Therefore I emphasize thus my gratitude before launching into our discussion.
The reason I thank you thus is because what I mentioned above has a deep relevance to the circumstances of the Art Space that I will discuss in the following. How will we continue to realize in practice the dream that we have fostered? What we have now is merely an unripe fruit. The tasks we face hereafter are daunting. Those around us will press us for palpable “achievements,” while artists and the administration of Seoul will each make their respective demands up onus. What status does the Art Space occupy, and what role must it fulfill? Just as we name a new born infant and predict its future fate on the day of the1year anniversary of the baby’s birth, we have the obligation to nurture and foster this precious child that has been given us. How shall we direct this child’s growth … what must we give to the child and how must we educate him … , what is it that we expect of him and how shall we help fulfill our expectations … the road ahead is fraught with challenges.
2. Culturenomics and the Art Space
When we first dreamed of establishing this Art Space, we had many thoughts. Our first idea was that it should be conceptually different from a residency. We were not overly interested in providing a creative space purely for artists. We conceptualized the Art Space (Art Factory) under the rubric of “culturenomics,” and we implemented our plans in accordance with that concept.
To put it succinctly, culturenomics refers to a “culture economy.” In other words, it signifies the economization of culture, and though this may sound crude, our forefront concept was to “create a city that feeds itself through culture.” To achieve this, we considered two directions we should take. The first was to foster our competitiveness in the cultural arts, and the other was to utilize the cultural arts as a resource for urban development. In other words, the objective of our culturenomics project was as follows: while we generated the cultural market by enhancing the competitiveness of our cultural arts, we would simultaneously utilize this to elevate the attractiveness of our city in order to create a city that draws the attention of the world.
We examined the experiences of many other cities. We have seen cities that go as far as to provide apartment residences for their artists, and we have seen cities that bring in globally renowned arts facilities to establish landmarks. There were cities that designated a launching zone from which they developed a new arts district, and there were cities that utilized traditional areas or historical places to develop a new arts & creativity network. Throughout such experiences, we witnessed firsthand the importance of artists, the methods of regional development and the brand image of a city, and it is upon this basis that we planned our policy consisting of 3 directions.
One of these is the Art Factory (Art Space). The Art Factory provides one basis from which the revitalization of a region can occur. In the Art Space, artists merge with and converse with the region, accumulate new experiences, and build up that region. We regarded these Art Factories as being upon a different dimension from the Residencies that we experienced in the past, and we reasoned that Art Factories should serve strictly as community centers and a site for building resonances between the arts and the region. Our goal in establishing the Art Factories was to circulate artists and to promote the cultural and artistic development (educational as well as physical) of the respective region. Unfortunately this vision was not shared. From the first, after we birthed this concept and went ahead and purchased the facilities, we became entangled more in the development of the facilities with the result that the Art Factory opened its doors before we had the chance to even establish basic plans. Differing ideas and differing dreams! I observe a diversity of differing thoughts surrounding the Art Factory. These may be negotiable disagreements, or they may represent conflicts that cannot overcome. However, if we regard this Art Factory not simply it is at the present but as the launching board for transforming Seoul, we will need to continue to have abundant discussions and debates about its concept and its function.
The second direction is the Art Factory’s role as a cultural oasis. “Cultural oasis” is one of the keywords the constitutes the core of culturenomics and was originally a concept emphasized by Mr. Youn-Hoan Kim, the head of Arts Space Utilization TFT during the squatting movement. I interpret the “oasis” as a concept that underscores approachability to culture. An oasis creates in each base an opening for culture (or more accurately, art) to flow, so as to create an environment where citizens can easily view and appreciate art. Performance and exhibitions that take place today in Seoul Plaza, the North Seoul Forest of Dreams, the Neung dong Forest, and in the citizens’ park on the banks of the River Han all were initiated as part of the oasis project.
The last area that composes culturenomics is the establishment of “Creative Zones.” There are artistic resources dispersed throughout various locations in Seoul, including Mullae-dong, Daehak-ro (CollegeAvenue), Samcheong-dong, Dapship-ri, the Garosu-gil (the“Tree-lined Avenue”) in Gangnam, Samgakji in Yongsan, and the vicinity of the Seoul Arts Center in Seocho-gu. These areas each form clusters that constitute distinctive genres, and provided a foothold for the development of our arts industry. What we have pursued, or more accurately what we should pursue in the future (since we are only just now embarking on this project) is to preserve these are as well so that artistic clusters may take root, form zones, and create an environment and a launching point for the development of the arts. Along with artistic support, the formation of creative cultural zones donot rely merely on support but have a right to exist within the urban environment and will ultimately fulfill their role in transforming that area as part of the brand image of Seoul.
Therefore, we urge the Art Factory to realize the dream that we have created. This dream of ours consists of two parts. The first is about the environment in which art exists: we dream that artists may continue with new creative work and dream of generating their own identities. The other is to provide a core launching base for transforming the surrounding area. The Art Factory is not merely a residency. It is like a factory in that it infuses new life into a demised subject by breathing in the life of art in to the desolate cityscape. A place where artists and the area residents meet and foster a dream of creating a new type of art and developing the region! That is what a true art factory is.
3. Beyond the Factory into Space, Beyond the Region into the Center
This beginning chapter of the art factory takes places with our regretful reflection of the painful memory of past failures with public art, when our inexperience with locally based artistic activity and the flawed result of leaving artworks behind that did not merge the artist and the locality which ultimately induced vandalism. These indicate that the model should be the systematic accumulation of experience and production activity, rather than one-time consumption. Through this Art Space (factory) movement, we must build various experiences that will provide us with new models and methodologies for transforming our city. We must demonstrate how well art can transform a region and how well it can enhance Seoul. We do not have much time. On the one hand, we are charged with the desire for regeneration, but on the other hand there is an equal demand for re-development. On the one hand there is an overflow of demands for cultural spaces, but on the other hand the demands for more private spaces and commercial development is also urgent. In this reality, where public-mindedness and selfishness commingle, we must seek the solutions to the problems raised regarding culture, daily life and aesthetics, art, aura, and education.
Taking on this challenge is not easy when faced with the reality that clamors for palpable results. Experiments are deferred, and it is probable that inertia will recur. However, guarding our dreams is ultimately the mission of the Art Factory. The Art Factory will have significance when it transforms our city and our arts with new experiments and creative items, and projects that draw the attention of the world. The Art Factory is not on the cusp of its new beginning! Although the burden of fulfilling our dream is heavy, it is because of the possibilities that we continue to dream of the Art Factory as a new type, and look forward to its continued expansion and development.
(September 30, 2009)