[Discussion 2] Community Arts without Community

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Discussion 2

Community Arts without Community
- Issues and Solutions
- for ‘Communitication Arts’

Bum Choi, Design Critic
Community and Arts
Today, Korea’s communities have been collapsed. Going through several historical hardships such as modernization, colonization, civil war, dictatorship, and economic development, the traditional communities in Korean have been completely destroyed. The most abnormalities of the community we have observed today began and end here. To establish a normal, sound society, we should first rebuild the community in any possible ways. In this context, the ultimate goal of politics, economy, society and culture should be to build a sound, sustainable community. To take one more step, all social activities should be performed in line with the community-rebuilding task, and art is not an exception.
The dissolution of the Korean community has originated from colonization. But the definition of colonization here contains multiple meanings—the U.S. and Japan’s political colonization of a country, a nation’s colonial governance on its people, institutional norms controlling the people’s daily lives, the ruling of the central government over local governments, and the dominance of material over spirit. Given the multiple colonization, we can say that the Korean society is currently under the comprehensive and multi-layered colonial rules. Considering that the most phenomenons took place after institutional colonization, the status of quo in Korea can be called Post-Colonialism.
Art should contribute to liberalizing community from colonization. It means that performing art should be accepting and absorbing communities into art. Of arts, Public Art explicitly aims to achieve the goal. Public Art has multiple definitions and still under discussion. Simply put, Public Art is an encounter between art and Publicness. Publicness has also multiply interpreted—Publicness in identity, process, value, and even budget. Publicness of Public Art can be defined as modern communality, which a civil society should pursue. In the other sense, Public Art can be interpreted as Modern Community Arts. Given that the primary value of Public Art lies in the creation of a community, we can conclude that Public Art is identical to community arts.
Creative City and Creative Space
Creative City is a new strategic concept for city development in Post-Industrial Society, in the center of which is creative industry. Among the Creative City supporters, Charles Landry stresses Creative Industry, while Richard Florida views Creative Class as the most important factor. Their views have slight difference. But it is definitely sure that Creative City concept was presented as a strategy for Post-Industrial city development. The Creative City strategy was first led by the U.K., Italy, and Japan, suggesting smart and attractive city blueprints. Their blueprints are attractive enough for latecomers, so that they adopt them as their own city development strategy.
The Creative City concept recently described in Korea is in the same context. Since industrialization in the 1960s, Korea has pursued the so-called "Catch-up" development strategy, which means Korea is one of the latecomers. Now, many cities in Korea are struggling to join the so-called international Creative City club, supporting Creative City.
Among the Korean cities, the Seoul Metropolitan Government is a major example. As Se-Hoon Oh, inaugurated as the Seoul mayor, he aimed and has pursued to establish Seoul as a creative cultural city under the catchphrase of ‘Creative Government’. Seoul used the creative city concept as a new development model and selected ‘Design Seoul’ as a specific tool to achieve the goal. You might ask about how to know if the strategic choice is appropriate for the vision of Creative City. But this is not a matter of right and wrong. What is important is that the Creative Space we are now discussing now is being developed under the framework of such city development strategy.
Certainly, we should build more creative spaces to make a Creative City. The city government’s plan to establish creative spaces is aligned with that goal. But, we should not forget to remember the adequacy between the two, a vision and tool, or the Mass Law. In other words, creative spaces are needed for Creative City, while creative spaces do not automatically lead the Creative City. The city government’s plan to build creative spaces is devoid of the Mass Law. The notion that a few creative spaces will make the city creative has many loopholes. The practical reasoning process of answering to questions including the purpose and number of spaces, operation guideline should be preceded. The Mass Law stresses a tipping point that quantity is transformed to quality.
In a nutshell, if creative spaces fail to fulfill the intended goal or prove to be ineffective, such spaces are nothing more than a political cause. Worst still, they can be simply used as a political tool for the city. It is true that until now, Seoul has been following such courses under the name of ‘Creative Government’. What is truly important is the effort to secure the practical sustainability of creative spaces, and such effort should be reflected in the basic concept and the overall management of the spaces.
Art Communicating with Community
For art to contribute to the recovery of community, as I pointed out, it should be closely related to community. Creative spaces the city government establishes should belong to such a recovery scheme. In other words, efforts to make creative spaces a base camp for community arts should be made. Otherwise, such efforts only will end up in meaningless gestures, mimicking development models of advanced countries or just following global trends. Even if we emulate a desirable model of developed nations, it should certainly be a copy of the sound inside instead of nice appearance.
The first rule to build a creative space in a community is to learn how to communicate with local residents. Community arts should seek an extensive art form that effectively communicates with localities, or ‘Communitication Art’. The word ‘Communitication’ is a combination of ‘community’ and ‘communication’, which means that the art should go into the local community and communicate with local people. Creative Space, therefore, should by itself act as an Art Commune, or a center stage of small artistic groups. If not, such spaces can be merely an isolated facility for artists.
Of the Public Arts, Plop Art is often considered as art works that are thoughtlessly ‘flopped’ in certain places regardless of surroundings. If we get it wrong, the neighboring residence can be ‘Plop Residence Program’ as well. Given that, I suggest that in designing creative spaces, decision makers should find out positively and experience truly as many possibilities and occasions as communities can show, instead of only focusing on early performance or reporting to superiors. In the case of Seoul Art Space_ Geumcheon, its purpose is not to deliver community arts. Rather, it is a mixture of modern art trends, actual needs, and the Creative City concept. However, we need to reaffirm and redirect ongoing and future tasks of such spaces. Was this place created to liberate artists? Or is it an outpost for community arts inside of local communities? We should keep in mind that the ultimate objective of community arts is to communicate with local residents. Then, Community arts will be the true Communitication Art.