[Discussion 3]

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Discussion 3

Chan-Kook Park, Resident Artist at Seoul Art Space_ Geumcheon
When I first arrived at Seoul Art Space_ Geumcheon, the building with a decent parking lot was too clean and tidy to believe that it had been remodeled. Telephone poles stood out, being spaced about 5m apart. Streets were kept cleaner than thought, covered with concrete everywhere.
Soil, in a town surrounded by factories, could be regarded as an inefficient material producing dust and debris: the town must be sleepless. Then, do the decent environment and concrete landscape show reconciliation in the community?
Anyway, these telephone poles stimulated my curiosity, and I also found a stunning piece of graffiti, closely looking into the poles. (Found before the opening of the art factory, it is hardly likely to be drawn by an artist in residence). (Plate1) This drawing on the telephone pole that stands along the boulevard before the art factory is highlighted by bold and vigorous lines, recise proportions, and unique expressions. I have never seen such happy and serious pigs. What's interesting is that the drawing was created by a sharp tool, not by a pen, about 50cm above the ground, slightly hidden from view on purpose.
Another worth looking at are weeds that grew through strong concrete floor on the street.(Plate2) This is an all-too-familiar scene found everywhere, nothing special. Its vitality, however, is amazing and I believe that an artist's involvement can make it special in this concrete town. (I suggested to my previous manager that holes should be drilled here and there in the parking lot floor that occupies the entire empty space, to a depth of 10cm and a diameter of 2cm. I expected weeds to grow through a year later. The parking lot is rarely prone to damage due to its 60cm thick concrete. However, I was ignored as expected.

What are you doing now?
These days, social networking tools such as 'Facebook' or 'Twitter' press users to comment either on their status or on others'. Likewise, community arts are similar in responding to oneself and their surroundings. But there is an intuitive tool like 'That's good' in Facebook. In addition, a question like 'Really?' is also one of the intuitive tools because showing responses by raising questions knowingly is viewed as necessary. Artists may well do their work by responding to their surroundings, but it is rare for them to interact with the environment by saying 'That's good!' or 'Really?', and closely holding daily life and art together.
What is intriguing about the pig graffiti is first, a commonly spotted telephone pole in the town was chosen as a canvas, and second, its expression is not restricted by material or form, and third, it reveals itself but not openly. It also seems to manifest the dominance of factories whose cycle of working hours influences lives of local people, even though houses and factories mingle in the town. On one hand it is sarcasm, but on the other it is a comfort. It does represent the here and now.
The reason why I am saying this so far is that Seoul Art Space_ Geumcheon claims it speaks up for, and looks for possibilities of community arts. However, it seems to accept community arts simply as one of the genres without focusing on 'my surroundings, my interest, and my status here and now.' Promoting education, improving the environment, or organizing forums should come next, but questions about what it wants to do with community arts, what it can do, and what significance the art form has are missing.
I believe that policies about or concepts of 'Art Space, urban renewal, or community arts' should be handled more discreetly. Initiatives involving art should be more sensitive. The reasons this factory building was chosen, a remodeling method applied, its studio structure, principles for selecting artists in residence, short-term and long-term objectives, and the philosophy of the art factory operation should be integrated into, and presented as a comprehensive world view. Therefore, I will touch on the environmental structure of Seoul Art Space_ Geumcheon, rather than discussing community arts projects. Two years into its being, discussion itself seems to have disappeared and only the building is left.
Growing Community Arts
Community arts are drawing greater attention from the outside world than among artists as they are related with public participation, governance, welfare, education, healing, social communication, and urban renewal. At present, community arts became a means for events, and the extent to which they are mobilized for political purposes is called into question. Community arts were born as modern art failed to communicate with a wider audience. The critical and revolutionary spirit in modern art still remained. Some people interpret community arts in the category of postmodernism, seeing them as reflection upon modern art, but I think this issue goes beyond the question of genre, with different cultural implications.
When politics and the economy reach a certain level, cultural evolution of society in turn leads economic evolution (don't ask for evidence!) and community arts are coming to the forefront of art movements. Since avant-gardism is perceived to represent explicit denial of reality accompanied by a disruptive and radical form, a highly positive avant-gardism in community arts somewhat appears confusing. In fact, however, community arts do have an inclination toward self-reflection and criticism inherited from modern art. At a time when derivatives predominate what was considered to be a main concept or essence, art is all the more meaningful in that it meets reality on multiple dimensions, restores the excluded, the omitted, or the underestimated by rediscovering their hidden values.
The power of art characterized by flexibility, tolerance, and the provocative nature facilitates rediscovery and restructuring of values, emotions, or sensibility that used to be perceived as insignificant. It is also rapidly expanding communication channels in a democratic society. I believe that it contributes to urban renewal and creative evolution of society. Therefore, community arts should be discussed more discreetly on multiple dimensions. When an artist is simply viewed as a professional manufacturer of artworks being forced to comply with rules within a tight system, primary purposes of community arts vanish away. Though a little controversial, a principal purpose of supporting artists is related with social needs for alternative perspectives.
Sometimes I come across a perspective that treats community artists as special technicians. Even when topics like urban renewal and community arts are on the table together, such a perspective treats artists as nothing more than a designer. If Seoul Art Space_ Geumcheon wants to talk about community arts, what it wants to do here and now should come first.