How to Dream Otherwise: reanimating the potentialities

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 Urban Issue Research Exhibition, Seoul Art Spce_GEUMCHEON 2012

_〈How to Dream Otherwise : reanimating the potentialities〉

Title: Urban Issue Research Exhibition, Seoul Art Spce_GEUMCHEON 2012
_〈How to Dream Otherwise : reanimating the potentialities〉
○ Date: 2012.11.28-12.18
○ Opening: 2012.11.28. 6pm
PS333 & Warehouse, Seoul Art Space GEUMCHEON
○ Curator: Ceren Erdem
○ Artists:
- Douglas Paulson
- Takashi Horisaki
- David Kagan
- Miguel Delgado+Irma Álvarez-Laviada
- Manuel Graf
- Jan Albers
- Park Nung-saeng+In Jin-mi
- Im Heung-soon+Geumcheon Mrs.
■ Seoul Art SpaceGEUMCHEON
Inquiries: 02-807-4800
Address: 333-7, Doksan 1-dong, Geoumcheon-gu, Seoul
○ Website:

■ Essay 1

How to Dream Otherwise : reanimating the potentialities

Ceren Erdem(Curator) 

The city is man’s most consistent and on the whole, his most successful attempt to remake the world he lives in more after his heart’s desire. But if the city is the world which man created, it is the world in which he is henceforth condemned to live in. Thus, indirectly, and without any clear sense of the nature of his task, in making the city man has made himself.
—Robert Park, On Social Control and Collective Behavior

Taking Seoul as a site—a 600-year-old city that had to be rebuilt after the Korean War—revealed problems analogous to those of other rapid cities worldwide, which have undergone fast forward industrialization and urbanization since the second half of the 20th century. In this transformation process, it is no secret that capitalism and urbanization feed each other where urbanization growingly devours the surplus products. A building boom for the rich, coupled with commercialization of agriculture creates a flow of migrants as a source of cheap labor. This has become a conventional pattern in the development of new cities of our time.[i] A common saying among left-wing intellectuals goes, “Seventy years in Europe equals to seven years in Korea.”[ii] During post-war recovery, South Korea evolved into one of the world’s fasted growing economies, with Seoul shifting from the small, unknown capital of the Korean peninsula to one of the top ten global cities listed by finance authorities. Its population increased more than four times in the last 50 years, reaching 10 million today in a metropolitan region that has 23 million inhabitants, including Seoul and its neighboring cities and provinces.
A call for an urban research project in Seoul proposed challenges and conveniences simultaneously. However, artists from Seoul and around the world have preferred to put this common knowledge aside and conducted detailed research to pinpoint the distinctive local ramifications of the otherwise global problems. Furthermore, the common thread for all of their projects goes beyond mere documentation of the local context. The artists have chosen to take the existing conditions as potentialities for the future and endeavored to propose new ways to reconsider them. In this process, it is important to talk about the location of Seoul Art Space Geumcheon. Geumcheon-gu has developed as one of the industrial districts of Seoul, which hosts factories of various scales. Doksan-dong, the area where the art space is situated, is a semi-industrial areq. Small to mid-size molding, steel, iron and publishing factories define the characteristics of the area whereas the innumerous restaurants break the dull image, injecting colors, smells and warmth in the neighborhood. Coexistence of the industrial and creative spaces is a distinguishing quality of Geumcheon-gu and it is enticing to see that they can also develop together. Setting up connections, and in many cases continuous communication, with the community has been the backbone for most of the artistic research. Another significant aspect of this process has been our discussions on defining terms such as “community” and “community art” especially in relation to our residencies here. The outcome of each research is based on well-established engagements with the city and the residents of this neighborhood. Miguel Angel Delgado spent months in the iron factories and co-inhabited the working environment of many workers, participating in their daily activities. Takashi Horisaki went after the skills and the potentials of the small factories that are now facing the risk of being moved out to far industrial zones. Working with high-school students, he traces the value of these facilities to the whole network of industrial zones. Also focused on an industry, Park Neung-Saeng and In Jin-Mi befriended many of the restaurants of Geumcheon-go, and provided them the opportunities to reflect and promote themselves through artistic process. The middle-aged women or ajumma as commonly referred by Koreans who are mostly housewives today, used to maintain their families during their youth and contributed to the modernization and industrialization of the country. In Geumcheon Blues, Im Heung-soon tells the true stories of these “invisible” characters of society through the fictional movies produced during the workshops held together with the local residents. The movies also address the current social structures that bare instabilities and tensions between the immigrant workers and Koreans, with an attempt to encourage the residents to resolve these issues themselves. 
Having a wider look at Seoul, it is impossible to avoid the remarkable effect of gigantic buildings and the local policies’ response to them: questionable sculptures placed in the public space for the sake of a law that requires the owners of large-scale buildings to devote one percent of their construction costs to art. Yet, the decisions have been taken arbitrarily. It doesn’t take much of an effort to observe the discontent of the denizens where possible; many of the sculptures are hidden behind bushes that have not been trimmed for a long time. Douglas Paulson and Manuel Graf, with their collaboration for an animated music video, ascribe personas to some of Seoul’s public sculptures and choreograph them in a setting offering them a second life. Whereas they pose questions about the legitimacy of these artworks in the public space, they also call attention to their rather sad destinies.
A final group of works merges artists’ experiences of Seoul and the memories of the city and its denizens. David Kagan marries the urban sounds and images with Korean history and contemporary life in Seoul in composition of six new songs whereas Jan Albers shares his imagery logbook of Seoul and juxtaposes it with scenes from other mega cities.
Our immense gratitude goes to all Seoulites who have generously hosted us and been great collaborators as well as to Art in General (New York), Flux Factory (New York), Hangar (Barcelona), ISCP (New York), Residency Unlimited (New York) and NRW Kultur Sekretariat (Cologne) for their partnership with Seoul Art Space GEUMCHEON.

[i] David Harvey, Rebel Cities: From the Right to the City to the Urban Revolution, (New York, NY: Verso Books, 2012), 5-12.
[ii] Quote taken from Allan Sekula’s work Seventy in Seven (1995).

■ Essay 2
The Gaze of the Second Outsiders: The 2nd Urban Research Project of Seoul Art Space GEUMCHEON

Kim Hee-Young (Manager of Seoul Art Space GEUMCHEON)

Seoul Art Space GEUMCHEON has been carrying on the mission of international exchange within the wider agenda of Seoul Art Space program, which was founded in 2009. In its second year of existence, it has been clearly evolving its method through ambitious artist exchange programs that involves partnerships with institutions from four cities around the world.

After starting with a basic level of artistic residency in 2010, the program switched to joint projects in 2011, where artists from cities such as New York, Amsterdam, Tokyo, Jakarta and so on are selected in collaboration with international institutions and invited for a three-month residency in Seoul to produce and exhibit their work.
Advancing a step further in 2012 in order to strengthen our curatorial capabilities through the commission of a foreign curator, Ceren Erdem who gained experience in the Istanbul Biennial from 2005 through 2008 and has been pursuing her curatorial work in New York, was selected based on the recommendation from the ISCP in New York, and she has planned the exhibition How to Dream Otherwise: reanimating the potentialities.

This exhibition joined six international artists that were selected among the recommendations of five partnering international institutions and two Korean artists all of who had residency at Seoul Art Space GEUMCHEON. On an extension of the first Urban Research Project, Reflections of an Outsider on "Outsiders,"[i] which was undertaken in a structure alike, the current exhibition is a setting for the display of the results of residency by artists from New York and Barcelona who have interpreted the strange city of Seoul through their observant gaze and the vigorous research that of a reporter.

Unlike these outsiders who have "traveled alone and anonymously moved to new places;"[ii] in the cases of Korean artists in the exhibition, Im Heung-Soon and Park Neung-Saeng+In Jin-Mi, an intimate approach is taken; tracking the personal stories and concerns of urban denizens at the southwestern edges, which is facing impending redevelopment.

[i] "Outsiders View 'Outsiders,'" Nov. 30 ~ Dec. 13, 2011, Seoul Art Space_GEUMCHEON.
Six selected foreign artists/team(s) from Arts Chiyoda 3331 of Tokyo and RuangRupa of Jakarta, Gertrude Contemporary of Melbourne and Hangar of Barcelona, etc. and two Korean artists/team(s) from Geumcheon participated to illuminate the scenes of social issues arising in their own respective cities. They transcended the conventionality of reading cities as "city=giant capital" and are attempting to explain the process of a person adjusting to the growth and environmental changes of a city, or are interpreting the city as "a social system of spaces" which reflects inequality, competition and conflict.

[ii] Walter Benjamin, The Arcades Project.