An association of differences which dreams of the individual’s happiness
Curator, Resident Artist of Seoul Art Space GEUMCHEON
Proof of the Artist-as-Individual’s Existence
The arts basically always enter into challenges toward new realms. While this is the result of characteristic temperaments of always maintaining suspicion toward preexisting, systemic common knowledge and the other side of ideologies, it is also true that new paths are pioneered because of the attitude peculiar to artists of focusing on their own worlds instead of on worlds realized by others. Otherwise, the arts fracture or confuse the pre-standing order and lead the system to produce conflict with artists in the process of healing such, and utilize this so that artists can also use it as a device to make significant their own values. The series of such conditions is proof that artists are not adapting well to the realm of current society and common sense, in a biological sense, and I am not much different from them in my attitude. Therefore, art of social relations which overlaps with a sequence of community art, arts business, artist co-ops, village making, humanism, etc., in the public sphere, or together with a community or following around the names of the arts and art-making, are still only unfamiliar to myself. Even still, that my works and activities are being read to an extent as art of practice aspiring for social change just may be because I practice the value of the arts’ principle philosophy of ‘the power of viewing the world in various ways’ and use it as a methodology of my work. To be more precise, it is probably because I am more focused on methods of producing and sharing the meaning of processes at exhibition spaces than on feeling joy in the microscopic parts of life, and gain inspiration from them to pursue meaning and exhibit the results in the process of working through such. Therefore, in the end, I as an artist have no choice but to confess to being a typical artist finding my way toward the meaning of life within my own work. ‘the happiness of the artist’ and the ‘happiness of the individual,’ these two topics are ultimately my agenda passed on to all people, incidents, spaces and regions I encounter in the name of work.
Since some years ago, a meeting of mysterious origins, between the public, art and design, has begun a diffusion into our society. One person has said that my works can be categorized as ‘community art.’ Sculptures of lumps of stone and metal of indecipherable meaning were still standing in front of tall buildings in the name of public art, oblivious to the gazes of the public, a kind of art called murals united with the community are thrown into environmental regeneration projects without regard to local contexts, and traditional markets all obtain the same arcade roofs. What saddens me the most is that the streets of all of the cities have come to possess the same kinds of storefront signs with the same colors and fonts. In all of these incidents, our friends, the artists, designers and architects, have had a hand and it seems that their objective was to coordinate our society into having a single, well-ordered appearance. Whatever the reasons or aim, uniform aesthetic sensibilities which have seeped into the public scene or local communities contribute to a linearization and totalization of popular aesthetic tastes. Therefore, I agree with how, to those who believe the purpose of the arts to be the coexistence of various values, chaotic sign boards in which individuals’ desires squirm about are more creative and independent. Granted, I am obliged to do what is in my powers for my own happiness. ‘Being concerned about making this area, in which I have been born, grown up and currently live, in the way which I enjoy’ is an entirely instinctual act which respects the individual’s way of life rather than being a method of suggesting alternatives to such phenomena. Ultimately, with friends who share my thinking I began to put into practice the thoughts of each of us, through an artist’s trust and respect toward the arts, as sentiments faithful to our instincts and as defense mechanisms guarding against everything which threatens our instincts; and these actions were more the proof of the artist’s existence as an individual as the means to live independently, creatively and joyously rather than being what people call public or community art.
A Creative and Independent Life Rather than Culture and the Arts
The arts and culture, and all of the relations of the communities I encounter, are necessary as devices for the fulfilling lives of the individual rather than being for culture and artistic activity. How many stubborn artworks non-independent, full of prejudice and incapable of communication have we seen under the guise of arts and culture? Arts which are incapable of providing any reverberations to a fulfilling life of the individual exist innumerably currently in 2012 as well, in various museums, art museums and performance venues around the world. In other words, the armor-like authority of the arts and culture which have withstood the test of time has made class distinctions between the producer and enjoyer of culture and thus pushed them apart a distance in which they can understand but cannot interfere with one another. This has ultimately contributed to creating stereotypes of arts and culture to block out even the imagination of approaching the values of a cultural and artistic life. In the end, it would not be going too far to suggest that relations-oriented artistic activities at this point are processes of replacing this authority of arts and culture with the creative and independent life of the everyday. The creative and independent life in which the individual is happy itself coincides with the original purpose of arts and culture, which is to produce variety. Therefore, we must always guard against a communal sense of purpose in translating life into arts and culture. The various philosophies of life our society, in reality and historically, possesses have been many times sacrificed by the general ideologies. In the name of industrialization and modernization, the free desires which individuals once possessed had always been regarded as improper imagination, and for the depressed self-censoring thus begun, the attempt itself to recover the happy imagination of the individual becomes an awkward environment for arts and culture. Therefore, community art which aims to recover the individual’s happy imagination must be begun within a varying life based on the individual’s desires and joys and with attention to the differences with others. Arts and culture of a life which reads culture in agriculture, pays attention to the independent process in cooking and housework, and fetches flexible imagination in comfortable rest and sleep is a beginning for community art which is itself pleasing and individualized.
Community Art and Regular Art
To quote from Mary Jane Jacob in Suzanne Lacy’s Mapping the Terrain: New Genre Public Art, When the artist designs a program which attempts contextualization, or when the artist’s strategy becomes one with the point of audience participation, there emerges a new way of thinking about art-making as an organic whole with the purpose of education. In order to understand this kind of work, one must recognize that the process or all activities related to it are central in the arts and even a part of that art. This is of a different case from when the final product or object which precedes all other things in importance is valued. When one aims to realize such labor-intensive, time-consuming and trans-field work, the conventional definition of the artist, curator and critic as well as the institutions of the arts and society inevitably become challenged. However, such work threatens the continual functioning of such institutions and the identity of most in the arts as experts...... when the arts move outside studio production and become a kind of a communal process or a negotiation with institutions, when the arts must answer the dynamism of society and approach the needs of the Other, when that essentially assumes a cooperative character, or when it relies on an expert of another field, the arts become a kind of a somewhat more open and fluid process.” the various implications of relationality which are spoken of as participation are always sweet candy for the artist.
Community art to myself is plain art without anything special. This does not deal directly with materials but uses the various incidents and differences which arise in the process as the subject matter of work and is pursuing education which is attentive to its potential surplus value and uses the artistic language of the times, which uses the work itself as a device for producing new values rather than as methods of reading as is currently done. This can be a project of accomplishment which is unhindered by time (performance) and at the same time could be a play without the distinctions between actors and audience, is an unpredictable setting of cross-fertilization in which differences meet with each other, and are the same with my methods and philosophy of working which reflect such incongruities, points of incomprehensibility and uncertainties. This is an art form in how it experiments with and realizes the values which are becoming central to my work philosophy, through my work, and makes into significance all of the values both material and metaphysical which arise through it, and is an artistic act in which all participants exchange and share values but must again reinterpret and reproduce as their own meanings.
Seems like community - Which Designs the Rest of the Lives of Retired Seniors
<Seems like community> is a project which spent the time of ten months in 2010 with senior citizens collecting discarded paper in the area, near a secondhand store in Bakdal 2-dong of Manan-gu in the city of Anyang. <Seems like community> was begun with the intentions of loosening the communal agreements required to maintain a community. It was a project of meeting one another with a loose relationship density, setting down the weight of well-intended purposes such as warmth, consideration, politeness and responsibility, and allowing individuals’ greed and desires, selfishness and laziness. Therefore, <Seems like community> was a community which found it sufficient to have only one member as well as any more than that, and in which spontaneous incidents would ensue without any need for any kind of foresight or planning. Senior citizens collected discarded paper for economic reasons, for exercise and sometimes to pass time, and occasionally sat on the wooden bedstead by the secondhand store to drink tea or chat with artists. Artists recycled the junk scattered throughout the secondhand store to create various living wares, and since <Seems like community> to the senior citizens was an amusing, yet also ridiculous as well as completely incomprehensible, gathering of artists; an exchange of relationships of the senior citizens’ observations, curiosity, reproaches and complaints, or meddling and cold indifference, persisted at length. <Seems like community>, which in this way created no tensions at all with local residents, would fix the senior citizens’ handcarts for collecting recyclable paper at times and also ask them for some side dish food at others. It was locally frequented by young adults wishing to remodel their bicycles, and through the suggestion of a local elementary school principal we even created a mural with children on a school wall. As for the underlying reason for the occurrence of all these events, it seems that the recycling workshop of artists served as a catalyst. We drank together with members of the residents’ self-governing council, ate with neighborhood representatives, and occasionally fixed old furniture belonging to senior citizens within the apartment complex, instructed woodcraft to newlywed housewives interested in remodeling their own home interiors, and were even involved in an incident of doing neighborhood cleaning after having smoked cigarettes with local high school students. <Seems like community>, in which innumerable incidents occur in random order, was in the end a platform of happenings which can arise when artists are doing what they do well. The creation of a role for senior citizens among all of the members of this area was also begun with a natural occurrence. The senior citizens naturally preached to the children and young adults of <Seems like community> regarding recyclable materials which can be exchanged for money, and this led to the program and became a curriculum at The School of <Seems like community>, and the senior citizens appeared to be recovering their social self-esteem in the position of teachers. One elderly man who had farmed all his life provided children with the opportunity to experience for themselves growing plants and working on rice paddies, and a senior citizen who had worked as a carpenter his entire life did not hesitate to instruct carpentry techniques to local newlywed housewives and <Seems like community>’s artists. The young self-governing organizations in the area have come to look to these senior citizens to fulfill a role, and the entire series of these events has been taken up by residents and developed in their own, local way as their own program even after <Seems like community> had left Anyang. <Seems like community> was unable to have an attachment to its temporary home neighborhood as much as the sense of settlement of original locals, while staying in Bakdal 2-dong in Anyang for ten months. To locals living in the region and worrying about the region’s issues, <Seems like community> was probably, as its name suggests, an implicit and loose community. However, <Seems like community>, which was a project of meeting with the local area with what the artist can perform well rather than a good role of the artist, was therefore able to say farewell to the area without regrets. While providing a platform to local residents and supporting the continued project of the area in spirit from afar, this ultimately confirms that all relations are not a function of the power of space and projects but rather of the power of a meeting between people. Therefore, <Seems like community> is still <Seems like community> which is in a loose inter-concurrence with Bakdal 2-dong.
The Local Arts Residency as a Platform Dreaming of the Artist’s Independence and Self-support - The Life Arts and Culture Regeneration Residency of Ingye Market
If one examines Mika Hannula’s paper, titled ‘A Re-defining of Public Art’ and presented at a Busan Biennale international symposium, the author defines the public realm as, ‘The public realm is never a given, neutral nor natural, and therefore this is a process.’ Therefore, according to Habermas, the public realm does not exist in itself. It is a space and situation which must be ceaselessly rearticulated, revisited and regenerated. It does not exist in a vacuum and is rather a space which endlessly changes the boundaries between space and time... it is a space which is generated the moment it appears.’ Also, in the subtitle of From Agreement to a Collision with Love, he states that the ideal public realm aspires to agreement and harmony but this requires a unity, and not assimilation, as a collision with love achieved through a process of meeting, negotiating and discord stemming from existential differences. Hannula points out that ‘A collision with love brings things together, allows and values discord and seeks a delicate balance with momentary and premature agreement. Differences speak to other differences and the essential goal of collision is to maximize the use of a productive collision without violence by a certain power or interest.’ This is related to expanding the concept of the public realm as a ‘productive start’ in relation to the expanded concepts of contemporary arts.
I have been performing my work, projects and education in ways of respecting the differences while meeting with people from various social backgrounds from my position of artist, curator and arts and culture educator. Ultimately, this entire series of processes was a project close to work reflecting a kind of artistic philosophy for a humanist community and area, but more so than this it was a project of fostering selfish intentions which was more closely aligned with the individual’s happiness in life. This was, in a sense, a project of finding the various conditions for happiness in life pertaining to the individual and preceding communality from within the cultural talents of the everyday laying dormant in diverse lives, and translating these cultural talents into the self-esteem of an independent life, and I focused on the absurd and useless imaginings of artists to this end. This was a somewhat absurd attempt of applying the mechanisms of shoveling for independent ideas, necessary to artists for leading their work forward, to a community and region. <Seems like community> was in this way a project of reviving local life inclined toward a loose tension, and Ingye Market was a project of re-designing life in which non-competitive artists advocating for a regeneration of life arts and culture meet with a local area without any sense of purpose to pollute energies as if it were a game. The nonsensical local culture, which combines with an arts project which begins with the pleasures of the individual while staying a distance from a sense of well-intended purposes, has become an absurd local platform in which the values of various individuals communicate three dimensionally. Therefore ‘the Ingye Market’ Project was a project of moving the artists concerned with personal aesthetics with strong aesthetic affinities to a surface of contact with the local area. The artists in residence at Ingye Market were those who had long been absent from artist circles or had been in exile after having been mal-adjusted to the artist circles. The somewhat despirited artists of Ingye Market needed time to reestablish their original artistic values as the first project they were capable of. What the artists elected to do for such was begun with a slogan of a life culture regeneration residency and with intentions toward art which cleans well, art in which an artist at work becomes a performance and art which is accessible for viewing and purchasing for anyone. The structure of production assumed by Ingye Market, which eliminated the boundaries between the arts and non-arts and accepted artworks and products as well as useless items, is an attempt to overcome the complexes regarding the intellectual, high culture called the arts scene. Also, the artists’ performative attitudes of finding it acceptable to open their private studios to the public, and themselves to public view, reveal the multi-layered identities of artists and merchants, and is of the intention to meet with the locals candidly. What the artists have selected as the methodology of their work is recycling. The Ingye Market artists recycle discarded objects, producing hybrid furniture and lighting, fashion reusing placard materials, everyday objects turned into flower pots, an antenna used as a musical instrument, etc., to revive themselves and regenerate as artists. Artists take their own works to the streets as well. They create settings in local streets and exhibit their works and sometimes sell them as well, also performing their work processes. Audiences gather and buyers appear, interference happens and some choose to participate as well. As time passes, layers are created and the flea market in the streets of Ingye Market is now turned into a small festival of the area. The street program of Ingye Market was originally begun by artists who wished to enjoy themselves in the streets. The artists thus took over a street little by little and enjoyed the streets together with young adults of the Ingye-dong nightlife. As curious local musicians joined one by one, Ingye Market obtained the lowest stage and the most spacious exhibition venue. In this low stage and spacious exhibition venue, artists and all locals involved with Ingye Market enjoy themselves without any particular purpose. It was a jam of naturally occurring teams, which were sometimes an acoustics band and at others playing a classic violin, sometimes an ocarina which turns into a gayageum, and it was also the form of a multi-channel festival in which the performer becomes a background and artists perform their work. People like the honesty of Ingye Market artists. This is by no means a good honesty of recycling and taking care of objects or being considerate of the environment, but an honesty of working on their art as much as they can while occasionally conversing with others and respecting the differences that arise thus. It is a method of honesty which acknowledges differences or incorrectness, and reveals differences instead of hiding them even in moments of conflict and neglect. In other words, the artists of Ingye Market payed attention to how we are not being better in how we interact with the local area, but are doing things differently. The process of this of course included various misunderstandings and difficulties of miscommunication. However, ultimately in terms of preserving various voices and objects, and preserving values, the best thing that Ingye Market could do was to do as well as it could. Whatever the succeeding evaluations, Ingye Market thus met with its local area and played, fought and polluted joys.
The self-support of artists, the self-support of people are ultimately the self-support of cities (localities). However, among the many methods of self-support, regeneration and preservation are too passive and time-consuming in leading society to a dynamic self-support. Therefore, they are not an appealing method for policy developers who must visibly change the city’s landscape within a relatively short amount of time. To city developers who must unify the landscapes from Ilsan to downtown Mokpo to be satisfied, a confrontation between the least fashionable methods is regeneration and preservation. Is not confronting in unfashionable ways the typical way artists respond to situations in life? Public art which insistently fixes and reuses everyday objects and manages through cleaning, in order to reverse values and meaning! Self-support is ultimately a self-supporting of these significances and values, and is a reversal of lifestyles aiming to fragment the pattern-turning methods of life to expand them to a diverseness. The Inkye Market residency was a workshop project for which the establishment of various values in the individual’s life is important, transcending environmental awareness by means of regenerating and managing individuals’ innate talents through the Arts and Culture Workshop which is adept at cleaning, preservation and regeneration.
Seems like community 1.5
Of the various projects of the Anyang Public Arts Project of 2010, <Seems like community> was born as a temporary community organized for the communication between local residents, especially between generations, by artists and residents for seven months involving the residents of Bakdal 2-dong in Manak-gu of Anyang. After the completion of the project, <Seems like community> was maintaining a relationship which was little more than in name only with the region, after having almost literally left only a shallow layer of their identifying markers, and local residents who had been creating incidents, fighting, hurting, understanding and meditating with <Seems like community> have for the period of approximately one year since been meditating on their local agendas more fiercely than did <Seems like community>, and the powers of that meditating led them to undertake various local communication programs for which the lives of Bakdal 2-dong’s residents would do as much as would the arts. From time to time, <Seems like community> and Bakdal 2-dong have been exchanging loose relations and forming a solidarity of small and uneventful meanings, and currently in 2012 are undertaking a new program of <Seems like community 1.5>. <Seems like community> guards against the group psychology of various communities which had an actual role in the process of Korea’s industrialization and modernization, of highly condensed growth, and has been created as an homage to the individual’s, who is a member of a community, recovery of honor. It is true that the individual’s efforts and sacrifices, which had been absolute to the motivating forces of growth, had always been neglected in the overall inertia and patterns of the ideologies of industrialization, and that ultimately only the shining success of the community exists in the larger framework of national growth, leaving our fathers and mothers out of the picture. Therefore, <Seems like community> sets down the weight of communal rules which exist for achievement following a community’s sense of purpose, and must be upheld for the realization of communal values, and seeks a community which exists for the individual’s happiness, selfish intentions, desires and joys. It places the individual’s joyous desires above the community’s sense of purpose, maintains loose relations in which one can easily withdraw from the community at any time, and follows the diversity which arises from differences between multiple individuals. <Seems like community> is a community drawn from the artist, and director and board member of <Seems like community>, Kim Wol-Sik’s philosophy of failure he learned at the sites of various pieces of public and community art, and from cooperation with many NGOs and citizens organizations. It is an undefined community without a clear sense of purpose which allows mistakes, is not attached to accomplishments, considers the artist’s self-censorship a shame and, above all, for which the latent potential of its members is the community’s core energy. <Seems like community> is attentive to certain methods of meeting, chance, incongruities, conflict and differences in terms of producing new ways of communicating. Moving past prejudices regarding the position of fine artists, it serves in the role of a platform where people of diverse vocations and interests come together, including non-specific locals, the world of popular arts (television personalities, actors, models, producers and stylists), journals, traditional music, indie bands, party planners, florists, graffiti artists, carpenters, expert engineers and chefs, etc., and these people create new values while anticipating a pursuit of new methods of communication as they collide or associate within relationships with one another, interest, mistrust and tension. <Seems like community> is a kind of a pleasant mess like a game, while also the work setting of meaning and an exhibition venue of results, as well as a pluralist theater which shows the process as a scene.
2007 Art in the City Anyang Indeokwon Project ‘Arts and Culture Education Seen from the Perspective of Public Art,’ Yun Hyun-Ok.