We are back from 3 weeks in Korea and are delighted how the final leg of the project went. A huge success, judging by the feedback we received!
We arrived with five days to set up the exhibition, install the sounds in the right GPS locations for the Seoul version of our sound app Celadonaphonic and prepare for the opening event/concert scheduled for Saturday 4th November.
Hankil Ryu, our Korean lead sound artist and co-curator of the sound element of the project together with Joseph Young, was an amazingly helpful, resourceful and reliable person throughout his involvement in the project. He was also an excellent host, displaying the typical and lovely qualities of Korean hospitality I have come to admire and know since travelling to Korea to research the project over one year earlier (when I started this blog).
Hankil came to pick us up at the airport and took us to a hotel for the first night as the residency centre did not have space for us until the following day. The first night involved a new Korean culinary experience – we went to an octopus restaurant together with two more sound artists involved in the Mullae Resonance Sound Festival and discovered just how fresh the octopus is. (Vegans avert your eyes.) It was plopped into the broth boiling away on the grill on our table alive, tentacles flailing. I was rather distressed, not expecting such a spectacle. We had a few more culinary adventures, including going to an offal restaurant where everything was written in Korean and there were no pictures of the food (this was just me and Joseph) and ended up being served raw liver and stomach lining, as well as the rest of the innards which we cooked on the barbecue at our table. Highly esteemed by every Korean we met. Might take more than one experience to get used to this.
We were in residence at Mullae Art Factory for the rest of our stay. It’s officially called Seoul Art Space Mullae, and is one of a number of government-run art centres in Seoul. I was impressed with the set up. The top floor is the residence, with 9 rooms that seem to be continually occupied. Artists doing projects in Mullae can stay for free for up to one month and otherwise it is very reasonable, with friendly, helpful staff. Mullae has a fully equipped 200-seater theatre, with various other spaces throughout the building, including a huge ground floor multi-purpose space and the white cube Pocket Gallery which is where we showed our work.
Mullae itself is an area of Seoul which embodies the classic up-and-coming gentrification story of traditional steel-making district meets hipster-artist-trendy, with metal working factories jostling new coffee roasting cafes and galleries squeezed in between. Fascinating, particularly because the metal workers are all tiny, private, sometimes individually-owned factories, all creating a cacophony of noise (which incidentally is all you can hear from many of the artists’ studios and galleries).
Joseph and I set up a new version of the piece we showed at British Ceramics Biennial (BCB). It was very well received. The opening night we had a good number of visitors continually flowing in for two hours before the concert, which featured three of the artists commissioned to make sound works for the sound app Celadonaphonic. Sehee Choi, Hankil Ryu and Joseph Young performed live versions of their works, followed by the premier screening of the documentary film. We also launched the Celadonaphonic app, and duly sent people off to do the trail with the app installed on their phones throughout the rest of our stay there.
The whole event was a huge success. We were part of the British Council’s UK-Korea 2017-18 season, Creative Futures, and were pleased that the British Council team came along to support us. In fact, they were so impressed, they invited us to a meeting at their offices the following week. We also had a meeting with the Korea Ceramic Foundation and I was invited to do a wood firing residency in Korea next year, which would be brilliant, as I am keen to do more wood firing. I met the artist who runs it at BCB, who travelled up from the south of the country especially for our opening. We are also in discussion with Jin Kim and Kyung Won Baek, the two artists who did the Made in Korea residency at The Ceramic House about collaborating on a project in Mullae with them next year.
The exhibition was open every day for 10 days, with people visiting daily, and the following weekend Dotolimpic started. Dotolim is a sound space in Seoul and hosts an international sound art festival every four years (hence Dotolimpic). For the first time, it was combined with Mullae Resonance and Made in Korea to make one big multi-faceted event at Mullae taking place over 10 days. It was a very exciting, buzzy weekend, from Friday night until Sunday night packed with performances that ranged from laptop-based to live instrument new music, from LOUD NOISE to performance art. Fantastic! Joseph, Sehee and Hankil all performed as well as many artists from around the world.
Now we are back in Brighton again and the project has nearly concluded. I squeezed in a mentoring session since arriving back, with a curator who mentored me for the Danish project three years ago. It was extremely useful and well timed to help me think about where to go next from here. Joseph and I have decided to continue to develop the ceramics and sound collaborations in the expansion of The Ceramic House/ In Camera projects. Following the various meetings we had in Seoul it looks very possible that Korea will continue to feature in future projects. We are now following up some of the possibilities we discussed to help shape the next project. We are travelling up to Stoke-on-Trent to collect our work from BCB in a couple of weeks and will be meeting the artistic director to talk about the next BCB in 2019.
Our filmmaker is making some final changes to the film to include some footage from Korea and apart from that we have the evaluation to do for the Arts Council. So, this blog is nearly done. Stay tuned to see the final film…