There are a few things that stroke me about Korea, one of them was the artistic presence. Art seemed to be everywhere in some very minute detailing. I did wonder at one point if Seoul, as a city, was simply obsessed with anything aesthetic.
I had not expected my stay to be so centered on art, but there was hardly a thing I could do against it… It was everywhere. From extensive galleries to cozy bookstores/cafés, from streets sculptures to displays in shopping centers. Many of these pieces were so interesting that you just had to stand and observe, pondering.
Seoul Museum of Art (SeMA)
At the time of my visit, the museum boasted some exhibitions that really caught my fancy. The one that called to me the most explored the concept of identity. Among the pieces on display was a video recording of a boat captain calling out to the people walking the shores of the Hangang and the people subsequently calling out to the captain. I found there was something very deep about it and it evoked a strong response in me.
The exhibition seemed to explore so many aspect; your identity as a foreigner, a woman, a migrant, etc. Among other notable pieces was a row of portrait blurred beyond recognition and blue-toned videos of late night workers pacing corridors in all their loneliness.
Many questions came to mind. Who are we? Who are the royal they? What are our purpose? What connects us all? What makes us unique?
Another art piece that called to me, this time from another exhibition, was a canvas on which were mounted rows of sequins. They reflected light differently based on their alignment and created interesting 3-D illusions despite the piece being entirely flat. That was a surprisingly ingenious use of materials.
I think smart is a word I would use to describe quite a few of the art pieces I had the privilege to see during my stay in Seoul. They were truly engaging.
You can visit SeMA’s website here.
I walked past this unassuming gallery and almost missed it, which would have definitely been a loss for me. I tentatively walked in, unsure what this place was about and even if the public was welcome. I half expected to be chased out with a broom. I suppose I would have liked a big sign with Welcome written in capital letters.
At the time of my visit, the work on display was that of Chilean artist Iván Navarro. Once again (you will remember my earlier excitement at the use of sequins) I became thoroughly excited with what I saw. The pieces on display made such a creative use of mirrors, neon and other material! Think, by using the reflection of the one-sided glass, the artist created infinite reflections of neon constructions. I had never seen the like.
You can visit Gallery Hyundai website here. The gallery is close to Gyenongbokgung Palace and the Blue House. In fact, the whole neighborhood is worthy of a stroll and some fair bit of exploration.
The Jeongdong Theater
Opened on June 17, 1995, Jeongdong Theater is the first modern theater in Korea. Despite being told that this theater was mostly geared toward tourist, I was eager to attend a performance when I was invited by Diana and her mother.
We went to see a performance called Miso, which was based on “MISO: Baebijang-jeon”, a classical and satirical novel written by an unknown author of the late Joseon Dynasty. It was presented in the format of a musical, with a clever use of screen projections. It was beautiful and enchanting.
Basically, the story is about this official that goes to Jeju Island. There, during a party with much alcohol and women, he lectures his colleagues about their behaviors. He eventually swears he can’t be seduced, which leads his superior to pay the legendary beauty of the island to seduce him.
You can go to their website here.