Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Art in Korea

Last weekend was one amazing weekend, and I want to tell you about it. For a few months now, Jess has been preparing for an art show at the Gwangju International Center (GIC). This organization is such an asset to Gwangju. They have their hands in many different aspects of life in Gwangju, connecting the foreign community and the Korean community in meaningful ways. Check out their website here:

One of the ways they impact the community is by having art talks every Saturday. Jess was invited to display his works and give a talk about his work. For those of you who've seen any of Jess' work, you know that his most recent work (in graduate school and beyond) revolves around our relationship with the media in all it's forms. His work calls people's attention to the messages we receive, and how those messages affect our perception of reality. What is our relationship with the media? This theme in his work has continued here in Korea, now extending beyond just advertising in media and now touching on politics as well.

When Jess was in graduate school, he spent time every week talking about his art work. This is an important component of his life as an artist. You can't just make art and leave it. Art is a channel for discussion and relationship, so you have to be able to talk about your work and listen as others explain their perceptions. But this opportunity at the GIC was different than his experiences in school, because he was talking to a room full of people who were not artists and on top of that, at least half of the people spoke English as a second language. He had a new challenge in front of him!

Just before the talk began, the room filled up and the wonderful volunteers at the GIC began bringing more and more chairs into the room. There were over 50 people in attendance and there was excitement in the air as one volunteer introduced Jess. Jess spoke for about 20 - 25 minutes. He began by explaining how his work has developed over the years, explaining that all of his work has focused on one theme, relationships. Then he went on to elaborate about how his work calls attention to our relationship with media.
Due to the controversial nature of his work, we were unsure how his talk would be received. We were pleasantly surprised as the talk ended and the question period began. The questions asked were thoughtful and heartfelt. As the discussion continued, we quickly realized that many of the people in the room (foreigners and Koreans) had been grappling with the same issues and concerns represented in his work. The question period lasted almost as long as the talk did. The discussion that followed was rich and enlightening for everyone. As each question was answered by Jess, others in the crowd shared their answers and ideas too. There was a fellowship and community that formed in that room. Which is what the GIC does best. They create a rich and supportive community, building bridges between the different cultures represented in Gwangju.
The show opening and art talk at the GIC was a complete success. The rest of the time we spent in Gwangju, Jess was constantly approached by people who had attended the show and wanted to talk to him about his work. We could not have asked for a better community to share his work with. The staff and volunteers at the GIC were absolutely amazing. They took care of so many of the details and made the whole process easy. And on top of that, we had some of our closest friends by our side the whole time. Whit and Lindsay were wonderful hosts for us (they always fix an amazing breakfast!), many of our Gwangju friends came out to see the show, and our great friends Sharon and Bogdan traveled all the way from Daegu with us. We felt loved and supported!

Just this week Jess found a new contact that might lead to another show, this time in our city, Daegu. We'll keep you posted about how Jess' art life continues to develop.

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