Seoul in the City is part of The City of London Festival. It runs from 22nd July to 17th July, and offers performances from acclaimed classical and traditional musicians, artists, actors and dancers. I attended the ‘Seoul in the City Party: Forum and Reception’ held at the KCCUK on Tuesday, 24th July 2014 which started with a fascinating discussion of the history of South Korean arts and the struggle to promote Korean culture in the age of the internet. Interesting enough, we were told that numbers of people attending live performances had gone up – something that seems to be at odds with recent theories of audiences which posit the internet as displacing the audience and substituting the filmed event for the live performance. Here, access to information about performers through the internet seems to encourage rather than discourage audiences in attending a live performance. Social media, we were told, provides a mechanism to promote, interact and participate virtually in the event, giving audiences ‘a closer physical connection to the object’. Part of the discussion was devoted to questions around how to promote Korean arts outside of Korea, and specifically in terms of ‘Seoul and the City’. Consideration was also paid to what festivals can bring to people, one response was that festivals promote cultural tourism and give context to the performance/screening. The tension between the traditional and the contemporary was also explored. In order to promote Korean, emphasis on the traditional can offer Western audiences a sense of nationhood which is aligned with the exotic. But at the same time, contemporary art and music is necessary in order to offer a more balanced view of Korean arts. I was reminded of the latest instalment in the X-Men franchise, The Wolverine, which I watched the other night. Set mainly in Japan, the scenery and architecture was constructed through a Western orientalism, and the Japan envisaged was one in which everyone was either a Ninja, black belt in Karate, or obsessed with power and technology. There was little in the film that evoked contemporary Japan, instead (Western) views are offered a landscape of Japan filtered through romantic and orientalist glasses (and of course, the white man saved the world as is par for the course). Seoul in the City is an example of trying to overcome this dichotomy by offering an impressive range of performances and exhibitions that offer audiences a sense of the ‘exotic’ while at the same time providing contemporary artists a platform through which to share their art.
‘Seoul in the City’ has three distinct strands: K-classic (classical and traditional music); K-theatre (contemporary dance performances and a Korean Hamlet) and Dynamic Korea (a series of performances by the internationally acclaimed ‘Seoul Metropolitan B-boys ‘Gamblerz Crew). More information can be found at here: The Korean Cultural Centre
Events can be booked here: http://www.colf.org/
Alternatively ring +44 (0)845 120 7502
Personally I am looking forward to Lee Kyung-ok Dance Company’s performance of Andersen’s Gazes, which takes place tomorrow, 28th June at 7:00pm. The company is noted form its series of ‘Dance fairy tales for adults’ and in 2012 was award the grand prize at the Dance Korea Awards. I am interested in the intersection of fairy tales and horror cinema in my research and am fascinated how Hans Christian’s life will be portrayed through dance. The performance takes place at the Mermaid Theatre, Puddle dock.
I am also extremely excited about Yohangza Theatre Company’s version of Hamlet and seeing how Shakespeare’s play will be translated into Korean and localized through the use of traditional Korean costumes, music and characters. Anyone worried that they won’t be able to understand the play, there will be translations of the dialogue that accompany the performance. Hamlet takes place at the Peacock Theatre on Saturday 12 July 2014 at 7:30 pm.
This is a great opportunity to learn more about the Korean arts, and I hope to see some of you there.
Thanks to the Korean Cultural Centre as always.