Festival Bo:m ― between absurdity, beauty
By Noh Hyun-gi
On a stage resembling a convenience store, two actors dressed as part-time employees talk; “How many bottles of cola should we stack?” “Should we mop the floor again?”
These actors represent “Freeters,” or young people who take one part-time job after another to make ends meet instead of seeking full employment in Japan. The defeatist youth — the “Ten-nen” generation — emerged with the burst of the asset price bubble in 1990 in the island nation. Actor and producer Pinjin Neiji turned his experience of working at convenience stores for 22 hours a day into a post-modern production.
He is just one of the artists to present at the upcoming Festival Bo:m. The sixth international festival of performing and visual arts will open at the Daehangno Arts Theater, Seoul, with a dance performance by world renowned producer Rene Pollesch on March 22.
Every year, Festival Bo:m, led by director Kim Seong-hee, convenes new avant-garde artists in Seoul to challenge the status quo. The line-up is impressive this year with video artist Karen Cytter, American troupe Nature Theater of Oklahoma and Korean filmmaker Park Chan-kyoeng.
Her decision to invite artists from Japan bears great significance.
“Japanese youths, with the recent disaster, plunged into deeper chaos. Many, even those who were not trained, started to express their views through truly experimental art. We wanted a chance to analyze their approach as well as the international recognition they have amassed as a generation,” Kim said at a press conference on Tuesday.
Chim Pom is a Tokyo based group of artists comprised of Ellie, Ryuta Ushiro, Yasutak Hayashi, Masataka Okada, Toshinori Mizumo and Motom Inaok. They have produced numerous video pieces where the artists visited the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. At the hazardous site, they planted a white flag and created the Japanese flag using red spray paint. They call themselves “Pikachu,” an animation character from “Pokemon.” Referring to the mutant rats that appeared as a result of radiation exposure and, in some part, the general pollution of the country, they call their fellow adolescents mutations of modern society. The Modern Museum of Art’s (MoMA) Queens branch, MoMA PS1 is showing their work on the disaster “KI.AI.”
Filmmaker Park coined the term “Asian Gothic” to describe a self-centric interpretation of contemporary art, and he will present “Crossroads,” a fantasy documentary about shamans. The film incorporates real interviews, lecture tapes with rendered footages. It will be shown on March 24 and 25 at the National Theater Company of Korea.
Kim said: “So often, the so-called West sets up the rules of contemporary art. Many local artists work their way to catch up with those rules, only to face yet another shift in paradigm. Our goal is always to introduce those who are making their own ways in the ever changing world.”
Chang Hyun-joon is a great example of such independent artists. Kim explained: “Foreign critics are often in awe with the technicality of Korean post-modern plays but they readily question the lack of conversation or messages. Chang’s work deviates from the stereotype.” His production “The Occurrence of a Theater” will be staged on April 14 and 15 at the National Theater Company of Korea.
Festival Bo:m values the spirit of experimentation and challenge, and focuses on discovering new artists. Theater troupe She She Pop from Germany will visit Korea for the first time with their production of “King Lear.” Their candid and bare creation cuts to the relationship between the tormented king and his father. The actors will invite their own fathers to add reality. “Their unique approach to this classic will hit home with the Korean audience,” Kim said. They will perform at Sogang University on April 13 and 14.
In addition to brain-twisting art, Festival Bo:m bring social issues to the local audience. Omar Abu Saada is a promising video artist from Damascus who will tell the story of Syrian protesters. Saada has dedicated her artistic endeavors to challenging her government. She founded an art company in 2004 with the play “Anxiety.” “Can you please look at the camera” will be onstage on April 17 and 18 at the Doosan Arts Center.
The festival will run from March 22 to April 18 at various locations in Seoul. For more information on tickets and schedule, visit www.festivalbom.org or call (02) 730-9617.