Performance art festival goes with the Flow

By Korea Herald
  • Published : May 8, 2012 - 18:27
  • Updated : May 11, 2012 - 18:41
The Flow performance art festival was unmasked Saturday at Itaewon’s Gallery Golmok ― literally for two of the artists.

Jane Rhyu and Ida Graendas-Rhee had spent 11 hours in the gallery in sensory deprivation ― blindfolded with their ears covered and no human contact.

They went out of this state as the night began, and the reaction was dramatic with one covering her ears and the other keeping her eyes closed.

They were followed by “Language Flower” by Gim Gwang-cheol, who organizer Eric Scott Nelson said was one of his favorite Korean artists.

“Some artists their performances are not exactly performance art but are more like experimental theater. But his work pushes close to the edge,” he said.

“It’s still performance art but its rehearsed and very planned. It’s very powerful to me.”
Jane Rhyu and IDA Graendas-Rhee perform “1+1=11” (Paul Kerry/The Korea Herald)

The festival is spread out over four Saturdays, each with three or four performances all based around the idea of Flow.

Organizer Eric Scott Nelson said the theme was based on an idea by psychologist Mihail Csikszentmihalyi.

“He talks about a state of mind where there’s high skill and high challenge you enter into a state of flow where you are completely engrossed in the moment and completely focused on the task in hand and nothing else exists.” Nelson said.

“I’m trying to in some way engage the audience with the artists in entering this state.”

He added that he was looking to add some interactive elements to involve the audience more.

Rhyu and Graendas-Rhee’s performance showed how broadly this idea could be taken.

“I thought, the concept of this show is flow and so what if we stopped flow ― as in inflow and outflow,” Rhyu said before the performance, explaining that she had been inspired by a 10-day meditation session she went through in India.

“If we deprived ourselves of sensory input after many hours … when you’re finally able to eat, see, speak, touch. When you’re able to have all your senses back, what will result?”

She was also interested in how the audience would respond before they were released.

“To get people to quiet their own minds by focusing on the fact that these people have shut out the world and are now only living in their own minds and what they might find in there. In a way we are always doing that anyway.”

Coming out of sensory deprivation Rhyu was vocal, but with her eyes shut, while Graendas-Rhee was nearly silent. The reaction was almost theatrical, perhaps reflecting instincts Rhyu picked up while studying drama.

Rhyu said she was satisfied with what came out, and was relieved that she had come through sensory deprivation without suffering ill effects.

Nelson said that all the work in the festival was new, meaning he had a lot of surprises to look forward to.

“Unlike when you curate something like a painting exhibition maybe you have seen images of the paintings or know the paintings, but all of the work here will be new for me as well but by artists that I really appreciate and value.”

Among those he is most pleased to invite are Paisan Plienbangchang and Jittima Pholsawek, two Thailand-based artists who are flying in from Singapore for the event. Nelson said he had worked with them before at festivals in several countries, but hadn’t expected to this time.

“I didn’t have enough funding to fly any artists here so I wasn’t looking to invite artists from abroad, but they saw the (Facebook) event and they liked the concept,” he said.

“I was really surprised because they have to pay for their ticket out here.”

Kim Baek-ki, the director of Korea Performance Arts Spirit, which runs the Korea Experimental Arts Festival each year will be among the other artists.

“He doesn’t do so many performances in Korea these days,” said Nelson. “So I’m happy he wanted to join this event.”

Other performers will include Tabula Rasa, who fuse electronic music with pansori vocals, and Rafael, who performs live video and sound manipulation.

Rafael is working on a project about the four seasons in Korea, and will perform “Winter.”

“He just finished this piece and premiered it in Rome for a festival and I’ve read a lot about it and I’m really excited about it,” Nelson said.

He said part of the aim of the festival was to get performance art happening in more places and enjoyed by more people.

“The beautiful thing about is that people think about it and it affects them and it slowly grows later and they’re still trying to interpret or they felt some emotion that connects to it,” he said.

“The reason I like performance art so much is that it has such a strong ability to move people and they carry it with them.”

Flow continues each Saturday until May 26 at Gallery Golmok. To get there leave Exit 3 of Noksapyeong Station and walk past the entrance of Itaewon’s main strip and past Suji’s, turning left into the alley at the sign saying Saville Row.

By Paul Kerry (