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Arts group breaks down wall between exhibition, performance

Living in-character 24/7 for 10 days, actors communicate online with audience

Four chracters -- Wiisanso, Kim Tokki, 240 Code and Hipipe -- build a house that symbolizes people’s desires using boxes. (Perfect Condition Instagram)
Four chracters -- Wiisanso, Kim Tokki, 240 Code and Hipipe -- build a house that symbolizes people’s desires using boxes. (Perfect Condition Instagram)

When watching a play, you may sometimes feel like the actors are actually “acting” rather than being real people. How about when the actors actually live as a character 24/7, communicating with the audience?

Yulhyul Arts Group, a 20-year-old arts group in Seoul, has come up with an extraordinary two-year project that consists of different performances under the theme of “city and desire.” Their goal is to have the plays naturally permeate into real life.

Five actors from the Yulhyul Arts Group chose to hold their first performance, called “240,” at the Post Territory Ujeongguk in Mapo-gu, Seoul. Directed by actor Yoon Subby, the other four actors each turned into different characters and started living as the characters all day for 10 days from April 17 to April 26.

The four characters -- Wiisanso, Kim Tokki, 240Code and Hipipe – began to build and decorate their space driven by their own desires. On their Instagram accounts, they posted their daily schedule and communicated with the audience around the clock. Some audience members brought fried chicken at night to hang out with the characters.

Wiisanso, who wishes to be a bird, built a nest with tree branches brought from a mountain. She even practiced bird calls, sharing all the moments on Instagram.

“I wanted to introduce a play into a real life,” Yoon told The Korea Herald on Friday. “Plays sometimes feel overwrought, sometimes it feels like they are being performed by tongue only. It is less moving than my mother getting her wisdom tooth pulled out.”

A character named Wiisanso becomes a bird and builds her own nest for 10 days from April 17 to 26. (Park Yuna/The Korea Herald)
A character named Wiisanso becomes a bird and builds her own nest for 10 days from April 17 to 26. (Park Yuna/The Korea Herald)

As the 10-day performance neared its end, the four characters squeezed all their belongings into a house that they made together using parcel boxes, the house symbolizing people’s desires.

Yoon said the performance “240,” which coincided with the COVID-19 pandemic, was also planned with grievance toward the government that halted collective events to slow down the spread of the viral infection.

“The government’s guideline was too unilateral, and we were banned from conducting art performances,” Yoon said. “Art is our life, and prohibiting art performance feels like denying our lives as artists.

“So we planned the performance ’240’ in a unique way, minimizing contact with people by keeping the space open all day communicating online with people.” 

A character named Kim Tokki becomes a rabbit and greets visitors to her place. (Park Yuna/The Korea Herald)
A character named Kim Tokki becomes a rabbit and greets visitors to her place. (Park Yuna/The Korea Herald)

Some people who visited “240” may have wondered whether it is an exhibition or a performance. Yoon, however, criticizes such “strict” views of art.

“It is our first try at running an artwork for 24 hours,” he said. “Many people in Korea like categorizing genres into exhibition, performance, et cetera. I wanted to break the wall between the two genres.”

The next performance in Yulhyul Arts Group’s two-year project will take place in October at Soorim Cultural Foundation in Dongdaemun, northern Seoul.

“Next time, we are thinking about actually living in a house built with used delivery boxes to show how we could be killed by our desire,” he said.

By Park Yuna (yunapark@heraldcorp.com)
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