apt with forest view

Okin Apt, to be demolished

One late Sunday afternoon (march 7, 2010) – with Anna‘s invitation, I went to see Okin Apt Project in my neighborhood.  Coincidently, my cousin who just finished his master’s in urban planning and management from Hawaii was visiting Seoul so I invited him to join (& we can catch up at the same time)  He obviously had no idea where he was getting to but, happily took a small neighbor-bus to go to Okin-dong.  Okin Apt was built in 1971 and located right under Inwang Mountain therefore, it had great views of Seoul and mountain area in every direction.  The rich real estate developers won’t miss this hot spot… to demolish this old and low-income residents and build new luxury condo buildings.

apt with blue wallit looks like it's staged - Okin apt project

The Okin-apt Project was an interesting art platform as it invites visitors to experience the reality of situation with lesser interfere of artists.  It has documentary, stage-like and surreal quality to it.  It is a form of analog experiential media, following current trend of specific space and site being artistic expression.  What I paid attention was details of space that are being demolished.  How often do we get to visit all the houses in the same buildings? especially where they are all stripped out inside to be demolished?  Each space contained different stories.  With their funny looking wall papers, wall paints and found objects- tags like airline baggage tags, personal photos.  Some space was as if it was a stage set  for a play.  My experience of wandering these gutted apartments for few hours were filled with dusty smell, nerve-wracking sound of stepping on broken glasses and balancing on half broken stairs; contrasting beautifully open view of Inwang mountains and Seoul downtown.
apt buildings to be demolishedinwang mountain

Okin apt buildings were built in 70’s style – low budget, boxy  in concrete and cheap paint finish.  These project buildings were known to be lowering the city’s esthetic quality but, they were not too old to be demolished.  They could kept the old historical quality and renovate them… in my pure artistic observation. It seems like many 20-100 years old buildings are being demolished under the name of redevelopment too easily in this city and it’s becoming very rare to find the real history of the city.  In a long run, historical value could raise capital rather than modern high rise buildings.  With high rise buildings, they will have to build bigger roads for the residents’ cars and it will result more demolition of small mom & pop’s stores and traditional markets.

Sadly, demolishing these low income families’ residents are effecting people who were living in low rental plans, poor residents  – It would be very difficult for them to find places to live anywhere else in Seoul with the same rent they were spending.  They will have to migrate to cheaper neighborhood.  The owners of these redeveloping apartments would make more revenue if they have extra money to reinvest in new development and if not, they will be compensated for whatever their demolishing apartments are being valued.  I don’t want to open a can of worms with my limited knowledge on redevelopment plans in Seoul but, I’m just writing my personal limited observation here.



The BFA Graduation exhibition was held successfully during October.  the website is at


Here are few photos of projects I liked:

Difference by Sanghwa Hong

Mirror by Jaehyuk & Wansul

Flow by Heeyun & Soyoung

I’ve been busy starting soooo many experimental research projects at the Digital Media Public Art Research Center.  It involves lots of LEDs and different materials and some feedback of ideas.  I will post it in my project site (www.absurdee.com) once they are almost complete.   Meanwhile I wrote two research papers and waiting to get them published in some journals in Korea.  I’m not sure if they will *get* my paper.

<Recent Cultural Exploration in Seoul>

Exhibition 신호탄 at KIMUSA was pretty good.  I was really happy that I made it two days before they closed.  It’s a group exhition of Korean Contemporary artists who are well recognized.  It’s not as fresh as Seoul Platform last fall at the same location but, there were few interesting projects.

Ramen Village

from 신호탄, KIMUSA

뽕짝 - KIMUSA (Note MP's shields in pink)

[ FILM ]

<Broken Embrace>

I’ve heard that it’s playing somewhere and realized that there was a special screening of films of Almodova (English subtitled as a plus) at near by theater, Cine Cube.   On Sunday morning, in the midst of writing research paper for the deadline, I had to get out of my apt and walk to the theater and watch a early afternoon movie, ‘Broken Embrace’ It was really good. I left the theater with a strong yearning impression.  I liked it so much better than ‘Volver‘  It reminded me of ‘Talk to Her‘   Also, scenes that shows a part of ‘A Woman on the Verge of Nervous Breakdown’ really made me want to watch that movie again.  It’s been a while since I watched that movie.

[ BOOK ]

<1Q84 by Haruki Murakami>

With so many work schedule, I had to wait few months to read Murakami’s new novel, ‘1Q84′  As the semester ends, finally I could get my hands on the hard cover books (there are two of them)  I couldn’t stop reading it so I finished reading them in three days.  I thought about a yougn man who went to cats’ world and lost his way back and I thought about how it would be to look at two moons. Even, like one of my student’s project ‘Moon’, I thought about looking at the same moon with someone in distant land.  Will that be possible?  If even, how do I know?

Unfortunately, I heard that English version will be released in 2011.  You have to either wait until 2011 or learn how to read in Korean or Japanese. 🙂

autumn scene, Gangwon-do

This year, I’m the adviser of the sophomore students at Digital Media Design Dept so they told me that I need to lead the team of students to their fall M.T. (Membership Training) Trip. What Koreans call, “M.T.” is actually not exactly a Membership Training. It is usually referred to the college kids’ trip during semester. They usually pick a destination and rent a bus and go for an weekend over night trip and there are usually few professors involved. This time around, it was only myself + one administrative T.A then, 48 students. Hmmm…. I felt like a real adult.

However, it turned out that they were more orderly and organized than I was. What kind of college kids are having fun until midnight playing different team games but no alcohols? (They did pack bottles of Soju, beer and others) They started to drink after midnight but, nobody was hung over next morning. They’ve cleaned after themselves with proper recycling bags. Wow! I’m impressed. I need to corrupt these kids a little bit…, note to myself.

Beside the fact I had to give up my weekend, it was pretty good to smell good fresh air and see funny looking sheep and play with youthful students! Half of them are taking my Interactive Communication Theory class so it was nice to play with familiar faces.

About Sheep: They are bigger than the grey sheep I saw in Ireland but very friendly. Their fur is so thick so that when I poke my finger deep into their fur, they didn’t even blink an eye. They are so peculiar but, soooo cute! I did look for a sheep with a star mark on it…. just like in Haruki Murakami’s ‘Wild Sheep Chase’

laughing sheep

(laughing sheep. It was sunny but very very windy in the filed)


(students after BBQ porkbelly + potatoe)

A week ago, I decided to bike to Seoul Museum of Art near Duksu Palace since I finally had a real day off + weekend. It was to go see Seoul Media Art Biennale for the second time after the opening ceremony I went two weeks ago. It’s always lovely to walk by the old palace wall. How should I explain it? it’s narrow and curvy with stone wall one side and park like street the other side. It’s just a very cute path and the museum is on the hill where it ends. It was a warm autumn day so by the time I parked my small bike, I was sweating already. Uh-oh, I hope I won’t meet anyone I know.

The selection of arts are very impressive at exhibition, titled “Turn & Widen”. It’s very well curated and well displayed. (The curators are Maarten Bertheus, Raul Zamudio, Tohru Mtsumoto and Andreas Broeckmann.) I liked how they carefully laid out how people move art piece to piece. Media arts are exhibited in 3 floors and it is definitely worth to visit at least once if not twice. There are several art projects that I really found interesting.

(will get back with more writing here…)

Meanwhile I’m posting some of art installations that I was able to grab with my small digital camera. I biked back and didn’t bump into anyone I know…

“Augmented sculpture series” by pablo valbuena

“Hope” a marionette project by Joohyun Jin, Laewoo Kang (Digital Media Design dept. BFA, Hongik University)

This movie is a low resolution with lots of noise (as it was raining cats and dogs during the final presentation in Interaction Design Studio) but, you will get the idea. Below is their project site that has a better presentation. “Hope” by Joohyun Jin & Laewoo Kang

A little description about this project. The marrionette is hand-sewn by Joohyun Jin & the project was a collaboration between two students. The translated abstract is below.

사람과 사람사이의 갈등,
치유할수 없는 상처

슬픔과 악몽의 수확자,
그래서 깨어날수 없는 존재의 슬픔.

Conflict among people

untreatable wounds

Receiver of sadness and nightmares

Tragedy of un-wake-able being

I see that this project can be improved by more dramatic expression in sound on what they are trying express & cleaner mechanical presentation. However, over all it was an interesting project. 🙂

It was frightening to watch it move on late afternoon with pouring rain outside.

I finally bought a small bike to stroll around the downtown of Seoul. It’s a 12 Kg, 16 inch wheels, foldable bike made by Benneton. Yes, it’s green & it’s fashionable. 😉 The problem is that I only have 4 days a week to bike around the city and with recent mass rallies in my neighborhood, it’s quiet difficult to ride a bike among 30-40,000 crowds – although when public transportation is blocked, it’s a good & only way to travel other than walking. On top of that, it’s been raining last few weeks right after I got my new bike. Funny, huh? It rained today as well. I was just about to go out & stroll the hood.

If you see a girl with pigtails riding a bright green bike a bit clumsily near Gyungbok Palace area in Seoul, that is me! Believe me, you won’t see that many grown up girls with pigtails…

I’ve been thinking about showcasing some of my students’ work at my blog… as we are running multiple community blogs as they are documenting their design process for requirement.

This afternoon, I’ve gotten a delightful email from a student of mine which starting as, “how’s your weekend? ….” He is graduating this semester and he is running a weekly physical computing workshop among students at Digital Media Design department. I’m aware that they also started a weekly discussion meetings. Good kids. All they needed was a little motivation. 🙂

Anyway, I was delightfully happy to see the first result. After introducing arduino workshop last semester (thanks, David & Tom for your support!) students got really excited for different possibilities. Now, from sophomores to seniors are gathering on their own to create something at their physical computing workshop. For design school where students mostly depended on their visual art abilities, this is a significant change and for interaction designers who design for 5 senses, it’s a good direction to go.

Their first group project is called, “Happier Tears” A simple group portrait. <see above movie> It was hung in 4th floor hallway of our building without any approval ahead of time – a guerrilla exhibition. Go students! I told to Leo(leader of this group) that he can throw a guerrilla exhibition in front of my office. 🙂

* Note about “Happier Tears” – I think, this title is based on Happy Tears” by Roy Lichtenstein which has become a scandalously famous art piece in Korea by Roy Lichtenstein because of recent incident regarding Samsung Group’s Executive’s wife’s purchase of “Happy Tears” which raised a suspicion of money laundering. Read this article if you are not sure what this is about.

Next Page »