I have had quite eventful two weeks.  After TEDxHONGIK after party on Friday, I really had to stay in this weekend to recoup my energy & here is why.

Seoul Digital Forum 2010

On thursday from two weeks ago, I was invited to go to Seoul Digital Forum at Sheraton Hotel.  With title, ‘New Renaissance’ they had many many interesting panel talk about 3D, gestural interface, bio-plastic and creativity with 50 influential professionals inviteed from all over the world.  This event was aired on SBS with its highlights (& I was on TV this year again as an audience 😉  ) It was a full day of inspiration.  I was glad that I made it there.

Rock, Paper & Scissors, Public Art under the bridge

rachel
jamie on the swing skirt by Soomi Park
graffiti artwork

A week before that, I met some global artists when I visited Namjun Peik’s Art Center to see a performance one Sunday.  They are friends with local Korean artists who mostly studied abroad and returned as contemporary artists.  I was a newbie to them as I introduced myself but, they were friendly with warm welcoming gesture.  Then, I was invited to a very interesting art event by them.  It was called ‘rock scissors paper + B.Y.O.G.B. Vol 5/ 가위 바위 보‘ organized by Kalmont Family.  I stopped by the flea market at the play ground near Hongik University area to say ‘hi’ to them after visiting lab.  After meeting them again, I definitely wanted to go to this event.  It was held under Seogang Bridge which is one of many bridges in Han River.

graffiti artwork

I left my house around 10:30 pm and took a subway to this Seogang Bridge stop knowing it’s the one way subway ride as the seoul metro closes after midnight. (I would never even had thought about going there late at night alone before.) There were drawings of rock, scissors and paper indicating the path lead to the place kindly.  Under the bridge, there were international (mostly foreign) crowd of about 50 people (later 100?.)  They were drinking beer, makguli, wine – talking in small groups here and there – typical party scene in the us.  There I met some more interesting people.  Most of all, the art, the true public art – street art were great!  I admire their efforts of putting their arts during night to have this open, under the bridge exhibition.  We did get a lovely visits by local police officers but, they weren’t doing anything to stop us – as we were peacefully having fun in public space & most of all, the majority were foreigners so they only spoke with a Korean represent.  Later on, in the tunnel, they had beautiful performance.  This artistic event has come out perfect in great spirit, spontaneously. I walked out around 2 am & got home for the next day’s salon event as I was asked to make cocktails for a salon at gallery/cafe, ‘B2Project.’  I bet the rest of them stayed until late and had more fun after they got out of the place.

Salon Day at b2project & Cocktails

at B2Project with a friend who I just met

Unfortunately, I don’t have photos of my Mojito nor my signature cocktail made with fresh watermelon.  I was really busy making pitchers of cocktails – we ran out of lime quickly.  I was surprised that lime is something you cannot get easily here in Korea.  It’s quite expensive as well!   In any case, I can assure you that my cocktails came out delicious!

As I had a busy night under the Seogang bridge a night ago, I slept until 11am and slowly got ready to go to B2Project.  The weather was beautiful and sunny so I’ve decided to bike there.  It was a long bike ride.  I had no idea as it was my first time.  It almost took one hour to get there and I was sweating by the time I arrived. (oops!)

J (a friend and one of the owners of the place) was having a salon for her friend, painter from Germany and her paintings were beautiful.  Very eastern painting feel to them, in black and white oil paints – mostly landscape.  I liked them…  hew, what a weekend!

And Teacher’s Day

Following week, it was teacher’s day.  I was visited by several ex-students of mine.  They are doing great and it was sooooo sweet of them to visit me and think of me.  I had some good chance to catch up with them and I’ve ended up drinking with one of them.  Sorry that I’m too tired now so that I will have to skip about this story.  One thing is that having insightful conversation with a former student made me think that teachers like me can learn from her/his own students sometimes.  It was very pleasant week beside the fact that I was coughing non-stop with lack of sleep.  I’m feeling better now… 🙂

I’m waiting for June now.  I know June will unfold with even more interesting events and meetings.

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b2project entrance
B2Project is a gallery / cafe house in the quiet alley of Dahak-ro (Haehwa-dong), Seoul; next to traditional old houses (한옥) that are few left in that area. It’s owned by my friends, sisters.  Its interior is full of different kind of lightings, large plant and the German vintage objects and furniture.  The gallery is located in the basement and I’m planning to fill that space with interactive media art projects eventually.

b2project  - a cozy artsy cafe with lots of vintage objects at Hehwadong, Seoul

b2project old TV

Anna & I often use this lovely quiet cafe (with free wifi) as our design office & the owner always greets us warmly and we chat about daily stuff.  I also admit that I got hooked to their cheese cake that has an ice cream filling.  mmmmmmm~

Anna and I secretly want to keep this space only to ourselves since it’s really a rare gem in Seoul…. but, I believe in sharing and open-community & I would like to see this space beoming artists’ communial space.  One weekend, I’ve invited media artists colleague from my research lab to introduce them to each other.  Somebody once called me “Nokia – connector” — If I’m profiled as in “Tipping Point” by Cromwell, I would belong to Connectors.

friends over at b2project

Outside of the back alley, from the broad street, Dahak-ro may seem like a very caotic place, just like Time Square in NYC.  This area is called ‘Theater District’ and you can imagine lines of people to watch all sort of plays, musicals and many bars and restaurants….drunk people.  However, if you don’t mind walking deeper into the back toward hill, you will find artsy bars, cafe and galleries.  There is also a Robot Museum.  🙂

From my childhood memory, Dahak-ro used to be a major place for college protesters.  Yes, I grew up in a neighborhood not so far from here.

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…

Samsung Leeum Museum of Art

Entrance floor at Leeum

I’ve been thinking about visiting this Samsung Leeum Museum for months. It is conveniently located in downtown Seoul, considerably near my place. Anyway, Anna and I decided to go this friday… of course, I forgot about it until she brought it up on Thursday… I’m so forgetful these days that I can’t remember anything I said after 20 min. This is what happens when you fly 14 hrs of round trip flights three times in two months. (that’s not including 3-6 hrs of domestic flights)I’ve heard that this museum is all about architecture so I guessed that it would be worth just for that. Most of my friends weren’t impressed with their collections so I didn’t expect much.

However, I actually liked their contemporary arts selection… the quality and quantity are no near LA Museum of Contemporary Arts but, I was surprised to find Damian Hurst’s, Mattew Barney and other renouned artists. I really liked the entrance piece by an Indian artist but, I don’t recall his name. They had Damian’s piece with pills which I really liked. That reminds me of the medical cabinet piece in LAMCA – also ‘Crown of Glory’ from a series of stainglass art-like piece that are made of dead butterflies. They were also showing curated exhibition that is titled “void” They meant to emphasize on “negative space” in artworks – which is a very eastern characteristic but, using a word, “void” seems to be misleading. Anyway, below is the photo of installation by contemporary artist. The was wet and oily… I made Anna touch it & she was discussed by its oily feel. 🙂 That was a great birthday gift, thanks anna. If you want to learn a bit more about Leeum museum, read her insightful blog.
Detail of Damian Hurst

Itaewon & Food

Since Leeum Museum was near Itaewon, I got to go to this really cute pancake house, “Flying Pancake” Itaewon is a neighborhood where many foreigners live, shop and hang around. They have international school so you will see more foreigners than Koreans in that neighborhood. I’ve heard about the foreign cusines there but, I needed to research before I look for good Indian, Turkish and French restaurant in that neighborhood. I was surprised to see shishikabab stand in the street there…Back to Flying Pancake, this restaurant has not only cozy atmosphere but, the pancakes were amazingly delicious! One of the best pancakes… I’ve had pancakes in numerous brunch restaurants in NYC and LA so you just have to take my words for it. I drank a glass of wine and my friend drank a cup of macchiato. I found their Latte Art was elaborate but, coffee cup on the cafe? We were laughing as it reminded me of “TV Buddha” by Namjun Paek in Leeum- one of my favorite artwork by Mr. Paek.

Pancakes with Pear + CinnemonLatte Art - flying Pancake

more food in Hongdae area

It was raining Saturday night. What a yucky night! After watching “The Other Boylan Girl” (I have nothing to say about that movie, btw) we decided to move to Hongdae (Hongik University) area so I suggested this cute Japanese restaurant once my NYU sunbae took me. It’s near Saamzie Art Space but, you have to cross the street and walk to the alley it seems like nothing would be open there as right side is a large construction fence and left are all residential houses. But I was proud to find that place in that rainy night, although I couldn’t recall what it was called.It’s called “Gwang” It’s the same character for “star” you see in whatoo (Korean Gostop cards 😉 ) The weather was yucky so there were several seats available. (it’s really tiny so it’s possible that you have to leave if there isn’t any seats.) I drank two full glasses of warm sake, “Wallgaegwan” and some oden from oden bar, salmon sashimi with capers… It was a cozy night & I think I drank the most since I arrived in Seoul. Deliciousness. 🙂

Oden bar @ GwangSalmon sashimi + a cup of warm Sake

* after note: Surprisingly, I lost like 1 Kg in one week despite of indulging yummy foods like these.

Cinecube

CineCube in Gwanghwamun, Seoul

For a New York Junkie like me, it’s fortunate to live near such a theater like ‘CineCube’ in Seoul… I always lived in walking distance near Angelika Film Center and Landmark Sunshine theater in New York City so, I’m spoiled about easy access to non-mainstream movies in general. Anyway, I haven’t had many chances to catch up movies this winter unfortunately and I just had a free time after some work @ the cafe Di Bibe near my place. I wanted to go see ‘No Country for Old Men’ or ‘There Will Be Blood’ and so on. When I searched in Naver.com in Korean (Naver.com is Korean version of popular search engine with a very successful marketing campaign with green search box but, you don’t get much results), ‘No Country for Old Men’ was listed as no longer in theater…. as I recalled it only played in two theaters in Seoul… I guess it’s not the kind of Korean main stream moviegoers like to watch. With my disappointment, I decided to just take a look at this theater near my place that I knew for sure they play some good indie or foreign films. There it was, ‘No Country for Old Men’ was playing. (Hey, thanks for nothing, Naver!) So I decide to walk there after a home cooked dinner.

At the front of the ticket counter (it’s Friday!) I said, “Do you still have any seat left for No Country for Old Men?” The lady said, “There is one seat left & that’s the last one” “Oh, please give me that one to me please!” She added it’s the second row seat but, I didn’t mind since I knew this theater is like Angelika Film Center… small theater rooms. However, it felt kind of funny to purchase the last ticket left. I was glad that I came alone.

As I was waiting for the theater to be available to get in, I looked around the posters… as you can see they are not main stream movies in Korea. Hmmm… I can believe that they are playing “Sicko” now… but, I was really appreciating to have this kind of theater in my neighborhood. This theater is operated by donation of corporations so there are no commercials or trailers before the featured film. It plays straight to the movie. That was something.

The movie, No Country for Old Men was great. I really liked it. Again, I appreciated Cohen brother’s film & really glad that I was able to watch in a big screen. I don’t think dvd will do it for this kind of film. During the film, I couldn’t help laughing (that leaves bitter after taste) where other audience didn’t as they were reading the subtitles… This is another fun experience I have in theaters here in Seoul. I get to read in Korean and listen in English and can observe reaction of the Korean movie audience… it’s a particular experience I enjoy… sorta multi-tasking, I would say.

I guess I will stroll to this CineCube theater often from now on.

Will Call Ticket Office

Theater Oasis Cleaner

(Sorry about my laziness… where I posted only photos but not blog for days)

As I frantically traveled across the pacific ocean for 10 days in the order of; Seoul – LA – Portland – Seattle – Vancouver, BC – Seattle – Seoul, a friend of mine in Seoul booked a ticket for this little independent theater, “Oasis Cleaner Theater” in Off-Dahak-Ro (Dahak-Ro is like Broadway in Seoul, Theater District.) Thanks to her, I was able to see this lovely play and actually she was surprised to see my appearance while my 5 day stay in Korea before taking off to New York, re-acrossing the pacific ocean and the US.

When I brought up about checking out some independent small plays in Dahak-ro while we had some drinks & chat, she mentioned “Oasis Cleaner Attack Incident.” I was very interested since I knew that I missed it when it came to my campus during Spring Festival 2007. So we’ve decided to see before I was stressing over the finals along with sudden visit of my mother who needed a medical care. The ticket only costed $10. This is extremely inexpensive considering high profile musicals or plays cost about $40-$60 per ticket in Seoul.

To find this unfamiliar small theater, we had to walk in a small old streets where it seemed like time stopped there as if it’s still 1970-1980. When we found the cleaner like sign on a small building, we were excited. The theater was small & pitch black dark inside when the light is off and was located in the basement with only 100 seats- oh well, they are literally chairs or cushions on the floor. During the play, I hoped that there won’t be any fire because there was only one small staircase down to this hole of theater… and you know what that means. That was the setting anyway.

To my surprise, the play was delightfully well written and well acted out among 9 actors & actresses. This is a story about a middle age cleaner owner who’s been running a small cleaner for half decade, two generation in modern Seoul city… I won’t spoil it by writing a plot here but, the last scene where these money-corrupted people being washed together in a giant washing machine was pretty impressive. It’s definitely a feel good play and highly recommended for a date. (Too bad it wasn’t a date for my case but, I was with my close friends from junior high school so, can’t complain it. 🙂 )I really look forward to finding more indie plays that are going on every corner at off-theater district in Seoul.

Below is another shot from street in the main theater district.

theater district posters on the wall