Just Another Day

January 26, 2011 § Leave a comment

When music makes you feel.

I haven’t been very good at this writing game recently.

I went to Seoul in December, and on the way wrote down all of my secrets.

That was such an intense experience, which I have not entirely recovered from.

I am in a weird limin. I am homeless. I am in-between jobs. In-between lovers. I am waiting to hear if my Master’s research proposal was utter rubbish or not. I feel like I cannot start living this year yet, even though it holds so much promise and potential. I have projects to do. I have things to write about.

Nathan visited us for the festive season. That was very nice. That was also very weird.

I drank a lot, told people what I thought about them, spent lonely nights walking the streets, trying to figure myself out.

Nathan left as the waters rose.

I have to go and visit an old friend today.

Time passes, and now we are in Brisbane.

And I would rather spend today by the pool.

지하 Underground

September 20, 2010 § 1 Comment

Your friend promises you that this place is real. He found it, he says, after quite a raucous night of eating a bit too much barbecued pork, and drinking just a bit too much sweet-potato wine. In fact, it is all he has talked about for weeks and if he could only remember exactly where it was, he asserts that you will not be disappointed.

Crafty Bar

The problem is, he can’t remember there being a sign on the door, and regardless, he never did find out what the place was called.

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Show Us Your City: A Walk In Seoul | Creative Cities 2.0

January 28, 2010 § Leave a comment

Show Us Your City: A Walk In Seoul | Creative Cities 2.0.

I could say so much, but there are not any words.

Watch the video, follow the link and read the interveiw.

There are many reasons why this city and this boy are so special.

This is one of them.

…getting pretty serious…

May 21, 2009 § Leave a comment

On Monday we met once again at the Total Museum of Contemporary Art.  This is the venue for our open showcase, COMP (Crossing Of Movements Project) that will premiere next Saturday.  We have had a while now to get oriented with the space, to explore Seoul, so start generating material, and to create improvised performance together.

The final showcase however will be a more meticulously curated, constructed and choreographed event.

After a series of discussions, we settled on a general plan for the use of the space, and divided the workload amongst us.  The space is on three levels, with the third, and most underground level being used as the ‘stage’ for the crowing glory – a one-hour piece of interdisciplinary performance.

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Been Busy…

May 20, 2009 § Leave a comment

So, this week we have been busy refining the ideas and implementation of our showcase next Saturday.

It has gone relatively smoothly.

Have visited some more places, made more observations.

I have a long subway ride ahead of me today, so I will take that time to reflect.

But for now, Vegemite on toast is in order I think.

Weekend In The Mountains

May 10, 2009 § Leave a comment

We spent this weekend at Songnam Stars Valley.

We were told that this weekend we would be participating in an ‘improvised performance’, and we were not told much more than that.

It turns out that Songnam Stars Valley is an observatory in the mountains, about 40 minutes to the north of Seoul.  The observatory is set up as an educational facility, with dormitories, a planetarium, several lecture halls and an ‘Italian Restaurant’.

I was to meet my travelling companions at Daehangno, outside our rehearsal studio.  We then drove in a convoy, out through downtown Seoul, through the outer suburbs and into the countryside.

On the way, we passed Gwanghwamun, the large gate out the front of Gyungbokgung, the primary royal palace in Seoul.  I must first explain that a Korean ceremonial gate is usually a titanic wooden construction built on a stone base, and they are often several stories high with ornate carvings and all the oriental bells and whistles that one would expect from a National Cultural Asset.

I have visited Gwanghwamun many times before, and so I was surprised to see that that there was a large fence surrounding the gate, and a massive construction on the scale of an aircraft hangar, erected about 50 metres in front of the gate.

Now, I know that there is a large push in Seoul at the moment towards the restoration and beautification of the city.  The Seoul City Hall is currently encased in a white plastic shell, 10 stories high and who knows how many hundred metres in circumference.  It’s like something out of Blade Runner.  And because now is the time for the Hi Seoul Spring festival, the area around City Hall has been swathed in a canopy of what appears to be toilet paper on a titanic scale.  Also, due to the unfortunate events of one year ago, the ancient and historic Namdaemun (South Gate) is encased in a similar shell whilst it undergoes a complete restoration.

I had not heard of any such attacks against Gwanghwamun, and so when I enquired as to its wellbeing, I was slightly taken aback by the answer.

Gwanghwamun was destroyed and rebuild under the Japanese colonial rule of the early 20th Century.  This is a common story for many Korean Cultural and Historic Assets.  But apparently, the Japanese got it wrong.  You see, the entire Gyeongbokgung Palace has been positioned for the fortuitous flow of energy from the surrounding mountains and the Han River that runs through Seoul.  When the Japanese commissioned the re-building of Gwanghwamun they did not consult the correct sources, and so it is slightly askew, and several metres off of it’s optimal position.  Since Namdaemun was burned to the ground, and now undergoing reconstruction, and because there appears to be a slight stagnation in the energy of Seoul, and because the current global situation, the government has decided that the best use of their time and money would be to relocate the gate to be in the best position to promote the flow of good energy to the inhabitants of Seoul.

Maybe K-Rudd should take this approach to government stimulus.  I’ve always believed Uluru would look better if it was slightly rotated to the left.

ANYWAY!

Back to Songnam.  We spent Saturday afternoon exploring the observatory and it’s surrounds in preparation for our improvised performance.  We, took the cable-car up the mountain to the observatory proper (it’s apparently 30 metres higher than the cable-car on Namsan Mountain in Seoul.  On a clear say you can see the golden tower on Yeoido Island in the Han River.  I think I could just make out Gangnam.

We then discussed what we would perform.  It got quite heated at times, many creative people in one room, with discussions in Korean, Japanese, English and French all happening at once.  We finally settled on an opening image, and decided to improvise from there.

Rather than hike back up the mountain to the observatory, we were informed that we would be performing in the foyer of the main building at the base of the mountain.

Initially the plan was to perform for an hour, but it ended up only being about 30 minutes.  Not the most articulate or specific performance ever, but it was energetic, and Xenia (the Australian Soprano) and I got to bounce off each other musically.  Her with her extended vocal techniques, and I with my Korean flutes.  We did a bit of contact impro, and the visual artists had a go at playing with projection.  It was fun.

We then partied in our room till about 3 in the morning.  Needless to say, I am totally shagged.

The highlight of the evening was our expedition in the wee hors to re-stock on beer and dried squid.  As were were in the middle of nowhere, it took a while to find a mart that was open, but Korea provided.

I also made some excellent contacts amongst the volunteer support artists that came along.  Also, had a big discussion about butoh with Akino, the Japanese dancer and the rest of the artists.  It turns out that Akino’s boyfriend has just joined Sankai Juku as a junior dancer.  I think it is the start of a long and fruitful relationship.

COMP – Day One

May 5, 2009 § Leave a comment

I fell out of bed. For me, the morning literally came in with a crash. I didn’t think it was very funny, but apparently it is.

Last night we had the first meeting for the Crossing Of Movement Project, which is being held as part of the Modern Dance Festival (MoDaFe) in Seoul.

It is hard not to be a little overwhelmed by the project. It is an international artist residency program involving 9 artists from many different disciplines who will create a performance for the Festival Showcase at the end of May.

The rationale is simple enough. We will create a performance experience based on the idea of living in Seoul.

Seoul is a very large city. The larger Metropolitan Area holds a population of 25 million people. In the Metropolitan City lives 10 million. As a boy from Brisbane, via the Sunshine Coast, it is a very big deal to live in Seoul.

The project coordinators, Pyeon Si Jae (director) and Park Soon Ho (Choreographer) have divided Seoul in 14 must-see locations. Over the next 10 days we will, in our own time, visit all of these paces and record how we feel about them, how they affect us and their potential as spring boards for performance. We can explore them by ourselves, or in groups. Every evening we will meet in Daehangno (the theatre district in downtown Seoul) and discuss our findings and workshop our idea. The last two weeks will involve creating and rehearsing the work in preparation for the showcase.

From the initial meeting I very much got the impression that nothing is settled. It is not that the project is unorganized, but nobody has any idea what it will be like. The artists involved are dancers, multi-media artists, choreographers, opera singers, hip-hop producers, and me. They come from places like Cameroon, Algeria, Japan, Australia, and Germany. There is a great sense of potential.

We have yet to meet the whole group. Some artists will continue to arrive until Friday, when we will have our first meeting as an ensemble. We will present our previous work to each other and discuss how we can contribute to the project.

I feel like a tiny, miniscule fish in a very, very talented pond.

But I am young, and have my own company – which apparently counts for something. It also came up in conversation that I once lost 30kg for a job, and gained the respect (may curiosity) of all involved. I promise, weight-loss was already the topic of conversation.

Today myself, Fonkam (from Cameroon, a choreographer) and Oliver (a film director from Germany who has lived in Seoul for 15 years as a university professor in Film and Animation) decided that rather than choosing somewhere on the list, we would go to Seoul Art Centre in Seocho-Gu to see the latest work by Soon Ho. He has just finished choreographing a ballet for children.

Nathan and I had already enjoyed the Western Goodness of Butterfingers Pancake Parlour. My first western meal in a week was waffles with bacon, eggs and sausage. Nathan had the same but with cinnamon French toast. I then met my collaborative partners at Nambu Bus Terminal, and we advanced to Ye Sul Oi Cheon Dang, the Seoul Arts Centre.

It was Children’s day today, which meant lots and lots of children on the street. It also meant many children’s performances at the Art Centre. The place was packed.

Hwindy wa Teddy (Wendy and Teddy)

The show was… interesting. It was the story of a little Polar Bear named Wendy who, presumably because of global warming, loses her mother in a tragic polar ice melt and consequently travels the globe, meeting animals of many different species, and eventually a Bear named Teddy who does magic tricks, and is the King of a Teddy Bear Kingdom.

The choreography was great. The cast (30-strong) was very good; the scenography was beautiful, lots of projection, flying sets and moving lights. The thing that let it down was the generic, poppy, synthesized music. That and the magic trick involving life pigeons and a baby parrot. The infamous disappearing birdcage trick was executed, and Oliver and I fear that so were the birds.

My highlight was clearly the Hip-Hop Elephant Dance Crew. Costumed in sliver jump suits with crepe elephant trunk sleeves and manga-style hair. Word!

We then traveled for our first Artist Laboratory meeting in Daehangno.


Artist Laboratory

We discussed many things, the most interesting of which I will mention now:

The Ever-Changing Face of Seoul

Seoul is always changing. One day you can have Shyabu-Shyabu in a certain restaurant, only to bring your mates to it a couple of days later and have is now serve Kamjatang (Potato Soup) and have undergone a complete renovation.

This has always been the case with Seoul, but I (and Nathan) have noticed that since living here almost 18 month ago, the city as a whole is undergoing a rejuvenation. It is becoming greener, cleaner and cuter. Everyone, including the various local city governments are renovating entire sections of the city, ripping up old roads, uncovering hidden streams, installing giant pillars that record your picture and send it to your email address. Whole suburbs, especially the celebrity hotspot of Samcheongdong have become infinitely more user-friendly with cute independent cafes, boutiques and even well dressed street vendors.

Some kind of citywide gentrification scheme. This has gone on in Seoul in waves for many, many decades. The entire south side of the river was mostly swampland when my pop came here in the early 80’s. Now, it is the most affluent, built-up part of Seoul. And incidentally, where I have always lived when here.

A lot of people support this push, which originated in the upper echelons of Korean government, but it also means that a lot of people, the poor, the homeless and the artists are increasingly feeling disenfranchised. The ‘slums’ that have only gradually shrinked over the last 100 years and for the last 20 or 30, existed side-by-side with towering developments are being bulldozed en masse out make way for shiny apartments and department stores. Only last month a forced eviction caused several long-term residents of one of the more ramshackle neighborhoods to jump out of their windows to their death. Or maybe they were pushed. It is hard to say.

The generally shabby, slightly grimy, but comfortable, lived-in feel of Seoul is giving way to an increasingly manic obsession with clean. At least in some areas.

Good for some. Bad for others. We will have to wait and see.

Hakima expressed it as:

‘Cleaning on the inside, only makes the outside dirty’.

We discussed this at length. It turns out that the statement is equally true when turned on its head. Think of what happens when you go on a sudden, yet effective detox. The dirt flows out of every orifice.

Cultural Identity

We also discussed the different ideas of cultural identity at a national level.

I talked about Australia’s multi-cultural aspects, and the tension between 200 years of white-oriented history and 40,000 years of Indigenous history, stories and traditions. I noted that it is overwhelming to come to a place like Korea where the dominant cultural group has had a virtually unbroken history for many thousands of years. They have the giant cultural artifacts to prove it. I also expressed the sadness that I felt when the great Namdaemun Gate was burned down last year.

Rasun, the translator told me that she wasn’t sad at all, because she didn’t really identify with it as a cultural symbol. Hakima also said that the weight of history does not exist, because we all contribute to it equally. Our history is the sum of the years we have lived, and so she didn’t see any difference between my cultural heritage as a white Australian, and that of the Koreans in the room. In her opinion, History is not tied to temporality.

Interesting discussion.

Rubber Pavements

These are new, and really change the experience of walking in Seoul. Good image for physical work.

Chess

Hakima visited the area around the presidential palace, and decided to play a game where every 100 metres or so she would stop for a cigarette, and watch what happened to the people around her. She said it was like a giant game of chess. The policemen especially behaved like little plastic toy soldiers. She loved being alone today because she was able to focus on her surroundings. She felt like an oddity being a solitary foreigner.


We decided to make out meeting tomorrow at 8, and each prepare a short piece of everyday movement so we can get a bit physical.

Today, I also talked a little with Oliver about his concept for the performance. He wants to try making 360 Degree Panoramas of several locations and render some of the objects in 3D so we can play with them live. He also wants to try and do some motion capture and animate some virtual dancers. Little Fish.

Tomorrow I will go with Si Jae to visit her performance students. They are doing an assessment where they set up a piece of performance art in the mountains, and she wants me to help critique them and give them ideas and suggestions. How fun.

Now, I will wait on the internet for Nathan to get home

In Transit

April 25, 2009 § 1 Comment

I am in Narita International Airport.

The 8-hour flight to Japan was totally fine.

They made me re-pack my bags in Brisbane and check one of my carry-on pieces in. Was very annoying, but my father and I handled it well. Apparently Japan Airlines only allows 20kg each, and they are very strict about the one-piece carryon being 10kg. But I charmed my way through it. Got on with three, which probably total 20kg together. Completely Fine.

As I was saying, the flight was nice. Read half of Twilight (thanks Lauren), watched ‘The Day The Earth Stood Still’ and ‘Yes Man’. Continued writing my essay, ate two meals, and made everyone fall in love with me.


Overalls + Big Glasses + Holga + Innocent and Meek demeanor = ATTRACTIVE
Well, not in this photo per se, but you will have to believe me.

Food was good, got an exit row, asked for a rum and coke, you know, just for something fancy, and I got a coke with lemon in it. No Rum. It’s a sign. I am officially going to enjoy being an alcoholic on my 40th Birthday. Not day earlier. It is something I will look forward to. Like Roger and Coffee. You know?

Go to Narita no troubles, but my Confidant, yet Innocent and Meek demeanor eventually played against me. Specifically, when I tried to get through the security clearance for the international transfer, my Overalls set off the metal detectors. Four times. The poor Japanese girl had to swipe my entire body, and do a manual search. I offered to take them off. She giggled, but said it would be unnecessary.

Then, every single piece of electronic equipment I had stashed on my person had to go through the scanner one-by-one. No Joke. About 20 separate items in total. And my flutes got some airtime as well. Everyone was very interested in everything that I had. Lucky I had almost an hour to board my connecting flight. Needless to say, I am now very efficient at packing my briefcase in a hurry.

Got an exit row again on the connection. But it was one of those fancy double-decker planes, and I was right at the bottom of the stairwell. And there is no stowage for those seats, so I had to walk half-way down the cabin to find a place for all my stuff, and then had to surrender my flutes to a stewardess, who put them in the ‘cloakroom’. Which was fine. I settled into the final chapters of Twilight, and ate my Japanese snack. It was very ideal. Agebentto. Maybe? It was written in Japanese and Korean, and I really cannot remember what it was called, but it was v. v. Japan, and v. v. Tasty. Two kinds of cold rice, one with chicken curry, one with salmon and roe, a meat ball, some eggplant pickle and one of those shiny, gooey balls made of starch and beanpaste.

MMMmmmm…

The largest single debacle of the entire trip was me being far too efficient at the Korean end of things. I was mighty chuffed with myself at having being the last off of the plane, and first in the customs cue. It seems Incheon has opened a new section of the terminal that I have never seen before, and we needed to catch a train to connect to the main terminal. The thing is, I breezed through immigration, customs, picked up my bag, dismissed several enthusiastic cabbies, bought my bus ticket (W9,000), found the right stop, gave my luggage to the driver and found my seat… All in Korean. However, it wasn’t till I sat down in the bus with all my things that I remembered that I had checked in an additional backpack. And I didn’t have it with me. So.

Having very basic skills in Korean is fine when everything is going well, but when you almost die of a heart attack, you seem to realize that you are entirely inadequate. So, progressing in a hyperactive hybrid of English and bad Korean, I let the bus driver know what was going on, got all my stuff back off the bus, out of the luggage hold, sold my ticket to a little old ajuma (married lady) standing in line, ran back into the terminal, and conversed with the security guard at the exit gate, telling him that I am an idiot and left something on the carousel.

He sent me away to the airline desk, who didn’t really want to help me, and just sent me back to the security guard. He radioed inside, took my passport, made me leave my bags with him, and wait for a very awkward 10 minutes while a customs officer (in plain clothes) came out and escorted me in. She was very nice, but in my haste, I knocked all of her paperwork flying whilst she was swiping us back into the arrivals lounge. I apologized in Korean, and she assumed that I was fluent. Me, being the ridiculous person I am, didn’t correct her and so she continued to tell me what I had to do to retrieve my bag. In Korean.

So, naturally, I proceeded with the directions that I convinced myself were correct, but were, really, just wild stabs in the dark. It turns out that the universe did provide at this time me with total proficiency in bluffing Korean, and when I returned empty handed, she asked me what happened, and I mumbled something about the bag not being there, which is when I think she realized that I was an idiot.

She took me to the lost and found, and I got my bag back. We then conversed in English (she was more than fluent). She asked me if I was studying Korean, asked me why I had so many Korean visas in my passport… You know, chit chat.

The last thing to do was to have my backpack searched. The woman at the scanner was perplexed as to why all foreigners use cable ties on their baggage. (She was a bit annoyed that she had to find a knife to cut it off). My escort said something about it being a stupid idea for foreigners, they shrugged to one another, and I was waved through.

All done. On the bus now, about to review my directions to Nathan’s Apartment.

It’s rainy and a bit chilly, and it smells like Korea, and I love it.

It feels like home.

MoDaFe…

April 8, 2009 § Leave a comment

So, I get an email yesterday from the program director at The Museum of Contemporary Art, the location of my 3-month art-creation residency  in Seoul which was scheduled to start halfway through May:

Dear Jeremy Neideck,

Hello this is Yunjung Kim, a program manager at  Changdong Art Studio.
I’m very pleased to contact you at Changdong through Asia Pacific Artists Fellowship Program. Here is a good news for you in Korea.
Last week Modafe (Modern Dance Festival http://www.modafe.org/) contacted me and requested for recommending visual artists who can make the art project with modern dancers. So, I showed the images you handed in and they want to co-work with you.
The title of the festival is “Embracing the city of Seoul 2009” and the project you can participate is “COMP International Residence Program(May 7-30, 2009).” Modafe can provide you as follows:

Accommodation: Studio at Kookmin University from May 1 to May 17, 2009
Open Showcase: On May 30, you can participate in the showcase at Total Museum and be given an artist fee after the showcase.

In advance of starting Changdong residency program, could you come to Korea earlier than May 5?

You can stay at the studio of Modafe till May 17 and after then stay at Changdong Art Studio as the original schedule.
Here I attached the files on Modafe program for your information.
If it is possible to join this festival, please kindly let me know so that I can inform Modafe of it.
Best regards,

Yunjung
Just quietly, I almost wet myself because I was already freaking out about leaving so soon to work for three months on a peice I haven’t had time to think about, let alone plan.  And here I was being asked to create a work in three weeks and perfom at the end of May.  Obviously, I wrote back and said I would be delighted. Oh, and by the way, what exactly was I expected to do – be a visual artist (ahem) or dance?

Hello Jeremy,

I am very happy to hear from you. That sounds great!
Through collaborating with other artists during residency, this project will proceed to the open showcase (May 30,2009).
In the morning you will have research on culture and in the afternoon you will exchange ideas and have a discussion with other artists May 8-29.
Modafe has a big picture on this project but I think the performance depends on the participating artists.

May

  • Culture Research
  • Art Laboratory in the Studio at Seoul Foundation for Arts and Culture
  • Workshop
  • Guerrilla Concert at Kookmin Univ.
  • Artist Presentation at Kookmin Univ.
  • Open Showcase at Total Museum of Contemporary Art

Morning Session: In this session, artists learn more about Seoul looking around the city. 2 people per group.
Afternoon Session: In this session, artists develop ideas by exchanging thoughts and research on the city with other artists in Art Laboratory for the showcase.

Do you have a cell phone? It’s good for you to contact the program director of Modafe, isn’t it?
For more information, I am sending the revised version of the program from Modafe.
Cheers,
Yunjung
I promptly read the information pack. I am credited in it as a ‘Dancer and Performer’.  That allayed my fears of being branded a visual artist. Also, it seems that my job at this festival will consist of field trips to learn traditional dance, drumming and culture, visiting museums, jimjjilbungs (Korean spas), roaming the markets, eating at attractive cafes, going on bush walks and discovering the ‘hidden’ aspects of life in Seoul.  That’s in the morning. Then, in the afternoon I sit with 9 other artists from around the world, talk about the experience, discuss how we can explore it artistically, and rehearse a piece for a workshop showcase at the festival on the 30th of May.  This is my daily schedule for more than three weeks.
And I will get paid.
Honestly, I’m not sure I will be able to handle it.

The Sandwiches of Happiness…

May 22, 2007 § Leave a comment

Yesterday, we found a small, 10 X 10 metre patch of Paddington, Red Hill or New Farm tucked away on a tree-lined street that seems far, far away from Seoul. This particular patch was in the shape of a tiny French Patisserie, with a tiny French Chef, and the most amazing sandwiched served on freshly baked ciabatta. He had vegetarian, I had tender beef. We both had coffee.

I almost cried.

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