Sunday, August 15, 2004

The Return of the Sea Goddess

This performance was about marine environmental awareness.
It was performed on beachfronts in Busan, Korea in the summer of 2004, including the Busan Sea Festival at Gwanganli Beach.

In the performance the artist embodies a modern update of the archetypal Sea Goddess. However her basket of bountiful gifts from the sea, has become a collection of plastic litter, cigarette butts and dead fish, thanks to the thoughtless consumerism of modern urban citizens.

The sea goddess walks around the beachfront offering her bounty to passersby.

The performance required up to 5 hours of body painting, which was carried out by the staff and students of the Beauty Department at Dongju College, Busan.

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Performance Art by Penelope Thompson - The Beautiful Changwon Tree

In April 2004, I was invited to set up an installation and performance for the Beautiful Changwon Festival in Sungsan Art Hall.
After pondering on how I could express the beauty of a Korean city such as Changwon, ( a modern, planned city in the southern part of Korea, set up to house provincial government departments) I concluded that the true beauty of a city lies in the hearts of the people who live there. After all what is a city without people? - just a bunch of concrete buildings and roads. Seeing as the exhibition would be held in springtime and the the beginning of the cherry blossom season, my idea was to create a kind of wishing tree.

I found a large section of bare cherry tree that had been pruned off in the winter. I then set about making paper leaves and flowers which could be tied onto the bare branches. I wanted people to be able to write messages on them about what they could do to make the world a more beautiful place. It took me a long time to cut hundreds of leaves , punch holes in them, and attach twist ties to every one.

Finally the bare tree was moved from my studio space in Busan to the Sungsan Art Hall in Changwon (about a 2 hour drive). I was lucky enough to find a student with a van just big enough to fit the tree!
The tree was installed in the foyer of the Art Hall and a ceremony was conducted to start the event. I had a Korean friend translate my words. When the public were invited to write their "beautiful" messages and add them to the tree, the response was overwhelming. I nearly got trampled in the rush!

People of all ages took part in this community event which remained installed in the Art Hall for 10 days during the community art exhibition. By the end of the period the tree had come to life, with literally hundreds of leaves and flowers all bearing positive messages.

Saturday, February 21, 2004

Performance art by Penelope Thompson "Portrait of a foreign artist in Korea" Feb 2004

This was my first performance/installation in Korea, at the Sungsan Art Hall, Changwon. I was invited by a group of artists calling themselves 'Reflective Light' to do the opening performance for the exhibition. I chose to do a performance that reflected exactly where I was at in my life in Korea at that point in time - ie. an artist unhappily employed as an English teacher at a very repressive university! Hence the title - "Portrait of a foreign artist in Korea".

The installation consisted of two sides of a room - one side containing objects symbolising my creative life - colorful clothes, musical instruments, paints, brushes, sketchbooks, notebooks etc. The other side represented my sterile life as a professionally image-conscious university English tutor - briefcase, black suit, mirror and an iron & ironing board.
You can watch the short video of the performance. It may take some time to download.

Portrait of a foreign artist in Korea

The performance started with me zipped up inside a suitcase along with an alarm clock. When the alarm rang I emerged, made a brief visit to the "creative" side of my room and played some flute music.Then as the alarm rang again I reluctantly crossed to the other side to iron my work clothes.

After preparing for "work" I presented an impromptu English lesson to the Korean audience - the topic was "time is money".
I pasted a 10,000 won note to the wall, making a visual equation out of the clock, an equals sign and the paper money.

After I succeeded in getting the audience to chant "time is money", I concluded the lesson.

Upon returning to the "creative" side I grabbed a pot of red paint and a brush and painted over the equation on the wall. There were gasps of shock from the audience as covered even the 10,000 won note in red paint! I then painted graffiti on the white wall of the gallery "ART IS LIFE!".

This was the beginning of my active art career in Korea, and within 2 weeks I had quit my dead-end job and found a position that was supportive of my art activities. Art does make a difference.