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.