Tuesday, December 19, 2006

ONE ART STREET - "Here & Now" performance by Penelope Thompson

Today I did a performance for the opening of the ONE ART STREET exhibition at the Baeksan Memorial Hall in Jungangdong, Busan.This was a mixed exhibition from both local Korean and foreign artists - including photography, sculpture, painting, performance etc. - on show until Dec 28, 2006.

The area around the exhibition site was historically the real hub of art activities in Busan. It was known in earlier days as 'Art Street' and local artists want to see it happening again, to counteract the big shift of artistic happenings to the wealthy Haeundae area. My performance was called "Here & Now (TEAROOM no. 1)" and was a symbolic ceremony to celebrate the rebirth of the art scene in the area.

My performance was also a reaction to the Busan Biennale which finished recently, with the theme of art "everywhere" and CAFE (contemporary art for everyone). I wanted to show art as being "here & now" made by local artists and accessible to local people - and in the format of a traditional Korean tearoom, not a westernised notion of a cafe.

In the performance the artist rolled a circular black table (symbolizing "now") until it intersected with a square black box (symbolizing "here").

At the meeting point of "here and now", the artist performed a symbolic , ritual tea ceremony - concocting a multicultural and fragrant blend of tea and spices.

The spices were labelled (in Korean and English) as "courage","passion", "persistence', "self-belief" and "patience" -representing the qualities that artists need to make art. This was also relevant to the exhibition venue being the Memorial Hall for the Busan citizens' resistance against the Japanese colonial forces during the first part of the 20th century.

The tea was prepared in a teapot marked with an infinity sign, symbolizing the infinite power of human creativity and the infinite power of the "now" moment. The tea was called "infinitea".The audience members were all invited to drink some "infinitea" and thus share in the special energy of the moment.
Watch a short video of the performance:
Here & Now- TEAROOM No1- performance art by Penelope Thompson

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Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Sori WOMAD festival 2006

In September, I was invited to perform at the Sori Fringe Festival in Jeonju, Korea. This is an annual festival of "sound" focusing on Korean traditional musical forms, held at the very large Sori Arts centre complex. This year it was combined with the famous international world music festival WOMAD , for a really international flavour.

There were artists from many other countries including Africa, India, China, Japan etc. It was rare opportunity to hear top class African music in Korea, but very few foreigners seemed to find their way there.

The festival ran for 10 days and featured some top artists from Australia such as Archy Roach and Ruby Hunter (who I unfortunately missed seeing as I was scheduled for the following weekend!)

My performance was called "The Great Australian Tea Ceremony" - an Australian cultural performance with Aussie songs and stories while the billy boiled. MBC TV filmed the whole of the first performance so I guess I was on Korean TV sometime!

I played "Waltzing Matilda" on the harmonica, and through a translator explained the story of the song.

Then I played a variety of Australian folk songs, including an Aboriginal song accompanied by clapsticks, and "Tie me kangaroo down sport", and especially for the children - "Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree"!

The audience was made up of mostly families and children so they enjoyed getting to try the Australian "billy" tea, which is black tea and different from the Korean green tea they usually drink. We had to make do with inported McVitie's Digestive biscuits with the tea this time. Next time I'll have to make some "Anzac biscuits" (that's if I can buy oatmeal in Korea!)

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

BFAA International Video, Installation and Performance exhibition

This was the 3rd time I had participated in Busan Fine Arts Association's annual international exhibition.
This year it was held in the Gallery space of Busan Citizen's Hall in Beomildong.

There were works by artists from Korea, Japan, Australia, and France, including installation, video and performance.

I showed my "Book of Bright Ideas" installation before it went off to Australia for another exhibition at the Noosa Regional Gallery.

It was made from a hard cover book, with a string of pulsating electric lights inserted between the hollowed out pages.

You can see a video of my "Book of Bright Ideas" in July's blog entry and a full description.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Goryeong International Performance Art Festival

Goryeong International Performance Art Festival was held on August 12 & 13, 2006 at a disused elementary school in the small town of Goryeong, west of Daegu. In Korea many small country schools have closed due to the shrinking population and the trend towards urban living. The Korean government has allocated funds for the schools to be turned into community art centres or villages.

The festival included invited artists from four contries - Korea, Japan, Spain and Australia.The styles of performance were diverse. Some of the other artists are shown below:
Yasuo Fukurozaka, Japan
Shim, Hongjae, Korea
Yun, Myeong guk, Korea
Valentin Torrens, Spain

My performance was called "The Elements",
referring to fire, water, earth and air.

I commenced by laying out sheets of calligraphy paper
on the grass beneath an old pine tree.
I then performed actions to connect with the elements -
filling a bowl with water and aerated it with my breath,
digging the earth, and lighting a candle.

I painted designs on the paper with the water

relating to the 4 elements.

I set fire to the paper which burned away ,

leaving only the wet elemental designs on the grass.

Finally, I blew out the candle

and poured the water over my body.

Below is a video of my performance "The Elements":

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Jejudo Installation Art Festival (JIAF) 2006

I was invited to take part in the annual Jeju Island
International Installation Art Festival which opened on August 5, 2006. The site for the festival was a public park located in the sports stadium complex in Jeju City.

I made 2 installations for the festival, both using trees in the park as support.

The first installation
is called"Raintrees",

and the second is "Dreamweaver".

The materials used for "Dreamweaver" were sticky tape and plastic foodwrap, plus a few fallen leaves and a birdsnest I found on the grass beneath the trees. I wanted to make a really ephemeral looking piece to express the idea of images in the mind's eye.

In effect I was drawing or weaving with the plastic wrap on a background of sticky tape, and the shadows made by the afternoon sun added a third dimension to the work.

"Images constantly flow and change - a bird, a cloud, the wind, a fish are all connected. Dreams and reality are all the same in the mind's eye."

In "Raintrees" -

I wanted to express the feeling

of the heavy, cool raindrops

of the summer monsoon season.

Materials: Plastic, air and water

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Illusions -performance by Penelope Thompson at Madangkuk Festival, Mokpo, Korea

I was invited to Mokpo City, Jeolla province Korea, to take part in the Madangkuk Top Festival 2006, which is an annual festival of traditional Korean outdoor performance and music.

I was asked to do 2 performances - firstly, The Great Australian Tea Ceremony (see my earlier blogs for more photos and videos of previous performance) as part of the opening ceremony for the festival.

On the second night I performed a new piece called 'Illusions', which developed out of my earlier performance called "In & Out" at the JIPAF Festival in April 2006.

In this performance I wanted to express ideas about the modern industrialised way of life, which is based on the illusory concepts of separateness - from each other, and from nature.

The performance space was outdoors under the trees and I was again dressed in business-like attire with briefcase.
I used a roll of plastic cling wrap to create a separate, sterile space for myself between two trees.

Then, after a while,

like a spider caught in it's own web,

I struggled to be free of the restrictions of my own making, throwing away the contents of my briefcase and casting off my shoes so I could touch the earth.

Interestingly, the Korean children were only too happy to acquire the very things I was casting off, or even try to return them to me!

You can watch a short video of the performance here:

Sunday, July 23, 2006

The Book of Bright Ideas - installation

I just finished this work today. It is an 'artist's book' made for an annual exhibition of such books at the Noosa Gallery, Queensland, Australia.
The theme for this years exhibition is "10 + beyond", in reference to this year being the 10th anniversary of the artist's books exhibition.

So my book is called:
'The Book of Bright Ideas'
and this is an explanation of its inspiration:

"About 10 years ago when I was living in Adelaide, South Australia, I had a sudden vision of the swirling energy patterns of unmanifested ideas and forms beyond the blank pages of a notebook. Nowadays I live in Korea, and this book is my memory of that special experience".

The book is constructed out of a hardback book, and a string of 120 electric 'fairy' lights.

It was a big job to carefully glue 241 pages together and then install lights in cavities I cut out between the pages. (Especially when I was trying to get the glue to dry in the middle of the monsoon season!)

I wanted to express the idea of the spiritual inspiration and energy behind all creative work.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

JIPAF 2006 Performance "In & Out"

This performance was for the 2006 Jeonju International Performance Art Festival. The festival had a theme of "In & Out" which was explained as:-
"What does space mean?

We have closed space and open space

so then what is the basis of closed and open

and also what is the basis of closed space and open space?

We sometimes have a stereotype as "inside=closed, outside=opened"

Our ideas and actions may stem from this basis. However, there is no right definition of "in" and "out" in the power of arts.

How we can show the ideas about in and out through performance?"

In this performance the artist expresses ideas about the modern industrialised way of life, which is based on the illusory concepts of separation, restriction, and the value of private property and individual identity.

The artist is dressed in a black formal business suit with a briefcase. She removes small Ziploc plastic bags one by one from the briefcase and inflates one with each breath and seals it.
The inflated bags are progressively stacked up in an orderly pile on a table. Some slip off the table, and some blow away with the wind – this activity is ultimately meaningless and futile.

The artist then stops her production activity and bursts some of the bags.

She then removes some of her restrictive clothing and walks barefoot in the wet earth, drawing curved lines with her feet.

She then sings a song “Sometimes I feel like a Motherless Child” - a song originally sung by Negro slaves in America to express their separation and isolation.

The venue for this performance was a historical complex of traditional Korean buildings, called "Gaeksa", located in the centre of downtown Jeonju. Originally, the Gaeksa was built to house visiting government officials, and included a meeting hall as well as accommodation.