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Respect, Modesty and the Way it is: The 5th Anyang Public Art Project

Respect, Modesty and the Way it is: The 5th Anyang Public Art Project

Scheduled to take place over two months, the 5th Anyang Public Art Project (APAP 5) finally opened on 15 October following a period of great anticipation felt by its public admirers. Held every two or three years, following its inauguration in 2005, the APAP announced its formal relaunch as the only public art triennale in Korea. The subject of APAP 5, which will be remembered as a significant turning point in the triennale’s evolution, is also ‘APAP 5’, the title of this event. This reflects the intentions of organisers, who have sought to better understand the role of public art through an open-minded attitude, freeing it from ties to any specific theme. It is interesting to observe the ways in which the Artistic Director Eungie Joo, who has worked for many years as a curator in the USA, managed to establish the identity of APAP 5 so as to appeal to the public. 

reported by Harry Jun | materials provided by APAP 5 | photographed by Kim Jungwon (unless otherwise indicated)

Installation view of Choi Jeong Hwa’s The Gateless Gate and Christina Kim’s Rock Pillow Garden in the Anyang Pavilion

Anyang and APAP: The Story So Far

Located from 20km south of Seoul, Anyang City takes its name from the historic temple founded during the Goryeo Dynasty, Anyangsa. Anyang is the Buddhist concept of paradise and the religious utopia of the afterlife is used in the name of a real place. First developed in the 1930s, currently Anyang Art Park, the venue of APAP used to be a famous recreation area near Seoul for family picnics until the 1970s and 1980s. APAP 1 in 2005 and APAP 2 in 2007 saw the construction of a more monumental architecture, such as Alvaro Siza Vieira’s Anyang Pavilion and MVDRV’s Anyang Peak. APAP 3 in 2010 concentrated on community art and APAP 4 in 2013 developed an archiving methodology to summarize the previous APAP programmes, while APAP 5 has been upgraded to an international public art triennale this year.

The Attitude of APAP 5: Respect, Modesty and the Way it is

Twenty international artists, such as Danh Vo, Gabriel Sierra, and Chosil Kil, as well as three artist collectives such as the House of Natural Fiber (HONF) and Open Theater Me Meme, have been commissioned to create works for the APAP 5 in Anyang Art Park and in the downtown area. This project is also distinct from previous installations in that diversity has been emphasised by opening an intensive workshop with a dozen artists, scientists, and DJs (HONF, Anyang Public Laboratory/APL), showing movies officially in a multiplex cinema (Im Heungsoon’s Ryeohaeng, Park Chan-kyong’s Anyang, Paradise City), and organizing events in event spaces (Open Theater Me Meme’s 1st Anyang Video Art Festival). Art in the Shops, held across twenty shops in the Anyang Art Park, introduced 22 artists from across the generations who have worked in and around Anyang. The platform provided by APAP 5 has managed to cover a wide range of artists, works, and places. Highlighting the virtue of the process of selecting artists and encouraging collaboration seems worthy of our recognition. Park Jaeyong (curator, APAP 5) explains: ‘We paid attention to a kind of attitude. Artists have to study places for their installation, they have to observe people, and show their respect and modesty towards the audience. I don’t think that art itself is great enough to enlighten people. I believe that people can understand art to a greater degree when artists approach them tenatively and have a conversation with people – it is as if they don’t try to adorn themselves or explain their works in an easier way’. Such an attitude has been put together not only by visitors but also by the whole of APAP 5, APAP was participated in by some 140 works, including about 40 large installations over the past eleven years. Visitors already have enough choice in public art to enjoy, even if new works leveled at APAP 5 have not been installed here: ‘It is impossible to ‘erase’ the previous ones. It is crucial to show what is possible now’. APAP 5 managed to make full use of earlier works. Choi Jeong Hwa made The Gateless Gate, a vintage storage closet for the archive library of the Anyang Pavilion out of moulded timbers from a construction site and an abandoned mother-of-pearl cabinet; Byron Kim put a huge 3 – 4m long flag on the flagpole of Anyang Peak on the top of Samsung mountain in his Sky Blue Flag (Anyang); Gabriel Sierra restored ruins found in the mountain region by giving them his own shape in his Untitled (to influence reality). When Kim Jinjoo’s Yiso was partially damaged, the attitude of ‘the way it is’ was dramatically expressed in the decision whether to leave or restore it.

The Power of an Artistic Director and Curators

The virtue of respect was a demand felt in equal part from the organisers as well as the artists. They decided to adapt APAP 5 to the conditions instead of following the convention of completing all the works before the opening. Therefore, some artists who couldn’t afford to finish their works were excluded from the participants’ list. In the beginning, they even announced that Chosil Kil’s Untitled (X-Games Park, Anyang), Danh Vo’s Playscape for Anyang, and SUPERFLEX’s APAP Welcome Center couldn’t meet the deadline. Especially, the APAP Welcome Center, which is to devise a new building through a workshop that will separate the Anyang Pavilion face-by-face and borrow elements from various installations of the previous APAP, has been scheduled to start in late 2017. I guess the first mission of the APAP 6 artistic director will be to finish this project in a neat fashion. This may provide a model for APAP 5 and APAP 6 to coexist on a continuous timeline, rather than to be separated by an interval of three years. Admitting that APAP 5 is not to hold an exhibition in a tightly organised place or to assign individual roles to artists under a specific subject, we have rarely seen this kind of curatorial attempt made in Korea. The decisions of the curatorial team, led by artistic director Eungie Joo, will be quite crucial here. Let’s take the example of Paradise City, in which Bona Park presents a regular daily showing of movie clips of four amateur musicians in Anyang, displayed on an advertising screen on the platform of Anyang Station, and Lisa Sigal’s Anyang Pools: Fifty Meters of Civic History which made 50m long area painted in blue on the former site of swimming pool which is now privately owned. While public art projects in Korea have usually asked landowners to grant free access, the organiser of APAP proudly paid to get permission. When public art is defined as art for the public, which takes place within a public place, it doesn’t only mean taking place on publicly-owned land. Therefore, they secured the place by paying costs to use privatelyowned land, as it is a significant public space. It must have been down to the artistic director’s endurance, playing a crucial role in carrying through such sensitive procedures, which can be problematic in an event funded by the taxpayer. Their attempt created a precedent which will have a positive influence on many public events, including the next APAP.

A Window Through Which to Show the Present Situation of Public Art

Nicholas Baume, a world famous specialist in public art and the director of the Public Art Fund noted that ‘Public art is a force to connect people and art, and everyday life and art’ in his lecture when visiting Korea last October. Most particularly, he emphasised the notion that artistic value and popularity aren’t always mutually exclusive, adding ‘A work can’t survive as an art if it fails to appeal to people in an attractive way. An artist has to be open-minded in order to prepare a work in public space shared by many people’. This has something subtly in concordance with the goal of APAP 5. For example, it is a natural attitude of the people, to act with modesty and respect. His sense that public art can help people enhance sensitivity, imagination, and culture in their lives makes us guess that APAP must have had positive influence on the citizens of Anyang City in some significant ways since 2005. However, it has been held only five times so far, over ten years. Considering that it took decades at least for many famous art events in the world to settle down, APAP still requires more attention and consideration. It might be too early to expect that APAP, which has been reborn as a public art triennale, would evolve into international art event leading the trend in public art step-by-step instantaneously. If it can continue its progress, with a newer and more boundless attitude while public art is not yet clearly defined, this may turn out to be more than just a dream.

Lisa Sigal, Anyang Pools: Fifty Meters of Civic History, 2016

Bona Park, Paradise City, 2016

Adrian Villar Rojas, From the series Brick Farm, 2016

Park Chan-kyong, Anyang, Paradise City, 2010/2016

Byron Kim, Sky Blue Flag (Anyang), 2016 ©Joo Yongsung

tag.  APAP5 , The 5th Anyang Public Art Project
no.589 (2016.December) 
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