Monday, June 9, 2008

[Regina Walton`s Expat Interviews] Kolinka`s art lights up Seoul

When asked to describe his art, Parisian artist Alexandre Kolinka said it`s "immersive and interactive video art." Kolinka explains that he got his start as a video performance artist. "I`m coming from parties and real-time creations, so what I`m used to is a lot of real-time creations. What I`m doing now is video installations that stay longer in time, so that people can enjoy them longer. But I still want to bring my past experience from parties and make these (new) kinds of installations exciting."

His experience includes exhibits from Paris to Monaco, Oman, Beijing and now Seoul.

The art he`s doing now is new because he has struck out on his own. He`s going from creating designs in front of the public to events where images last longer than six hours. When he heard that Seoul City was seeking an artist to light up Seoul Tower he jumped on a flight to take pictures of the city, Seoul Tower and Namsan Park.

He did this because, he admits, in Paris when people think about Seoul, they think mobile phones and computers but they don`t know much about the city or its culture.

Kolinka says when government officials heard he had come here on his own to research the project, "they were completely crazy because they didn`t invite me, so they wanted to know more about me."

He got to meet with them and to learn more specifics about what they were expecting. He made a few sketches and computer designs of what he wanted to do. Based on those discussions, they gave him the okay to compete for the project.

One week later Kolinka was told he had been chosen to do the project.

He said he was very surprised because he was competing against some very big Korean companies, like Samsung and LG, but he believed that he had the best project. His concept was to have video of fire on the tower. Because he was not Korean, he had to work closely with a Korean company to help him with details when he did the project.

Kolinka believes that Korea is growing in terms of appreciation of art - and that involves compromise. The city officials wanted certain symbols that Koreans like to use when promoting tourism to Korea, like images of the four seasons. He realized that the city government wanted something to market Seoul while he wanted something more artistic. To that end, he was able to incorporate aspects of both into the project.

Currently, Kolinka said he is working on two other projects that will be bigger than the Namsan Park installation. Because Namdaemun had been burnt down at the time we spoke, he realized there was a heighten sensitivity to fire imagery. But Kolinka said he would like to do electronic fire again "because I think this kind of immersive video installation is really cool."

He is currently scouting out possible locations in Korea for his work and is planning China and Kazakhstan trips. "I`m moving on my own trying to meet city officials of big cities around the world."

When asked if he had any Korean exhibits scheduled, he said that he`s working on a big video project slated for sometime this year with his Korean producer.

Kolinka believes that the art scene in Korea is still developing. "I was here for two months making my installation and not once was I invited to gallery openings or other artistic events. I made my own moves to see various galleries and they`re just really quite young, I think. We have Korean artists abroad right now. In France, we have Lee Bul who is an amazing artist, but if you talk about Korean artists, we talk about Paik Nam-Jun from the 80s. Right now the most dynamic artists from Asia are coming from China.

"Koreans right now are stronger in electronic designs, video games and animation. Maybe I`m wrong, but Korea is really young ... now they have the time and money to think about art. You can feel it here. It`s exciting. There are so many young people - seems like there are young guys and girls running around," Kolinka said.

His assessment makes sense considering that Korea has been primarily concerned with economic development. Now that they`ve reached a certain economic level, Koreans have become more concerned with the arts.

When asked to sum up his feelings on working in Korea he said, "I`m really happy to be in Korea. I love Korea. It`s not easy, but I`m pleased to be here because there is a lot of energy here."

For more information on the Namsan Project see

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