Seoul Urban art Project is a contemporary urban art movement, based in Seoul. They released their first episode ‘A Hyun Dong’ a few weeks ago. We had an interview with Jamie Bruno, artist and member of Seoul Urban art Project.
Please introduce yourself to our readers.
I’m originally an oil painter. In 2008 I began incorporating string as a main drawing material and employing space, the location/environment around me, as a frame for my work. At the time I didn’t want to make an art that could be used as propaganda, or an art that could be bought or sold. Much of my work since then has been ephemeral, though I still make paintings and drawings.The spring after I arrived to Korea I began working with a group called 칼mont (Kalmont) Family; basically an international group of friends, photographers and artists who originally shared an interest in hanging out and making work in an evicted, redevelopment zone in Geumho-dong, Seoul. We held a month long exhibition, Cadavre Exquis, at a community art center called Space Beam in Incheon and later we organized street art parties. The street art parties, Rock, Scissors, Paper and Fold Dead were a collaboration between the 칼mont Family, and the xoxo kids organized under the Sogang Bridge, looking out at the Han River.
The Spring of 2009, my partner, street artist LNY and I met and made friends with artist Junkhouse; now a well known Seoul-native artist and painter. The three of us worked together making paintings on the walls of a massive cliff of houses in Geumho-dong, while the demolition was half-way complete. This is the root that led to my involvement in SUP.
What is SUP and how did the project started?
SUP is a group made up of various artists: street & graffiti artists, painters, illustrators, film makers and photographers. We began working together in December. Junkhouse invited about 13 of us to make work in a redevelopment zone/eviction zone in Buk Ahyun-dong. Our first location was an old evicted apartment complex, the Samik Apartments; half of which was torn down before we could begin.
Though working with eviction zones is an interest of all the members, it is not the primary goal of the SUP group. But there was a lot of enthusiasm; Seoul has been rapidly developed over the past 50 years. All its residents have been touched by this in one way or another. There are very well known poems and songs that allude to this experience and a great deal of contemporary Korean artists whose work is in some way informed by this situation.
How did you start collaborating with SUP? I noticed both Koreans and foreigners are involved in this project.
SUP has a core group of artists and photographers; a total of 14 people including two non-natives. At the time of Junkhouse’s invitation to work in Buk Ahyun-dong, several of us already knew each other. And because Junky and I had already worked together in the Geumho-dong redevelopment area, it was quite natural. SUP both invites artists and is open to working with people who are interested. So contact us. Hit us up. Feel free.
How do you and the other artists feel about creating ephemeral art; knowing it’s going to disappear one day. I read on the SUP Facebook Page that some places have already been demolished.
A large part of any kind of street art is recording: video, photography, sound. Although a material work is temporary, there is a record of its process and presence and environment. I feel very positively about this. The works have a life; a life that becomes digital, immaterial, and in that sense immortal and replicable.
In terms of working within these spaces of eviction… The neighborhoods are forced through financial agreements, compensation packages, and can even be pressured by paid gangs to leave their communities. Sometimes the community gets a really great deal and people make a decent amount of money through organizing and negotiation. Often people aren’t so lucky or successful in the process. Once the neighborhood empties all that is left are the streets, apartments, and a large material record of the communities life.
When I visit these spaces I feel like I’m visiting a massive contemporary monument. These spaces are crystallized pieces of personal and familial history. There is a tension between the security of habitation and the instability of eviction and demolition. They are mysterious spaces, made strange and abject by the construction workers and young kids who might defecate, smoke or drink inside them. All windows are broken to prepare for demolition. They are spaces that are close to death; on the verge of not existing. So being with them, making work within them, is a very special experience.
Do you or any of the other artists return to these places?
Many artists, including myself do at some point return to places where we’ve worked in the past. Many old residents also return to locations where their homes had been, to find new high rises or shopping malls and try to imagine the space as it was with the space as it’s become. A film that comes to mind that records an aspect of this is ‘New Seoul Cartographies‘ directed by Maya Weimer. And I’m sure there are many others.
What is the first episode ‘Buk A Hyun Dong’ about. For how long did SUP work in this area?
Buk Ahyun-dong consisted of three project locations; the Samik Apartments, the church, and an undefinable area very close to complete demolition. The Samik Apartment project was SUP’s first and at that point we didn’t have a name. Episode 1, made by film maker & director TJ Choe, primarily documents the work in the church. The church was a strange location, crosses, pews, huge photo albums and donation records: all discarded and abandoned. We worked there through winter and mostly on Sundays due to the larger police presence during the week.
Is SUP also considering or already working in permanent places?
SUP has also been working outside of redevelopment zones. People can easily see some street work very very soon. We have a few projects planned for the spring and summer. This month SUP is planning works all around the Itaewon area, including around Haebangchon, Kyungridan, and some small parts of Hannam-dong and south of Itaewon station towards Bokwang-dong (mosque area).
The SUP Facebook Page will announce the project and our website will post each works location on a map. I’m looking foward to this. We’re going hard in my neighborhood! Pretty excited. Spring has sprung.