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International artists reimagine Seoul’s urban history

Seoul Art Space Geumcheon was a printing factory before it was renovated and reopened as an international residency studio (Photo Courtesy of Seoul Art Space Geumcheon).  

The latest exhibition at Seoul Art Space Geumcheon will offer visitors fresh perspectives on Seoul’s past and future.

Described as an urban issues research exhibition, “Reflections of an Outsider on ‘Outsiders’” is a collection of works by eight artists from Japan, Indonesia, Australia, Spain, and Korea, who spent three months in residence at Seoul Art Space Geumcheon. The purpose behind the exhibition, which will open on November 30, is to provide an analysis of the social and cultural dynamics that have shaped Seoul and reinterpret the city’s multifaceted legacy.

From wartime political epicenter to industrial hub, Seoul has seen continuous transformation, including large-scale urban renewal initiatives that moved the city center from Gangbuk to Gangnam and turned the Han River into a symbol of ecological and economic reinvention. Moreover, the recent influx of foreign laborers, expatriates, and tourists has added new elements to Seoul’s cultural environment. Developments such as these are the objects of the Geumcheon artists’ collective attention and creative scrutiny.

A still image of Australian Artist Ash Keating's installation piece "Zi Namsan+" (Left) and an old image of the Han River from "In Search of the Han River" (Right) (Photos Courtesy of Seoul Art Space Geumcheon)

“In Search of the Han River,” by a Korean artist who goes by the name of “Listen to the City,” traces the development of the Han River from the 1960s to the present. The interactive display invites visitors to rediscover the river’s great value and take part in its preservation. Ash Keating, from Australia, uses still images to introduce “Zi-Namsan,” the installation piece he had set up at the construction site for the National Museum of Contemporary Art, which considered the effects of roadside advertisements on pedestrians. Julia Sarisetiati, from Indonesia, projects amateur video content produced by Indonesian migrants onto the walls of a virtual passageway. These digital murals provide rare glimpses into these workers’ daily lives, encouraging discussion on the issues they face.

Seoul Art Space Geumcheon got its start in 2007 as part of the Seoul Art Space program, headed by the Seoul Foundation for Arts and Culture as part of the Seoul Metropolitan Government’s “culturenomics” policy. This program renovates old factory buildings, empty government offices, outdated underground shopping centers, and other unused spaces, transforming them into art centers and cultural landmarks for communities that often have limited access to such programs. To date, ten such centers have been opened in different neighborhoods throughout Seoul. The program also provides funding and support for local and international artists, along with lectures, workshops and other interactive programs for members of the community.

Visitors touring the studio of a Geumcheon artist (left), and a previous exhibit at the Seoul Art Space Geumcheon (right) (Photos courtesy of Seoul Art Space Geumcheon)

Prior to remodeling, Seoul Art Space Geumcheon in the Geumcheon district was a printing factory. It reopened as an international residency studio and currently houses twelve teams of in-residence artists. Through exchange programs with similar residency studios in cities such as New York, Yokohama, and Barcelona, Seoul Art Space Geumcheon has become a key site for international collaboration among artists.

More information about the Seoul Art Space program and Seoul Art Space Geumcheon can be found at (Korean, English).

Kwon Jungyun Staff Writer

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