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Art of Tourism/ 관광의 기술

I had an opportunity to present at The Creators Project in Seoul this September. It was soon after I completed the Roadshow: South Korea, and wanted to share about the experience with others. The slides are made with Prezi, it may be difficult to navigate at first, just press next button and it will take you to the meat. The presentation starts off as an artist talk and leads to Roadshow experience.

이 자료는 로드쇼:대한민국을 진행하고 나서 만든 발표입니다. ‘관광의 기술’이라는 제목으로 참여적인 방법을 통해서 도시화 리서치를 진행한 방법에 대해서 설명했습니다. 발표는 프레지라는 플래시 사이트로 만들었는데, 줌인/줌아웃을 하셔서 보실수 있습니다.

Korean rivers

In the summer of 2011, I organized a tour to South Korean rivers in development with a group of six artists who are fellows at Eyebeam Art and Technology Center in New York, including myself, and about ten artists and activists from South Korea. The tour was designed in collaboration with an activist groups “Listen to the city” and lead by environmental activists and local communities. The purpose of the tour was to experience urbanization and river development in first hand and to initiate creative dialogue between international artists and activists to imagine alternative future of our relationship to the cities and natural resources. Through 6 day tour and other events that proceeded over the course of 10 days, I’ve learned a great deal about the issue, strategies of participation and the limits of translating cultural context. The following document in multiple media will follow the journey, topical issues raised during the tour and personal interests and memories. The document is an artistic research in a sense that the its purpose is not purely political or academic, but artistic in search of creative thought and conversations.

1. The project is a large scale construction in South Korean rivers; dredging the riverbeds, constructing multipurpose dams to control flood and drought and to create recreational public spaces in under developed rural areas. It began in 2008 when the president Lee Myung-bak came into office with an intention to initiate project. When he met with strong opposition from the public, he made an address to the nation to cancel the canal project, but devised an environmentally friendly development project to restore the rivers damaged by industrialization over the past century.

2. The project promises sophisticated water control through out the Korean peninsular and also environmentally friendly restoration of the ecosystem. The immediate benefactors of the project are the large corporations and construction companies, local economies influenced by urbanization, real estate values of the neighboring villages. The economic advantage of the project has been highly advocated and promised.

3. The project is expected to have consequences and impact on environmental conditions in short term and long term. On the realm of public policies, critics point out the use of tax for construction project, not a social welfare and displacement of local residents. Some academics agree with the intention of building advanced water control and restoring damaged rivers, however do not agree with the specific method of constructions applied in the rivers.

4. The problem is the speed at which this project is conducted, with limited time for research and pursing agreement from the citizens whose lives are directly affected by the project. Also a new kind of urbanism is created in grand scale without tests. There is fear of the unknown factors between man and nature that such projects may lead into.

The task of this research is to understand following topics. Firstly, how can we understand such a mega urban developments like this project with highly technical factors as a citizen with a limited amount of resource or expertise? Or to phrase it differently, how to make use of the understanding one can have about such issue, the understanding that is not so much technical as first hand anecdotes, shared narrative, interpretation of media representation of the issue, and artistic imagination and collaboration? The second is that the project like this is inherently a political. There is a large aspect of it that is the state’s uneven regional development and ‘Green washing’ of development scheme into an environmental clean up, sustainable project. How to understand a political event without siding to a criticism or propaganda? And lastly is finding ways to speak of these complex projects in a (text, visual, or participatory performance) language that will interest others who are not necessarily invested in this issue. And also to speak in a manner that does not force specific agenda because we are trying to avoid creating another propaganda or criticism without proper explanation and purpose. Therefore the largest task of this research is to understand and explain a complex project with many faucets. We went on journey, conducted interviews, created exhibitions and performances and engaged in conversations with locals and activists of different opinions to understand the issue. The second phase of the research, task of explanation will take on varied form of medium and strategy just like the first part.

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