By Peter Corbishley
Last Thursday and Friday 24-25th September an itinerant band of Pansori sellers displayed their wares at the Korean Cultural Centre (KCC) and the School of Advanced Study, University of London. The main event was Yonsei University’s (Institute of Media Art) Jeong Taeg Lim and Jung A Huh’s talk on ‘The Aesthetic modernity of the traditional Korean music drama “Pansori”’ as part of the joint Institute for Germanic and Romance Studies (IGRS) & Institute for Musical Research conference on ‘Opera, Exoticism and Visual Culture’ mistress-minded by another Korean, Dr Hyunseon Lee of IGRS. The hors d’oeuvre (almost literally as the main focus was on ‘bibimpap’ as a metaphor for fusion in Korean culture) on the previous evening at the KCC was rather meagre fare. Chunhyang’s hanbok, feisty personality and diet, (presuming she ate bibimpap), present, so it was asserted, a rich mix for Korean authors and an exemplar for Korean women. Yes, well! A bit more evidence or analysis would have been handy. But perhaps Korean practioners of ‘media art’ are not aware of the anthropological of the parallelisms between food, dress and societal attitudes found other cultures, including Britain.
The ‘Pansori’ performance was much more meaty fare with a very strong claim for the uniqueness of Korean Pansori vis-à-vis Western opera. Not all agreed on the uniqueness (including one Korean) but the talk was certainly to be valued for its description of the impromptu interplay between drummer, singer and audience characteristic of Pansori. Also on sale for academic participation by Professors (at Goldsmiths and elsewhere) was Yonsei University’s “Technology – Imagination – Future” Project – apparently ‘bibimpap’ also provides food for thoughts on the extensive use of mobile phones in South Korea. Is Nam June Paik turning in his grave?