Saturday 18 July.
I think the activity of the previous two days, combined with the time difference, has finally caught up with me. After a slow start to the day I consult the helpful tourist information people in Insadong how best to get to Gyeongju from Seoul. It’s the KTX to East Daegu station, with a connecting train to Gyeongju, taking three hours in total.
Daegu. That suggests a change of plan. If I’m going through Daegu, and if Haeinsa, home of the Tripitaka Koreana, is only one hour away from Daegu on a bus, then this is an opportunity not to be missed. So I hastily rearrange plans with my local friends so that Monday is Haeinsa day and Sunday is Bulguksa day. More hanging out back at the Fraser Suites, and soon it’s time for a late lunch.
I feel like some comforting dumplings, and I was sure I had seen a dumpling place somewhere in the vicinity of Insadong, but I couldn’t find it. So I went into the most unassuming place I could find in a back street and asked “mandu issoyo?”. But the answer was “mandu obsoyo” (my basic Korean lessons at the Korean Cultural Centre were paying off). I settled for a potato pancake with the obligatory side dishes, watching a cheap Korean soap on TV.
Calling in at the tourist information place again I ask how best to buy a train ticket. “At Seoul station, or on the internet”. Yes, and I bet on the internet, you’ll need to input a national ID number, so I opt for the face-to-face approach. More hanging out back at the hotel (still adjusting to the time zone), and then I think I ought to buy my train ticket at Seoul station. Very easy (the ticket person speaks good English). I buy the Korea Times, get a double shot of Expresso to fortify myself, and head back to Insadong to regroup for the opening of the new exhibition in the Kilburn Art Space in Kahoidong, which is part of the Bukchon Hanok Village, on the hill between the royal palaces.
The event is the opening of the Kilburn Art Space’s summer exhibition entitled Textura: Contextual Art, featuring works that evoke a visual response through texture:
Mud walls, stone base, papered doors, smooth tiles, and patinated wood – the space of a hanok is woven from the individual textures of its structural elements. The composure of a hanok goes beyond its balanced construction into the realm of every day tactile experience and visual harmony.
This exhibition explores the dynamism of art in conversation with the audiences and space of the gallery. The textures of natural fibers, stockings and acrylics on canvas, and the synthesis of text, image and sound, lead to a unique interpretation of contemporary art and traditional aesthetics that are re-contextualized.
The texture of the works in this exhibition are represented by a wide range of media including intaglio, handmade Korean paper, mixed media on canvas, and animation by emerging international artists from Macedonia, New York City, and Seoul: Ivanco Talevski, Aimee Lee, EunSeong Choi and Bum Lee.
It’s both windy and raining, and the stroll north isn’t pleasant, but the candle-lit hanok where Kim Ki-duk filmed 3 Iron is very welcoming. The wind dies down, and the sultry latin tones of the music chimed well with the sultry weather. The music was magical, as was the setting. The other-worldy voice of the pansori singer worked well with a flamenco-style accompaniment; as did the minor-key fanstasia on Arirang for solo guitar. It was all over too quickly. But with a cup of chilled tea we then had an opportunity to look around the hanok to see the works on display and view Bum Lee’s video.
The exhibition lasts until 16 August.
After finding a barbeque place near Jonggak Station, one samgyopsal and a bottle of soju later (while watching a cheap Korean games show on the TV), everything was even better with the world. I retire to Insadong to prepare for the journey to Gyeongju the next day.
Index of the 2009 Travel Diary:
- 1: Arrival
- 2: Suwon and Prince Sado’s tomb
- 3: 20th century art and history
- 3a: Interview with Gen Paik Sun-yup
- => 4: Recuperation and the Kilburn Art Space
- 5: Bulguksa and Seokkuram
- 6: Haeinsa
- 7: Korea House
- 8: Galleries old and new
- 8a: Interview with Brother Anthony of Taizé
- 9: Hails and farewells
- 10: Reflections