Pow! Wow! bombs Seoul with pub­lic art

The Korea Times - - Public Art - By Ce­leste Kriel ce­[email protected]

When there is art, peo­ple come to­gether. They bring their fam­i­lies, they bring their chil­dren, they want to be around it, they take pho­tos. We fo­cus on pub­lic art, and make the whole process open to the peo­ple.

In the process we can also change peo­ple’s per­cep­tion of street art. ”

Con­tem­po­rary art ini­tia­tive Pow! Wow! re­turned to Seoul for its sec­ond year, bomb­ing the streets with art and beau­ti­fy­ing the ar­eas around Konkuk Univer­sity and Seongsu-dong in Seoul with mas­sive mul­ti­ple-story mu­rals and live pub­lic art in­stal­la­tions by top in­ter­na­tional and lo­cal artists cho­sen for their skill­ful artistry, com­mu­nity-driven sense of fun and de­sire to share their cre­ative process with the pub­lic.

Un­der the di­rec­tion of Andy Song, a free­lance cre­ative based in the U.S with a deep ap­pre­ci­a­tion for all artis­tic en­deav­ors, and who has been in­volved with the Korean edi­tion of the event since it was in­tro­duced here in 2017, he aims to trans­form ur­ban land­scapes us­ing the city walls as gi­gan­tic can­vases for painters to cre­ate their own mas­ter­pieces in their unique styles, and ex­pose the Seoul pub­lic to a wider range of cre­ative works, ac­cented by in­stal­la­tions by artists such as Spenser Lit­tle, who is world renowned for in­tri­cate wire art sculp­tures, us­ing only a sin­gle wire.

Cre­ated in 2011 by founder Jasper Wong, Pow! Wow! is a gath­er­ing of con­tem­po­rary artists en­gag­ing with the broader com­mu­nity to make the process of cre­at­ing art and mu­sic more pub­lic, and mak­ing art more ac­ces­si­ble to more peo­ple.

It has grown into a global net­work of artists and or­ga­nizes gallery shows, lec­ture se­ries, schools for art and mu­sic, mu­ral pro­jects, pub­lic in­stal­la­tion art, con­certs, and live art in­stal­la­tions ed­u­cat­ing young peo­ple in dif­fer­ent cre­ative pur­suits.

In keep­ing with the aim of ed­u­ca­tion, the fes­ti­val kicked off Satur­day Sept 21 with a cre­ative work­shop by LA-based in­ter­na­tional artist Joshua Vides — known for his black and white works that re­sem­ble 2d sketches — in col­lab­o­ra­tion with street wear brand Vans, at cul­ture space Com­mon Ground.

It con­tin­ued with a plethora of art events, in­clud­ing spe­cial in­stal­la­tions by Bal­loon­ski X Agos, along with mu­sic pre­sented by 360SOUND end­ing off with a block party, live paint­ing and live mu­sic per­for­mances on Satur­day Sept. 28.

Wong, an artist, cu­ra­tor and il­lus­tra­tor and lead di­rec­tor of Pow! Wow!, started the fes­ti­val as a way to bring artists and com­mu­ni­ties to­gether in cel­e­bra­tion of art, to ed­u­cate peo­ple about art and mu­sic and to beau­tify com­mu­ni­ties.

Since its in­cep­tion in 2011 the fes­ti­val has been held in cities around the world in­clud­ing Honolulu, Austin, Wash­ing­ton, D.C., Long Beach, Lan­caster, San Jose, Worces­ter, Kobe, Taipei, Venice and Rot­ter­dam.

When Pow! Wow! first ar­rived in Seoul two years ago, street art was still in its in­fancy, and the re­ac­tion was mixed.

But, Andy Song, the re­gional di­rec­tor for Pow! Wow! Korea, says the re­cep­tion of street art here has been chang­ing rapidly for the pos­i­tive.

The non­profit, mu­ral-cen­tered event has been gain­ing trac­tion since the first event here, and all in­volved this year hope to con­tribute to the mo­men­tum.

“Korea could be called a late­comer to the street art game, but you know how trends move fast. I think that’s what’s hap­pen­ing for street art and con­tem­po­rary art here. When the fes­ti­val first came to Korea, there was a huge gap be­tween what we were try­ing to do for the com­mu­nity and the com­mu­nity re­sponse,” Song said.

“They didn’t know why we were do­ing what we were do­ing, why the walls were be­ing painted … and find­ing walls around Seoul for the mu­rals was the most chal­leng­ing part, but af­ter the first fes­ti­val, peo­ple started rec­og­niz­ing us and what we are try­ing to do.”

Song’s re­la­tion­ship with Pow! Wow! goes back to 2013 in Hawaii where he de­vel­oped the mu­sic ed­u­ca­tion pro­gram called Pow Wow School of Mu­sic, and he has been the re­gional di­rec­tor for Korea since Seoul hosted its first Pow! Wow!

Song shares Wong’s love of art and is pas­sion­ate about ex­pos­ing the beauty of pub­lic art and its abil­ity to adorn neigh­bor­hoods and cityscapes, and con­tribute to re­gen­er­a­tion of com­mu­ni­ties.

“We are the big­gest fans of art our­selves; we love to talk about art; we love to cre­ate art. All forms of art in­flu­ence peo­ple’s at­ti­tudes and feel­ings when they see some­thing beau­ti­ful in their sur­round­ings. When there is art, peo­ple come to­gether. They bring their fam­i­lies, they bring their chil­dren, they want to be around it, they take pho­tos. We fo­cus on pub­lic art, and make the whole process open to the peo­ple. In the process we can also change peo­ple’s per­cep­tion of street art.”

The name of the fes­ti­val was coined by Wong. While the event shares the same val­ues as the Na­tive Amer­i­can con­cept of a “pow wow” which is a gath­er­ing to cel­e­brate cul­ture with singing, danc­ing and con­nect­ing with the com­mu­nity, Wong is also a big fan of comic cul­ture and that is where the name stems from.

“In comics, Pow! is when you punch some­one and Wow! is the re­ac­tion. For us, Pow! is the im­pact of art and Wow! is the re­ac­tion of peo­ple who ex­pe­ri­ence of art,” Song ex­plained.

The artists cho­sen all share the same val­ues as the or­ga­ni­za­tion. As it is a non­profit event, artists are cho­sen care­fully for their de­sire to of­fer them­selves and share their art with the com­mu­nity.

Both renowned artists as well as up-and-com­ing “cre­atives” are hand se­lected to give them a plat­form to show­case their work and be a part of the grow­ing Pow! Wow! fam­ily.

“Some of th­ese guys are highly paid con­tem­po­rary artists, but they’re com­ing in with the mind­set of help­ing and sup­port­ing. So that when they come they can en­joy what we are do­ing. Th­ese artists are do­ing com­mis­sion work all year round but they’re stoked to take a week or two from their busy year to do this. We en­cour­aged peo­ple to hang around and when­ever artists are not heav­ily fo­cused or work­ing we en­cour­age them to talk to the artists and get in­volved,” Song said.

In­ter­na­tional vis­it­ing artists in­clude Amy Sol, Rostarr, Joshua Vides, Suit­man, Hi­totzuki, Bal­loon­ski, Spenser Lit­tle, Insa, Zebu, Exto-X and Kim­chi Juice. The lo­cal artist lineup in­clude Joo Jae Bum, Novo, Sticky Mon­ster Lab, Kay2, Jo­day, GR1, Vo Eun, Agos, Semi TR and So Youn Lee.

Lo­cal fea­tured artist So Youn Lee was born and raised in Korea and then went to the States to at­tend art school.

She de­scribes her work as “dif­fer­ent but strangely fa­mil­iar” and sees art as a way “to ex­plore who you re­ally are and have fun with it.”

While she finds fash­ion col­lab­o­ra­tions the most fun — she col­lab­o­rated with Aldo on the MX3 sneak­ers last year — can­vases are her main medium. While she is here for Pow! Wow! she is bring­ing her dis­tinc­tive dreamy style to the fes­ti­val in the form of live mu­ral paint­ing.

Each artist brings their own en­ergy, mo­ti­va­tion and life ex­pe­ri­ences to their work, and ex­press it on their cho­sen form of can­vas.

“I’ve had great op­por­tu­ni­ties liv­ing in two dif­fer­ent cul­tures and travel around the world. It helped me re­flect some be­liefs that I have were not re­ally mine, but cul­tural — and those be­lief some­times, can be very nar­row minded. The de­sires to be free from those deep-rooted prej­u­dices pushes me to paint some­thing that I want and ask my­self why I am so at­tracted to cer­tain shapes and col­ors.”

Her dis­tinc­tive style will cer­tainly be a wel­come adorn­ment to the streets of Seoul, but it is the com­mu­nity as­pect that drew her to par­tic­i­pate.

“To me, Pow Wow is about con­nect­ing peo­ple with art. Per­son­ally I en­joy find art in most un­ex­pected set­tings. Be­ing a part of Pow! Wow! as an artist is mag­i­cal. It’s like I’m open­ing a por­tal to an­other world on a wall with paint for the com­mu­nity and peo­ple,” she said.

Some of her work is cur­rently be­ing ex­hib­ited at Gallery Stan in Seoul.

All medi­ums of art are em­braced and cel­e­brated through the event, and an in­ter­est­ing ad­di­tion to the artist lineup is bal­loon artist “Bal­loon­ski,” who is gain­ing pop­u­lar­ity for his mas­sive bal­loon art in­stal­la­tions that take in­spi­ra­tion from pop cul­ture.

“What I have re­al­ized about Pow! Wow! is that it’s re­ally about the com­mu­nity. There are a lot of amaz­ing artists in­volved in the fes­ti­val and ev­ery sin­gle time peo­ple are just draw­ing and do­ing what they love, and I can’t draw — I can draw with bal­loons — but bal­loons in gen­eral will take you back to this good feel­ing, so when I make gi­ant bal­loon sculp­tures and throw it into a crowd, every­body turns into a three year old and you can’t buy that feel­ing. It’s a child­like joy.”

Speak­ing about his Ba­len­ci­aga “Triples” bal­loon sculp­ture on dis­play at the Pow! Wow! lounge at Com­mon Ground, he says this sneaker se­ries goes back to a sense of com­mu­nity and be­long­ing again.

“When you look at it, you know ex­actly what it means. And if you know what it is, it means you’re here, you’re in 2019, it’s a kind of cul­tural marker, you rec­og­nize.”

To learn about more of the artists, and to find more for more in­for­ma­tion, visit www.pow­wow.kr

Cour­tesy of Pilmo Kang

Joshua Vides paints a mul­ti­ple-story wall in Seongsu-dong, while bal­anc­ing on a crane.

Insa puts the fin­ish­ing touches on a gi­gan­tic mu­ral.

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