Samalu is a project that investigates Austrian and Korean mountain spirits, searching for their importance within the urban, technology driven society. The project was realized together with media artist Andreas Zingerle, June-September 2011 at the Changdong Art Studion – National Museum of Contemporary Art, Artist in Residency program, Seoul, South Korea. The outcome of the research was an interactive installation and as part of the research we also arranged “21st century San-Shin” workshop series as apart of the Standing by 000 program in collaboration with Mizy Center and Loop Gallery, Seoul, South Korea.
The interactive installation “Samalu” was developed as a part of the KairUs artist collaboration and we take interest in Human-Computer, Human-Human interaction and in this case Human-Mountain interaction.
“Samalu” finds inspiration in old folk believes and shaman rituals, but brings the meaning of mountain myths and worship into todays contemporary Austria and Korea. Mountain worship reflects norms of society and humans have always found ways to express their dreams, hopes and fears, yet mediums and values changed. A non-linear story around this theme explores how we in our highly modern societies are attached to the nature through the mountains. As city people seduced by technology, overwhelmed by information, “Samalu” returns to to the origins of science – the mysteries of nature.
“Leave no stone unturned” while you explore the storyworlds of the “Salige” (wise women, the protectors of Austrian mountains) and “San-shin” (Korean mountain spirits) through still images, video, sound and narration. The interface constructed of a number of stones refers to stone piles found on hiking trails around the world, each stone concealing an unique story. Through the installation visitors can experience glimpses of the wonders and mysteries from the sublime mountains.
The workshop was a part of our research during the residency to achieve a better understanding how Korean youth reflect on their mountain worship heritage and culture. In the “21st century San-shin” workshop we worked with a group of 10 young Koreans and explored the theme of San-shin mountain spirits and mountain worship through experiments that took form of site specific installations and performances. We worked on a concept with each student and everyones idea was realized, either as an installation or a performance in public space. In some projects the young artists collected courage to interact with the public. Self made good luck talisman bracelets were handed out to hikers near the entrance of Dobongsan mountain. A two person team created a story around a San-shin of love, who offered hugs for the lonely in Seoul. This performance took place in busy Myeong-dong area and showed us how interaction with the public often has unexpected results, yet offering new interpretation to ones work. In another project one of the young artist collected images of hands and recorded peoples wishes to an installation, with an interaction interface that symbolizes connection and meditative prayer.
Some of the ideas offered opportunities of relief and short moments of meditation for the busy inhabitants of Seoul. One of the young artist interpretation of mountain worship was that it offered a relief from everyday worries. Her mountain spirit ritual translated to a flash mob. Strangers informed trough social media channels met in Insa-dong to jump for one minute, shearing a moment of energy relief in their busy lives. In another project small characters made of metal wire, with led light hearts and QR-tags offered meditative music and philosophic quotes for curious by passers bringing sentiment and something lyrical in their everyday life.
Other students took their inspiration from current topics and news. During the workshop period South Korea was affected by the heaviest rains in 100 years. Floods and mudslides killed several people. One of the students made a project questioning if these mudslides could have been prevented. The work exposes the notion that with all technology and development we are still unable to control nature. It connects to the core of mountain worship and folk beliefs that often related to good fortune with weather and crops. Another politically connected artwork deals with the current dispute between Korea and Japan, over the ownership of the Dokdo islands. A shamanic like ritual for the Dokdo San-shin was performed in Dream Forest reflecting on how throughout history religion has been instrumentalized for political and economic means both in Korea and elsewhere.
The next step of the workshop was to combine the documented artworks from the young artist to one interactive video installation. We presented various sensors and human-computer interaction methods to the young artist. Together we designed how the documentation video of each individual artwork was connected to an interaction interface. At the exhibition this interactive installation reflected interpretations of how mountain spirits, mountain worship, old folk believes and shaman rituals can be translated to values and actions in the life of young Koreans. The discussions, artworks and personal connections with the young artists brought us a deeper understanding of how young Koreans relate to the San-shin theme. We hope that during the workshop the young artists were able to develop a sense of proudness over an unique cultural heritage that unfortunately is still neglected in Korea. The interactive installation was exhibited 17.8-27.8.2011 in the Standingby 000 exhibition at Dukwon Gallery in Seoul.
“SAMALU” PROJECT IN IMAGES
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