Review: Seoul Encyclopedia Show

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Author’s note: a version of this article appears in September 2010’s printed edition of the Groove. All photos below are my own, and may differ from the printed article.

“I want to sweatf*ck your talisman,” goes one saucy line. Mere minutes later, we watched an animation of a innocuous-looking balloon beating the crap out of a little kid. Not long after that, a guy covered in black and white plant began laboriously lifting rocks via a contraption involving strings and carabiners. Not only did the audience react positively, they enthusiastically applauded all three acts.

What the talisman is going on here?

Author’s note: a version of this article appears in September 2010’s printed edition of the Groove. All photos below are my own, and may differ from the printed article.

“I want to sweatf*ck your talisman,” goes one saucy line. Mere minutes later, we watched an animation of a innocuous-looking balloon beating the crap out of a little kid. Not long after that, a guy covered in black and white plant began laboriously lifting rocks via a contraption involving strings and carabiners. Not only did the audience react positively, they enthusiastically applauded all three acts.

What the talisman is going on here?

The first installation of the Seoul Encyclopedia Show was, by virtually every indication, very well received. Although the cramped venue at RUFXXX left little room for the crowd (“be careful with the seats – they might fall down”, came one warning from the stage), the night of performance art and poetry explored the chosen topic of gravity. While some performances had a more abstract concept than others, most centered around the topic in question.

While it’s a guarantee every performance will be different, this first installment on gravity started with a performance art group combining a clever ‘taking off’ video with the sort of banter you might hear upon boarding an airplane. The first act was a diverse sextet entitled ‘Passengers’. Playing everything from swinging light bulbs and keyboard effects, they pulled off an impressive set that kept the audience waiting to see what would happen next. Each song fit, yet sounded quite different from the one before it. Props to the Passengers – Jason Hwang, Qri Sung, Ida Grandos, Alexander Wayne, Chris, and Jin Ko – for their unique sound (above).

The Seoul Encyclopedia Show is based a show of similar name in Chicago. That show, according to the creator of Seoul’s version, Lauren Bedard, had “T-rex love songs and discussions of the and a velociraptor’s experience with racism in Utah”. Bizarre? Yes. Yet it fills a hole for poetry and art-lovers, one that competitions and slams just can’t fill. Combining fact with art, Lauren agrees that it’s a very open opportunity: “The artists can use props and visuals and really have fun with their pieces. It is more theater than just a slam or open mic…. [It enables artists to] push beyond the limits of the normal themes and metaphors they utilize.”

Brian Aylward handled the MC duties with ease, although Lauren occasionally had to hunt him down amidst the crowd. The beatnik-esque room seemed hopelessly rundown and surprisingly high-tech at the same time. How many performance spaces have naked incandescent bulbs swinging two feet from the ground and a powerful projector?

Danielle Arsenault’s group, which included Hannah Holmes (not pictured) and Matt Stuart.

The second act featured a number of poets and singers / songwriters. At first glance, it might have been indistinguishable from yet another night of artists and musicians. The audience is challenged, however, to dig beneath the surface. Figure out how what’s going on relates to the subject at hand. So what if the connection is tenuous at best? It’s still highly likely to make you think – or sip thoughtfully on that double espresso martini.

The highlight was easily on the roof. Ripley’s performance displaying gravity as a fixed but manipulatable force was shown through ropes, carabiners, and rocks. As he twisted and pulled against the forces, he occasionally stopped to have black paint applied by two helpers. Afterwards, he invited people on the stage to “really feel the weight of being pulled around” as he had explored.

As with many shows of a similar nature, it’s not for everyone. You have to engage with both artist and art source to follow the message – but the reward is the potential for a profoundly new look at life. It’s a reminder that while the answer may always be 42, the questions we create are just as revealing as a personality test. Expect to be entertained, stunned, and come ready to laugh or cry – possibly at the same time. As of the magazine’s deadline for the article, the next show is being planned for late October or early November; no firm word on the theme yet, but it’s bound to be an interesting show no matter what the theme may be.

Creative Commons License © Chris Backe – 2010

This post was originally published on my blog,Chris in South Korea. If you are reading this on another website and there is no linkback or credit given, you are reading an UNAUTHORIZED FEED.




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