Korea-UK – conference, protest and art

A group of protestors marching in Korea.
Protestors on the streets of Seoul, Korea.

Last week, Jo Verrent was in Korea speaking about Unlimited at the Korea-UK Arts & Culture Conference, spearheaded by Arts Council Korea in partnership with the British Council Korea and Arts Council England (ACE) which took place at the beautiful National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Arts (MMCA). Jo shares her thoughts and experiences.

Watching stream after stream of people take to the street in Seoul last week, calmly demanding for the impeachment of their president, I was reminded of the absolute power of protest, of making a stand for your values and beliefs. Just occasionally you get to be somewhere in the world at a potential moment of social change – and its electrifying.

I was there at a time of confluence – with both Arts Council England and British Council developing significant partnerships ahead of the Korea-UK Season 2017-18 titled Creative Futures.

Experts from both countries showcased and discussed arts policies and technology, diversity and disability and new approaches to artistic development. From the UK there was Simon Mellor, executive director of the arts and culture sector at ACE, Skinder Hundal, director of New Art Exchange, Fiona Morris, Chief Executive and Creative Director of The Space and Alice Fox from Brighton University speaking on Inclusive Practice in visual arts amongst others.

Korean counterparts included Yang Hyo-seok, a director general of ACK; media artist Kim Yun-chul; and Yoo Won-joon, the publisher and director of the international journal for new media art, The Medium Magazine. We also heard from Yongwoo Kim, a wheelchair dancer and founder of his own company alongside working with the Light Sound Friends Dance Company, Jongho Shin, who is Chief Director of the new I-Eum Centre, Korea’s disability arts and cultural centre, which focuses on supporting disabled artists (and who is also an amazing musician and music teacher in his own right) and Dongyeop Lee, a disabled artist based at Seoul Art Space Jamsil, an art space ‘where disability becomes a form of individuality’.

Conferences are important for exchange and sharing ideas, but for me the potential for partnership really became solid on my last day, when I got to see the Ieum Centre for myself, talk with the staff at Korea Arts & Culture Education Service and meet all the exceptional studio holders based at Seoul Art Space Jamsil.

The policy-led speeches of the previous days just fell away and instead the conversations focused on art and art making – how we define quality, how and when we label artists, changing and challenging aesthetics and most importantly of all, how we can work together to remove barriers and ensure more disabled artists get the opportunities they deserve. Refreshing, invigorating and brimming with possibility – now that’s what makes a good work trip abroad.

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