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Anyang project to explore role of public art in city

The fifth APAP seeks to bring public art to life through citizen participation

Short-lived art festivals and biennales abound in Korean cities, but the city of Anyang located 20 kilometers from the capital city of Seoul seeks to create art that can have a long-lasting impact on residents’ lives.

“We are interested in interacting with Anyang and the public. We have worked together with artists to find out what the parameter of the public space is, what can define public art and how we can meet the public through artworks and production,” said Joo Eun-gie, the art director of the upcoming Anyang Public Art Project festival, at a press conference in Seoul on Tuesday.

The fifth edition of the Anyang Public Art Project, which started in 2005, is to be held from Oct. 15 to Dec. 15 at outdoor venues in Anyang, Gyeonggi Province, one of the satellite cities of Seoul with a population of 597,000. The APAP has been held every two to three years depending on the budget allocated by the Anyang city council and city government. For this year’s edition, the organizers were given 3 billion won ($2.64 million). 

Anyang Observatory designed by MVRDV (APAP)
Anyang Observatory designed by MVRDV (APAP)

Through the previous four festivals, some 140 installations and architectural structures by some of the world’s renowned artists and architects, including Yayoi Kusama, Portuguese architect Alvaro Siza and Dutch architect group MVRDV, have gone on permanent exhibit around the city. 

Starting this year, the APAP will be held every three years, becoming the first triennial art event in Korea. It also has a new vision.

Joo said that the APAP aims to set a new direction for public art and make art a part of the lives of citizens.

Joo did not set a theme for this year’s festival, as she thought that it might confuse residents. Instead, the name of this year’s festival -- APAP 5 --will be highlighted so that many audiences will remember the festival itself. She had artists explore many aspects of the city and they will share this with citizens during the festival.

“Since March, we have been bringing artists for site visits. We hiked mountains, went to markets, walked around the city, looked around and felt the pace of Anyang. This is what we want to achieve -- artists responding to present-day Anyang,” said Joo, a former curator of education and public programs at the New Museum in New York and a commissioner for the Korean Pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 2009. 

A scene from ”Bukhansan Mountain“ by filmmaker Im Heung-soon, who will be featured at the upcoming APAP (APAP)
A scene from ”Bukhansan Mountain“ by filmmaker Im Heung-soon, who will be featured at the upcoming APAP (APAP)

APAP 5 invited leading contemporary artists and groups, including Gabriel Sierra, Damian Ortega, Michael Joo, Adrian Villar Rojas and Superflex, to design and build a structure that responds to the landscape and nature surrounding Anyang Art Park, one of the major venues of the public art festival.

Others who will be featured this year include filmmaker Im Heung-soon, the winner of the Silver Lion Award at the Venice Biennale in 2015, and the artist group Mixrice, which was nominated for the 2016 Artist of the Year award by the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea.

Participating artists will hold workshops to encourage citizens to actively participate in the festival.

“Artist Cho Eun-ji plans to conduct research on the residents to learn about their talents and dreams. Together they will produce a parade through the city of Anyang,” said Joo.

Indonesian artist group House of Natural Fiber, will hold more than 30 free workshops on various themes such as science, technology, food, music, allowing experts in each field and Anyang residents to work together and explore emerging issues.

By Lee Woo-young (