An interview with Korean Performance Artist Bongsu Park
Bongsu, your characters move in space, hunting each other, touching each other, moving away. You were looking for a solution to visualize which belonged to the immaterial sphere of human relationships and you found it. When did your quest begin? Why video and dance as preferred medium? And why is it important to speak about human relationships?
My work questions the core of relationships; for me the oval is a shape, which represents this concept. At the beginning, my work gravitated around the idea and physical presence of the egg but this evolved into integrating the actual human body.
I’ve always been interested in contemporary dance; the combination of both new media and dance was a natural progression, which turned out to be a successful approach to express what I was and still am trying to say.
Your narratives are reflections on life, human cycles, and above all human relationships, which just like a pendulum go from one side to the other, with the two poles symbolizing the need for union and solitude. Why and when did you decide to focus on human relationships?
My work is always linked to the idea of the cycle, more precisely the human cycle. Before producing the dance pieces, I was particularly interested in the concept of birth and decay. Now, I am drawn to explore why people think differently by creating moments of dialogue with my public.
You use contemporary tools to visualize your plots and yet the game of metaphors which characterizes some of your works seems to have a far origin (or maybe it’s just by chanche). Let’s make an example. To describe the tension of human relationships in CORD performance you used a rope. The idea is that of an object suggesting people hunting, touching, moving away. A similar solution was adopted in 1611, or 1612 maybe, by the English poet John Donne who in A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning compared his relationship with his wife to the legs of a drawing compass. Although the legs are separate components of the compass, Donne says in his poem, they are both part of the same object. The legs operate in unison. If the outer leg traces a circle, the inner leg – though its point is fixed at the center – must pivot in the direction of the outer leg. Thus, Donne adds, though he and his wife are separated, like the legs of the compass, they remain united because they are part of the same soul. So, which were your models, if you had any, to visualize abstract concepts just like human relationship with people coming, going, moving?
The whole concept revolves around: the point; the line; the surface; and the three-dimensional.
The point for me is a departure and a birth; a woman’s pregnant belly; or a simple round shape. The line connects; it is what ties a mother to her baby; it is the family tree. The line explains relationships.
When assembled, these horizontal and vertical lines and multitude of points make up the surface. This surface in my work is a space where we all live together.
Dance, which a timeless medium practiced since the conception of human kind, allows me to visualize these abstract concepts. Video on the other end is a medium of our time. Mixing both dance and video allows me create contemporary yet timeless pieces.
In your past works such as CORD and CUBE you used ropes and cubes whereas you worked with the choreographer Yoomi Ahn. Did you sketch the idea together?
I’ve collaborated with Yoomi Ahn for all my videos involving dance. Our process is always the same: we live and work together in the same space. For CELL, my house was transformed into a large dance studio! Spending every moment with Yoomi is important, as this allows the ideas to be shared and developed naturally without force.
When and were did you meet her?
Yoomi and I met in France, in Grenoble, a few years ago. We used to live in the same apartment building. At the time, I was preparing my application for l’École des Beaux-Arts and Yoomi had just been offered a contract with the Limoges Opéra. We were both learning French, which is how we became friends. I often showed her my work and she invited me to her practices. This was 9 years ago; time flies!
What did you like about her choreographies?
I love how delicate Yoomi is. She has a great understanding of my work as she’s been following my career for a long time now. She expresses exactly what I want to say with her body. We have a great communication. Trained as a classic dancer but very much involved in the contemporary scene, Yoomi has a flexible approach and mind frame, which I find very inspiring.
For Cord-Cell-Cube you invited Yoomi Ahn. When did you discuss the project? How long did it take you to organize it?
We started discussing 5 months ago, but the core of the work was done here in London. We had an intensive 2 weeks of creation.
Geometry and geometrical concepts are the leit-motiv of your works. In your new project, the third of the trilogy, you applied basic facts about dots, lines, planes and three-dimensions, with the dancer conceived as the dot, the cord as the line, the cell as the plane, the cube, of course, as the tridimensional object. Was this trilogy clear in your mind since the beginning?
The trilogy did not cross my mind at first as the initial idea evolved a lot.
My process is always the same; it is about working with the instinct. Once everything is laid down and done, I then go back to revisit the meaning as well as relations with previous pieces. This is what happened with CELL. Everything came into focus afterwards: linking the point and line (CORD) with the three-dimensional (CUBE). I also wanted to pursue a photographic project of the same name, which I had started in 2008.
Three dancers, three instruments, two men, one woman, a violin, a cello, a viola. Here’s once again the male and female universes which, this time, meet according to a triangular scheme. Did I see well what I saw?
This idea of the triangle did cross my mind, but I did not really develop the idea during the creative process. It might be something I’ll comment on in the future, when I have more distance with the work.
Apart from geometrical concepts, in Cord-Cell-Cube you introduced the concept of similarity, with the string instruments imagined in conjunction with thread images. Nothing in your work is left to chance. Which will be the next step?
I am currently preparing a summer exhibition (2014), which will be presented by my London gallery, Rosenfeld Porcini. I am also editing and finalizing my new video work CELL, which is based on the performance.
I will have a short pop up exhibition at Hanmi Gallery in May (London).
I have so many new and exciting projects in mind particularly around sculpture. Performance and video are an integral part of my practice though; I really enjoy working with dancers and musicians, therefore you’ll definitely see more in a very near future!
Interview by Stefania Elena Carnemolla.
Bongsu Park. Cord – Cell – Cube will be at Rosenfeld Porcini Gallery, London on the 20th of March 2014.
For more information visit: www.rosenfeldporcini.com