▲ Artist Gwon Yul’s rendition of what one of the buildings in Mutant Village may look like when the park is completed. Photo courtesy Gwon Yul
Artist Gwon Yul has a simple, yet ambitious dream.
Three years ago he came up with the idea to create a village for artists like him where they can live together, work, and earn money from their crafts: An artist safe haven that doubles as a tourist destination.
“It is not a big idea,” said Gwon, 47, from his home in Wasan, Jeju City to The Weekly. “I am trying to find a way for artists … where they can get together in one place, where they could make their art and make money.”
Inhabiting a large plot of land in Wasan is the halted beginnings of his dream. A giant hollow shoe, a massive wood and plaster pig, a tea pot-shaped house, and a half dozen or so other surreal unfinished buildings is the start of Mutant Village. Construction of this artists village stopped five months ago when money ran out said Gwon, and what now exists is a unique theme park waiting to be completed and then inhabited by 200 artists.
This is the second time he had to stop construction because of a lack of money, which has been a constant problem; “The difficulty is money,” Gwon said. Since Mutant Village ceased being built five months ago, Gwon has been making furniture to raise funds. “By the Spring I hope to have [60 million won, approx. US$54,000] and the construction will not stop [again].”
Currently, Gwon says that the village is about 30 percent complete and he plans to make around 300 buildings (an artist residence, guest houses, shops, and galleries), at a cost of 10 million to 20 million won each. Gwon plans to invest the 60 million won in creating education programs for company retreats, to host festivals in the village, and to begin selling crafts, accessories, and food. When his programs begin, the village will be open to the public and he believes there will be a steady flow of revenue that will then go towards finishing the village.
Talking to Gwon about his vision for Mutant Village it becomes clear that it embodies many of the themes that are present in his paintings and other, smaller art works. “I like this land,” he said referring to the world that man has created, “but sometimes I can’t like this land” due to politics, bureaucracy, and other inequalities. “So, I make other lands,” he said.
For his paintings, Gwon said, with some of them having been exhibited in several countries, “I imagine the earth 5 billion years ago, so I create all these creatures, objects with my imagination and paint them.” For Gwon art is about putting into being what only exists in one’s imagination.
This is exactly what Mutant Village is; a re-imagining of the world around us. The term mutant for Gwon comes from the controversial book “Mutant Message Down Under” by Marlo Morgan where she says that the Aborigines from Australia refer to “civilized” people as being mutants “because we are building all these skyscrapers and have a different lifestyle that our ancestors never had,” Gwon said.
“So its a place to display mutantism ideas, mutant architecture styles to the public,” Gwon said, stressing that it is a reappropriation of the word since all his buildings will be constructed with environment-friendly materials.
Intellectualizing aside, the reason Gwon is constructing these odd buildings is rather simple. “It is something unique that people never thought of,” he said, continuing that artists are “curious creatures” and desire to see what the affect will be when combining different ideas and materials. “I image a pig,” he said, “and I make it and if the artwork goes the way I expected, it’s very enjoyable.”
Ultimately though, Gwon wants “artists, like sculptors, painters, architects to come here, feel happy, and enjoy the atmosphere of creating something new.” Also, while making a living in the process.
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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