▲ The diverse members of Salgoce pose for their captivated crowd Photo Courtesy Salgoce
There is a street tucked away near Tapdong that you could almost miss if you weren’t paying attention, Gwandeok-ro.
Unbeknownst to the idle visitor, however, art and community are making waves there.
Walk down and you’ll see an elephant bursting out of a wall, or a big foot stepping out at you attached to a classical beauty.
You remind yourself they’re just paintings, though they look so real. Then you hear the sound of a hand drum coming from deep within the bowels of the building next to you.
In the middle of the street, you suddenly spy a gathering of dark clowns dancing with fire.
Among the many Gwandoek-ro storefronts that the government has subsidized to promote culture is Art Scenic, where you’ll find live music, art shows, and the fire-dancing clowns.
The underground performance space opened late 2014 and has received funds from the Jeju Culture and Arts Foundation to support its projects.
Although Art Scenic serves as the venue for many artists in the area, Salgoce is most likely to call it home. This ragtag crew of merrymakers formed after happening upon each other here on the streets of Jeju as well as abroad in a span of countries.
Meaning naughty kid in French, their name Salgoce truly captures the spirit of the troupe. With them, it’s clear naughtiness can transcend culture.
Frenchman Ruben Garcia often fills the role as the ringmaster with a hip hop clown persona.
▲ The groups name, Salgoce, means naughty kid in French Photo Courtesy Salgoce
Matthieu Durin stands as the juggling extraordinaire, Jeju Juggling. He is likewise from France, having originally come to this country to find his Korean wife’s biological parents. He and his family loved it here so much, they decided to stay.
Japanese goofball painter Go Sugata studied at Tokyo University of the Arts. When asked how he came to Jeju from his home in Japan, he replied, “by plane”.
Actually, it had something to do with losing his passport in Seoul.
You might have seen Ko Hey surrounded by a group of entranced onlookers while shopping in Jeju-si. The Japanese street performer wows crowds with optical illusions and his crystal ball dance.
This is a similar performance to that performed by David Bowie’s character Jareth in the movie The Labyrinth.
Aska Yamada, also Japanese, is the Smurfette token lady of the group. She belly dances—at times with fire, but assuredly always with an air of mystery.
Salgoce comes together to give performances that contain an amalgamation of maniacal whimsy and thrill.
Their latest street performance involved a mock Olympics in City Hall where members participated in blindfolded racing and other equally insane stunts.
Although Salgoce and Art Scenic are composed of a very international circle, it is Jeju local Bomi Kim who is commanding this ship. She is quite modest about her role, however, “I do all the boring non-creative stuff.”
Don’t be fooled by Kim’s humility, though. As the director, she has brought support to the art scene by obtaining the backing of the local government.
▲ Bomi Kim wants to get artists out in the community Photo Courtesy Salgoce
After traveling and living abroad in France, Kim confessed that she has come to believe that foreigners tend to have a freer mind than many back home. “I came back to Jeju to see what I can show from other outside cultures,” she explained.
However, she also refuses to patronize her people. “We aren’t trying to change the locals or force them to do anything. That’s why we do our performances in the street. People will see it. If they like it, they can watch or even join us. It takes time.”
Their events are all about getting the artists out in the community. There is something very democratic, a bit anarchic about this style.
Kim explained, “The performance changes depending on where and when we play. We like when the audience joins in. We want to show that normal people can be artists too. We don’t want to distinguish. There is pleasure in that.”
Art Scenic throws a community party once a month where they create collaborative group art and share in the revelry of live music with the likes of the mesmerizing Omar Basalla of SuriSuri MahaSuri.
Likewise, their street art projects have brought a lot of people into the group.
The latest project, Simon, Arturas and Minkyeong's Street Orchestra, was a hit with a layout of instruments from all over the world and beats made in real time with anyone on the street who wanted to participate.
These playful artists provide the very special service for the community of helping people rediscover the child in themselves—and the neighborhood residents are responding.
Sure, there might be plenty of head scratching, particularly among the older generations but one cannot deny nor take for granted the flares of magic that materialize in the moments when an onlooker connects to a performance. Indeed, that is what it is all about.
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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