Culture Space Yang is a place of culture in the heart of Georo Village which aims to bring people in the community together through the arts. It is run by Kim Beomjin, a Jeju native returnee, and Kim Yeonjoo, a Seoul native who answered the call to settle on the island.
The full version of this interview can be found in ‘Jeju talks culture’ published by World Culture Open.
What can we find at “Culture Space Yang”?
Kim Beomjin: Our goal is to expand the boundaries of art. Art is not only painting but crafts, cartoons, animation, and media. There is still some contention around whether certain areas are art or not, but I urge people to see things through the eye of art.
Please introduce how the gallery works.
Kim Yeonjoo: We try to support individuals or special exhibitions by selecting artists competitively. We try to exhibit experimental work... I feel it is more meaningful when exhibitions have newer forms or are positioned between the modern and traditional. We also exhibit work by children ...as within the village we have a role of offering experimental experiences in cultural arts.
What is the meaning of “Yang”?
Beomjin: “Yang” is Jeju dialect to start a conversation. If you say “yang” in the street, people turn around and look at you. So “Yang” means starting conversation with art. This is also where my mother’s family lived, and my maternal grandmother’s last name is Yang... I want it to be an homage to Jeju women. The Chinese character also means “two.” It means the two of us, Yeonjoo Kim and me.
You must have lots of memories here.
Beomjin: This place has all my childhood memories from the days when I couldn’t go to the toilet because of the pigs underneath it to the days of watching villagers drawing their oxcarts.
What is the essence of this cultural space?
Beomjin: With the same affection as my grandmother hosted villagers here, villagers communicate with each other and make stories in this space. Since it is located inside the village, others have suggested moving it to somewhere with a nice landscape. But we prefer to harmonize individual memories and village life through art rather than merely enjoying the landscape.
Why is Jeju the right place for “Culture Space Yang”?
Yeonjoo: Traveling around the world, I was inspired by places with nature and great culture and cultural potential. From that perspective, Jeju has lots of possibilities [and] we wanted to help Jeju bloom in art and culture amid beautiful nature.
Beomjin: I came here because Seolmundae Halmang called me. I just wanted to do something in Jeju, where I have my childhood memories.
What brought you to Jeju, Yeonjoo?
Yeonjoo: I was a curator in Seoul and I loved exhibiting street art but I felt empty when the projects were removed. After I met Beomjin I felt that emptiness could be filled. I always longed to live in Jeju and Beomjin suggested I do it while I am young. So, my dream of living in Jeju came true sooner than expected. When I came to Jeju and visited this place, I decided I had to come. I loved the feeling of Georo Village. I was sure that this was the place to fill my emptiness.
Does the art remain in the village now?
Yeonjoo: The most lovely thing about living in Jeju is that I don’t need to get rid of the works of art because villagers like them. I really like how we can make art with the villagers and communicate through the work that remains in the village.
How do social changes on Jeju influence your work?
Beomjin: The influx in population from the mainland will bring some positive changes, but Jeju’s rich cultural assets, identity and unique color will fade away. It is, therefore, vital to record the history and culture of the village. This is real cultural diversity. I don’t mean that we should restore all of those old traditions blindly. We should make a rich culture harmonizing the old and the new using the insights of true artists.
What were you most moved by at Culture Space Yang?
Yeonjoo: We held an exhibition including the Jeju Massacre at Yang last year and when I explained the art, visitors began weeping all of a sudden. It made me sad. I could feel the power of art in enabling people to... ruminate on the meaning of history and, eventually, bring about solutions for today.
What are your ultimate goals for Yang?
Beomjin: As I explained before, I want to start a conversation by saying “Yang.” Just like now, we keep starting conversations and saying ‘hello’... We want to be a model for cultural spaces. We just sow the seeds... It is crucial that this is a place where the whole village can come together. Our goal is for this to be a living space, even when we leave.
Yeonjoo: I think a change in societal awareness is needed. I hope that more spaces like Yang can survive in the future, and we can network together. I am sorry to use the word “survive,” but it shows the reality.... Art and culture should not only exist within art museums but inside your life. Life itself is culture. I want to share these sentiments so that people can enjoy art and culture to the fullest.