Music producer and photographer Kim Young-il has been keeping track of sounds and images of Korean tradition.
The 52-year-old has been capturing portraits of performers of “gugak,” traditional Korean music, as well as releasing gugak albums through the sole gugak label in Korea.
Now, he is bringing two pillars of his career to the New Year’s exhibition at Atelier Hermes, a gallery sponsored by the Foundation d’enterprise Hermes.
The exhibition, titled “Precious People,” features portraits of Korean traditional music performers and a film that documents the lives of makers of “hanbok,” traditional Korea dress.
|Pansori singers Park Song-hee (top) and haegeum player Kim Yoo-na (Kim Young-il/Atelier Hermes)|
“Gugak and hanbok are two different subjects, but I am telling one story through them. They are valuable traditions that we should protect, but at the same time they are neglected by us,” said Kim.
The photos feature some of the most famous pansori singers, such as Park Song-hee and Cho Sun-ae, who are both in their 80s, as well as young performers following the tradition.
Eighty-seven-year-old Park, designated part of Korea’s intangible heritage, performed at the opening of the exhibition on Thursday.
One of the performers that caught people’s attention was an American player of “gayageum,” a Korean string instrument, Jocelyn.
Kim hopes people take interest in gugak through his works.
“I define gugak as the music that Korean people don’t know,” Kim said. “Even a foreigner like Jocelyn finds charms in the Korean instrument. But we Koreans know little of gugak while we are very much familiar with the West’s classical music, jazz and hip-hop.”
His record company has been in the red since its opening in 2005, but has released a total of 72 albums so far.
“But we can hardly earn monthly salaries for the staff by selling the albums over the month,” Kim said. If he closes his record label, the public will lose a channel for listening to gugak.
In the exhibition, he documents hanbok makers at Gwangjang Market, the Korean traditional market specializing in garments, in a 20-minute film.
He explores the sad reality that fewer people wear hanbok these days, and more people choose to rent them or don’t even bother to wear them.
“I hope the photographs and the film make people think about where our tradition stands today,” said Kim.
Gugak performances are scheduled for every Saturday at 4 p.m. throughout the exhibition period, except on Feb. 10. The performances vary from pansori to instrumental performances.
The exhibition “Precious People” runs through March 19 at Atelier Hermes, on the third floor of Maison Hermes Dosan Park in Gangnam, Seoul.
For more information, call (02) 544-7722.
By Lee Woo-young (firstname.lastname@example.org