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‘Arts factory’ in Palbok boasts intriguing look and theme

Once a run-down factory in Jeonju, gallery now aspires to landmark status

JEONJU, NORTH JEOLLA PROVINCE -- Driving north of Jeonju City Hall, past Jeonju University and onto the industrial complex grounds, you will find a group of run-down factory buildings. Just as you start wondering if you took a wrong turn on your way to the art gallery, what appears to be a rusty old structure with the words “Factory of Contemporary Arts in Palbok” lets you know you are in the right place.

The venue, which opened its doors for the first time last year, doubles as a workshop for local artists. It may also be en route to landmark status in Jeonju.

‘Expanded Plus’ exhibition

In cooperation with the recent Jeonju International Film Festival, the Factory of Contemporary Arts is hosting an exhibition called “Expanded Plus: Utopian Phantom.”

“Birth of a Nation” by James Benning (Yoon Min-sik/The Korea Herald)
“Birth of a Nation” by James Benning (Yoon Min-sik/The Korea Herald)

According to film festival programmer Jang Byung-won, the program was designed to present the films in the form of nontheatrical installation pieces that represent “the notion of image, the view of the artists, the autonomy of interpretations and the attitude that leads to change the reception of audience, and eventually goes beyond the traditional texts.”

A total of 14 installation pieces by 12 artists are on display in the main exhibition hall. The artists are James Benning, Kevin Jerome Everson, Ben Rivers, Ju Anqi, Jodie Mack, Helena Wittman, Nika Son, Malena Szlam, Peter Bo Rappmund, Adam R. Levine, Natalia Marin and Jang Woo-jin.

In keeping with the show’s concept, all 14 works invite the guests to ponder beyond the territory of their own perceptions of art.

Upon entering the exhibition hall, you stumble upon “Communion Los Angeles” by Peter Bo Rappmund and Adam R. Levine, which illuminates multiple elements of the city through a two-channel video installation. Day and night are divided into two screens in this 30-minute video, which subtly hints at social and cultural issues by highlighting locational relations and geographical contexts.

“Communion Los Angeles” by Peter Bo Rappmund and Adam R. Levine (Yoon Min-sik/The Korea Herald)
“Communion Los Angeles” by Peter Bo Rappmund and Adam R. Levine (Yoon Min-sik/The Korea Herald)

“Wildness of Waves” by Helena Wittman and Nika Son is based on the interaction of the shape and sound of waves, presented on screens of two sizes. It delivers a message of formation, evolution and extinction.

A three-channel video installation by James Benning, “Birth of a Nation,” shows three scenes from David Wark Griffith’s 1915 film of the same name. They move imperceptibly, showing two soldiers during the US Civil War, black slaves picking cotton in a field as white people stroll by, and members of the Ku Klux Klan.

The silent piece recontextualizes the scenes from the epic drama, which shows the impact of the Civil War on two families that share deep friendships.

The exhibition continues until June 16, free of charge. 

Factory of Contemporary Arts in Palbok (Yoon Min-sik/The Korea Herald)
Factory of Contemporary Arts in Palbok (Yoon Min-sik/The Korea Herald)

A comprehensive area for art

The administrators of the Factory of Contemporary Arts in Palbok hope to turn its formerly cassette tape-producing corridors into a place where anyone can come and enjoy art.

The place is modeled after the Tate Modern art gallery in London, which is housed in the former Bankside Power Station. That being the case, the art factory also retains much of its old look, from rusty and faded walls to tables made from metal doors.

The huge windows are on the second floor, not the first, which was installed during its factory days for efficiency. At the top of a 25-meter-high funnel, the name of the cassette producer is inscribed.

Large shipping containers that used to hold the products now form a hallway that connects the buildings. The rooftop of building A is a popular photo spot for tourists, but is still a work in progress as it is slated to hold an outdoor exhibition, “Within and Without the Vertical,” May 31 to Jan. 26, which will also be free of charge.

In addition to the exhibition, the buildings also feature the in-house artists’ workshop and office, where they occasionally hold special sessions to explain their artwork to visitors.

While it may not be the most top-of-the-line art gallery in South Korea, the Palbok Arts Factory is a unique space with an intriguing look and theme and is well worth visiting. For more information, call 063-283-9221.

In addition, Jeonju recently created the Seohak-dong Art Village, just a stone’s throw away from the bustling Hanok Village and complete with galleries and museums that display the work of local artists. The city plans to create more art spaces like these in the future.

By Yoon Min-sik