Value, empathy, and creation on the artistic periphery

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<The 2016 Jeju Fringe Festival>

Jeju inaugurated October with the 2016 Fringe Festival

Culture Reporter: Lee Min-kyeong, Translated: Kim Yaeseol (Editor: Justin Ferrell)


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The Fringe was born in Scotland when eight theatrical companies crashed the first Edinburgh International Festival in 1947 and performed without official invitation. They were a hit and these performances at the fringe of the International Festival grew so popular that they merited their very own forum. In the last seventy years, The Fringe Festival has become an international phenomena, with dozens of similarly themed festivals occurring around the world.

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In recent years artists have begun to gather on Korea’s frontier island. Jeju is becoming a home to fringe elements within Korean culture, especially artists who seek to create a countercultural movement, unleashing creative energies that are often ignored by mainstream tastes. Jeju is a place when they can achieve their dream, an island full of artistic sense and vision. That’s why the most recent Jeju Fringe Festival was so special. It’s creating a space for Korea to celebrate the cutting-edge of its burgeoning fringes.

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The keywords of the 2016 Jeju Fringe Festival are value, empathy, and creation. Artists involved in literature, music, dancing, acting (drama), video,  and other performance art shared their talents with the public. The festival opened its arms to artists who love self expression, allowing them to escape rigidly held ideas on creativity, establishing local resonance and community support in the process.

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Various works including experimental pieces were introduced to the public in Jeju’s old city center.

A performance entitled “Dominant” by local theater group Salgoce made a deeply emotional impression on its audiences. The golden birdcage located in the center of the stage was symbolic of repression, a gilded prison of humanity’s simultaneous valuation and devaluation of women since time immemorial. The physical and emotional differences between women and men expressed in this piece were vivid and overwhelming at times. It represented a welcomed and sobering statement from a feminist perspective in a culture that is only beginning to embrace gender equality.

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Later that night additional artists from Japan, France, and Korea joined Salgoce to perform a fire show, lighting up the first night of the event with a combustible and incendiary performance.

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At the end of the Fringe Festival, Kimbanjang and Windcity – one of Korea’s most rhythmically gifted bands – performed to a venue overflowing with movement and music. Both the audience and the band lost themselves in dance, and the festival came to a fitting participatory finale, full of value, empathy, and creative force.

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