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PAMS 2016 Review: Connect, Fascinate, Open
[Festivals] PAMS 2016 Review: Connect, Fascinate, Open
Writer : Joo, Hee-hyun (The Kukmin Daily_Mytwelve Executive secretary) 2016.11.01

PAMS 2016 Review: Connect, Fascinate, Open
 


The Joseon-era traditional markets (five-day markets) started as a way for farmers to trade and barter goods during lean years, but after the eighteenth century, the marketplace became a way of life. More than a place to buy and sell goods, the market was a network that brought people and goods together. Performances and festivities took place alongside the economic activity, and the market became a space for communication, where information, too, was exchanged and shared. The mix of spectacle, products, and information that once attracted crowds to the markets was the defining element of the2016 Performing Arts Market Seoul (PAMS).

Like the traditional markets of old, PAMS took place over five days, from October 4 to 8, at venues that included the ARKO Arts Theater, Daehakro Arts Theater, and the Hongik Daehangno Art Center Gallery. The diverse program included a showcase of productions by local and international performance groups as well as a booth exhibition, academic sessions, and networking events. As this year’s edition confirmed, PAMS is the premier platform for showcasing Korea’s performing arts in all their diversity and creativity, from theater and dance to music and multidisciplinary performances, as well as an invaluable arena for international exchange, providing information sharing and network expansion opportunities for local and international performing arts professionals. 

   

▲ Focus Session © PARK, Ye-lim

▲ Focus Session © PARK, Ye-lim

Arts, not oil, from the Middle East

This year’s Focus Session, which took place before the opening ceremony and reception on opening day, was dedicated to the arts of the Middle East. For many people, mention of the Middle East brings to mind things like oil, territorial conflict, and the “Miracle of the Desert,” which is why a focus on Middle Eastern arts is quite unusual. Culture and arts professionals from the UAE, Qatar, Iran, Egypt, Oman, and Morocco shared stories about their professional experiences, reinforcing the value and role of the arts in our world and also generating anticipation for as yet undeveloped markets for the arts. The efforts that have been made in the region to create open arts spaces as a means to address territorial conflict and to promote democratization through arts activities that contribute to social discourse (for example, on women and marginalized classes) are a reminder of art’s social and communal functions, too easily overlooked in Korean society.   

▲ Reception © PARK, Ye-lim

▲ Reception © PARK, Ye-lim

Familiar yet unexpected perspective(s)

On opening day, the Daehangno area was bustling with activity. In an illustration of the mission and significance of PAMS, the festivities began with videos detailing the experiences of artists and performing groups that have obtained opportunities for international exchange through the PAMS program. A performance of Romeo and Juliet (Mokhwa Repertory Company) was held during the reception. A reinterpretation of the original production, featuring Korean rhythms and cadences, the performance was received with enthusiasm and interest by international attendees. I realized that pursuing international exchange would need to begin with presenting and perceiving Korean art as something new and different rather than as something familiar. Efforts for exchange begin not with new markets or new places but with new perspectives. 

▲ Mark Ball, artistic director, London International Festival of Theatre, Round Table © PARK, Ye-lim

▲ Mark Ball, artistic director, London International Festival of Theatre, Round Table © PARK, Ye-lim

The Round Table sessions, which took place every morning for three days, began on the morning of the second day and addressed a variety of themes and recent issues affecting the local and international performing arts sectors. Perhaps because of the academic overtones, the event attracted fewer participants than some of the other events, but it was a helpful guide for gaining a broader understanding of artistic directing, as indicated by the topics (“Regional Performing Arts Markets: North America,” “Cultural Mega-events and Arts,” “Artistic Production through Cooperation in Science and Technology,” “For the New Collaboration in Asia”). The common emphasis on the importance of social ethics and responsibility in the convergence of the performing arts and IT was especially relevant considering the time in which we live. As someone engaged in the academic examination of arts and culture, I found the round table sessions particularly stimulating and beneficial in the wealth of research-worthy ideas and sources provided.

The productions featured as part of PAMS Choice, the official showcase of works selected by a review panel of local and international experts, were a main event at PAMS. (PAMS Link, which connects visitors to outside programs and performances taking place during PAMS, offering discounted admission and other benefits, further expanded the scope of the festivities.) These carefully selected works, all of a caliber that had to be seen to be believed, reflected contemporary artistic currents and the impressive level of artistry characterizing today’s performing arts scene. They also provided ample creative inspiration and material for constructive application. Staged in the plaza in front of ARKO Arts Theater, the showcase was open to the general public, making it possible to observe the audience’s reactions firsthand. 

▲ Booth exhibition © Santa An

▲ Booth exhibition © Santa An

Ready for engagement: process over outcome

The Booth Exhibition, approximately 45 percent bigger than in previous years and attended by a diverse range of local and international performance groups and organizations, faithfully fulfilled its role as an open arena for the exchange of practical information on the performing arts. The booths of overseas groups and organizations were especially active in their promotional and marketing campaigns. One organization operated by the Mexican government asked detailed questions of those receiving consultations, including the genre they identified with, which market they planned to enter, and the composition of their team. It also provided them with information on the organizations and contacts that might be most helpful, explaining their attributes and strengths. Knowledgeable about Mexico’s various performing arts organizations and active in their promotional efforts, the group had obviously come prepared and left very positive impressions as a result. In contrast, several local Korean organizations were a lot less assertive in running their booths, and some booths were even left unattended, which was unfortunate. It would appear that more thought needs to be given to developing a unique platform for each booth and ensuring smooth management.

The Pop-up Stage, at which individuals and groups partaking in the Booth Exhibition could present highlights from their performances, was an opportunity to gain an understanding of the process of bringing a show to the stage, from production and performance to reception and reviews, elements that aren’t as discernible in the showcase performances. The short but striking presentations by successful overseas performance groups, who had extensive experience with local and international exchange, were no doubt a useful reference for Korean artists seeking to expand into overseas markets. Immediately after the presentations, the presenters received inquiries for future performances and seemed to be discussing arrangements to that end.  

▲ PAMS Night © Santa An

▲ PAMS Night © Santa An 

From people to people

At the three PAMS Night events, organized respectively by the Korea–Arab Society, the British Council, and the Finnish organization Accessible Arts and Culture, attendees were treated to various programs that created the feel of traveling through a foreign country, or having been transported to a small village abroad. Each program was unique and thus doubly enjoyable. On “United Kingdom Night,” a famous pop artist performed in the small neighborhood bar, a memorable experience that felt like a dream. “Finland Night,” which featured an acoustic folk concert by an older group of gentlemen, felt more like real life, but infused and enlivened with art. These events showed me that creating an atmosphere in Korea that welcomes and embraces the diverse performances of other countries is as important as sending Korean groups abroad. In this way, not only locals but also visitors from overseas would take an interest in these performances, and they could potentially become cultural content in their own right. 

▲ Closing Ceremony © Santa An

▲ Closing Ceremony © Santa An 

It’s not an easy for any kind of program to open and close in resounding success, but the PAMS closing ceremony was especially moving, and this is because it was focused not on work or on the event but on people. The witty awards ceremony, which included awards given in recognition of devotion as well as passion, served to bring together the local and international participants who had gotten to know one another better over the five days of the event, and further strengthen this friendship. While overseas entry and international exchange are grand, worthy goals, on this night it was laughter and applause through which people communicated and bonded. At the end, in a moment that left me deeply touched, the volunteers of PAMS (or PAMSIANs) were introduced as the real stars, and their names were individually read aloud, to seemingly unending cheers and applause from the audience. It was a reminder that art, the arts market, globalization, and networking all revolve around people. To sum up the five days of PAMS 2016, it was a time of connections, fascination, and opening up. The closing ceremony was, in this respect, a new opening, to be established on the basis of connection, mutual fascination, and encounters and relationships that are always open.

As I watched people from all over the world say their last greetings, sad to say goodbye but expectant about meeting in the future, the image of Korea’s traditional marketplace came to mind. I’m hopeful that PAMS will become a marketplace for the people of the world, where art is produced as part of daily life and daily life is lived out within the domain of art, and I’m already excited for PAMS 2017. I unfortunately didn’t get to cover the reception or the pitching and speed dating sessions, but to conclude, I wholeheartedly recommend that everyone experience PAMS for themselves next year. 

기고자프로필

Joo, Hee-hyun (The Kukmin Daily_Mytwelve Executive secretary)
JOO, Hee-hyun is director of Art Space No, an arts and culture space. She is currently working toward a doctorate in arts and culture management at Hongik University Graduate School. Her projects and research focus on sharing religious facilities as spaces for arts and culture. She is currently director and secretary-general overseeing the arts and cultural content networking project of the Kukmin Ilbo, titled My Twelve
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