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Search for Erased Memories and Edited Time
[Festivals] Search for Erased Memories and Edited Time
Writer : Choe Suna_Arts and Cultural Events Planner 2016.01.11 Asia > Thailand

Search for Erased Memories and Edited Time
[Festival/Market] Something Missing, Korea-Thailand Collaboration: Theatre Momggol × B-Floor Theatre


Bangkok’s Thong Lor Art Space hosted the performance Something Missing, a collaborative project between Korea’s Theatre Momggol1) and Thailand’s B-Floor Theatre2)  over a span of three days this past November 12-14. This piece was the result of three weeks of collaborative residency and showcase performances between the two partners.



1) Theatre Momggol, which includes the affiliated organizations of Momggol Imagination School and GGol Culture, engages in a diverse range of activities. Momggol Imagination School plays a key role in linking the public community to theater, while GGol Culture specializes in artistic and cultural events. The theater’s goal is to stimulate debate over the concept of justice, which has been forgotten or overlooked by society, through taking on the risks encountered by marginalized forms of art and experimenting with unfamiliar language.
Key works include Orphee, Handcart, Overturned, Mujimagji Circus, and Bad Impulse.

2) Celebrating its 15th anniversary this year, B-Floor Theatre comprises theater-loving artists of various genres. Together with designers, visual artists, and musicians, the theater’s various works focus on elements of movement. It strives toward a society that embraces itself and approaches political themes through movement and multimedia exploration.
Key works include GODa Gardener, Satapana: Red Tank, Sapatana: Iceberg, and Bang La Merd.

Journey to the Meeting of Korea and Thailand

The seed for this collaboration between Theatre Momggol’s Yoon Jongyeon and B-Floor Theatre’s Teerawat Ka-ge Mulvilai was planted in March 2015. The two artists, both panellists of Listen to the Cities: Research Forum of Thai-Korean Contemporary Performing Arts, at the Korean Cultural Center in Thailand, discovered their professional commonalities through this meeting, one of which being both their organizations utilize elements of movement to depict themes concerning politics, society, and the weak and marginalized.

The current project was sponsored by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism and Korea Arts Management Service’sTraveling Korean Arts project, and was hosted by the Korean Cultural Center in Thailand, in cooperation with organizers Theatre Momggol and Bangkok’s Thong Lor Art Space.3) The performance was part of the Low Fat Art Fest4) at the Bangkok Theatre Festival.5) A one-week residency in Seoul followed after the Bangkok residency and performance, during which tours of Seoul’s sites of interest, additional research and complementary workshops furthered mutual interest and cemented a path toward future collaboration.



3) A 4-storey integrated cultural space with theaters, studios, and a cafe that opened in early 2014. A platform for various media, such as performances, exhibitions, and workshops, that was possible through active cooperation between artists and producers.

4) A small theatre festival that started this year, Low Fat Art Fest has seen participation from Thong Lor Art Space, Creative Theatre, and B-Floor Room, amongst others, and hosted diverse genres such as performances, exhibitions, and talks. Other than providing the opportunity for Thai artists to actively collaborate with their counterparts from countries like Korea, Japan, Laos, and the Philippines, the festival received positive reviews for its planning and performances.

5) Enjoying its 14th run this year, this festival is the largest and most representative performance festival in Thailand. It was started by the Bangkok Theatre Network in 2002 to promote small theatres and theatre groups as well as provide a platform for emerging artists and artist exchanges. The event features a range of genres such as traditional Thai acts, folk dramas, contemporary drama, pantomimes, dance, likay folk dance, physical theater, musicals, and experimental theater.



Since the establishment of the Korean Cultural Center of Thailand in July 2013, there have been two opportunities to introduce Korean art and performances, both traditional and contemporary, to Thai audiences. Along the way, there have been small-scale collaborations for artists and performing arts forums to slowly forge the path toward genuine Korea-Thailand partnerships. A 3-week residency program in Bangkok saw Theatre Momggol work closely with B-Floor on research and workshops to prepare for their collaborative piece. This performance not only provided a chance to meet with local artists and viewers, it was also showcased during the Thailand-Korea Friendship Festival hosted by the Korean Cultural Center.

The Bangkok residency created not just positive bonds between artists, but also between venues and festivals. With little opportunities for works of Korean theater to be shown in Thailand, the current production drew considerable interest from media and audiences. It also received much feedback, with favorable reviews from influential media outlets. Furthermore, the Thailand Section of the International Association of Theatre and Dance Critics (IATC-TC)6) gave it two Bangkok Theater Festival awards: Best Movement Based Performance and Best Art Direction.



6) Founded in 2012, this group for theater critics was the first of its kind in Southeast Asia. IATC-TC promotes the contemporary arts scene in Thailand by supporting critics of theater, dance, and film who are active in academia and media, allowing them to review a wide array of relevant works. The group also hosts its award ceremony annually every February.



Something Missing performance ©KAMS

Something Missing performance ©KAMS

Something Missing performance ©KAMS

“Performers tumbled down the stairs and were shoved underneath our seats, eyes wide in terror; stillness was broken by a sudden rush to shush and subdue. The directors and the charismatic cast brought us deep into the world of fear and oppression.”
- Amitha Amranand of the Bangkok Post

“The Korean performers blended with their Thai counterparts into one united ensemble, just as if they belonged to the same company. In addition, the fact that Jong and his Thai counterpart Teerawat Mulvilai have strong social and political awareness was evident in this work from two democratic countries with a recent history of dictatorship and political protests.”
- Pawit Mahasarinand of The Nation

The Chemistry between Theatre Momggol and B-Floor

Directors Yoon Jongyeon and Teerawat Mulvilai first met in Bangkok this past March at the Research Forum of Thai-Korean Contemporary Performing Arts, a five-day event. Through visits to main sites of artistic and cultural interest as suggested by Thailand’s Ministry of Tourism and Sports, in addition to a forum that brought together artists from the two countries, the project facilitated mutual interest and understanding. Furthermore, Korean Cultural Center staff and Leon Wasurachara Unaprom, Artistic Director of Thong Lor Art Space, have been working on a co-production in Bangkok since last August, and preparations have led them to discuss specific concepts and participants for the piece.

I was able to catch up with the two directors at Momggol Studio on 19 November during the Seoul residency, where they reflected upon their experiences with the project.

Teerawat Mulvilai: I wanted to concentrate during the workshops on using the body to convey situations like oppression and social control, concepts that are extremely complex even when using verbal expression. We had to try different ideas and use our physical bodies to experiment with various movements, as well as discuss our experiences throughout the process. Director Yoon and I took turns leading the workshop and, this way, we managed to exchange ideas and eventually recalled the Korean folktale, The King with Donkey Ears.

Yoon Jongyeon: We grew empathy for each other as we opened up and shared our life experiences. To be honest, we can’t say we have had “normal” experiences, even though we have lived our lives as though we had. This point was very interesting. People are psychologically anxious all the time, but must hide both this anxiety and its resultant discomfort.
My focus for the project was on the actions that suppress and erase memories, the states that are too overwhelming for us to bear, and the feelings of loss that perpetuate memory loss. I agonized over what issues fit these criteria, that is, issues that become unbearable for us if they aren’t erased or issues that we deliberately attempt to conceal. I even shared stories about people who forget things every 5 minutes, as though they were suffering from short-term memory loss. I mentioned the Korean movie The March of Fools to illustrate the feelings of futility that people have when they lose their purpose in life. As we were developing our storylines, the fable ‘The King with Donkey Ears came up. This tale isn’t just a story about King Gyeongmun of Silla Kingdom; a similar storyline can be found in folklore in relation to King Midas of ancient Greece. In short, through our piece, we endeavored to depict unspeakable issues or issues that we close our eyes and ears to.

Co-creation workshop for Something Missing ©KAMS

Co-creation workshop for Something Missing ©KAMS

Co-creation workshop for Something Missing ©KAMS

Director Yoon took the project lead in the second week and led the group to project completion.

Yoon: Since everyone was on the same page and shared interest pertaining to this theme, everything progressed relatively quickly and smoothly, from sourcing performance materials to making the framework for the performance. We strove to share the stories behind the facts and not just the visible aspects of the issues. As a result, we racked our brains to figure out what emotions there would be, or what other things might there be that hadn’t manifested themselves clearly. As we gradually explored these ideas deeper and deeper, we started to approximate our final product.

The theater groups and the performers demonstrated great chemistry despite this being their first joint effort. Also, we had support and assistance from our important partners Thong Lor Art Space and Low Fat Art Fest.

Yoon: It was helpful that we could spend a long time in the theater on this project. We started rehearsing a week before the performance, so we were able to experiment with different methods of using the space. Since the director of our project partner Thong Lor Art Space was in discussion with us right from the very beginning, he witnessed the entire creative process and could understand where we were coming from and what was needed.

Strolling Across the Third Hangang River Bridge

The group continued with the Seoul phase of the project after the run in Bangkok, and also had the chance to see contemporary Seoul. What meaning did the one week of research and workshops hold for the group? Director Mulvilai started to research various spaces during the Seoul workshop. He had the Korean performers select spaces that were meaningful to them and asked them to express their feelings using their bodies rather than words. It became a test of nonverbal communication. The group’s journey started at Hannam Bridge and expanded to Gwanghwamun and Daehangno, all areas featured in the song “The Third Hangang Bridge,” which they used for i. The Third Hangang Bridge connects Gangnam and Gangbuk and is a symbol of Korea’s modernization; while Gwanghwamun is synonymous with Korea’s social dynamics. The research at Daehangno was followed by a 3-day workshop, during which the performers each explored new ways of communicating their stories and movements.

Teerawat Mulvilai: Although the work we did in Seoul was patchy and not too thorough, the time we had was sufficient for us to attempt our physical expressions in relation to the theme and our intentions. Additionally, we utilized the space given to us by experimenting with how to share our ideas physically. Based on our differing analyses of each space, we used respective movements to infer the meaning that the space held for us, and shared with our audiences what was currently happening in the world, what we were concerned about, and what was it that we were experiencing. Social issues and situations are similar regardless of culture and country. Citizens become victims of control. Through our work, we figure out how to analyze our current situations, something we constantly think about.  

Directors Jongyeon Yoon (left) and Teerawat Mulvilai (right) ©KAMS

Something Missing performance poster ©KAMS

Directors Jongyeon Yoon (left) and Teerawat Mulvilai (right) ©KAMS Something Missing performance poster ©KAMS

How did the two men feel about each other’s home towns?

Yoon: My visit to Bangkok in March for the research forum was also my first time to the city, and my first impression was pretty intense. Bangkok is much larger and considerably more urbanized than I had imagined. I knew nothing about contemporary Thai performing arts, and only had a mental image of traditional Thai culture and food. Therefore, the disparity between what I expected and what I saw was rather great. I was extremely surprised by the social consciousness of the hardworking performers after meeting and speaking with them. They were more active and resistant than I expected. The contemporary performing arts and theater scenes aren’t big in Thailand, and there is minimal government support for these arts. Yet the people in these circles hold various roles like performers, producers, and marketing promoters. In addition, they are rather active in overseas partnerships and exchanges.

Teerawat Mulvilai: This project was a fabulous chance for us to collaborate with our Korean associates. Previously, I did a residency with the Hooyong Performing Arts Centre through Nottle Theatre Company, and did a solo act at the Seoul Fringe Festival, but those were very short stints. This time, because of the close collaborative relationships we made, the experience was meaningful and it motivated me to focus better and complete the project. We had a project to work on, so we didn’t have any barriers between us and could communicate with each other openly. We certainly worked together closely on this piece. It isn’t easy to complete a new project in a short time, but it went remarkably well, and I was very pleased to receive the awards at the Bangkok Theatre Festival. I was delighted that we could finish this project in the time that we had.

Back in 2014, I did some research on Asia and found out that there are currently rigid social circumstances in Asia, and many aspects without freedom. I came to realize this more intimately in Korea’s case after spending time in Seoul for this residency. By exploring these themes in our work, we are facing the issues squarely and not avoiding them. We shared numerous stories on how we could express these themes through our art and movements.

How did the two men feel about each other as working partners?

Teerawat Mulvilai: I recall clearly that Director Yoon was particularly detail-oriented. He also kept motivating the team throughout the course of the project. You could see him getting emotional, especially when creating movements and depicting scenes. For me, I usually hold back my emotions and keep my performers neutral when I embark on a project. In this aspect, our two troupes are different. Director Yoon seeks dramatism and poetry in his movements. At the same time, you see slowness, sharpness, and abruptness. Consequently, when you watch his scenes, you can feel drama and emotions. B-Floor also employs many direct expressions, but a key difference from Momggol is our usage of symbolic representations to convey intention.

Yoon: I feel that one difference between our styles is Director Mulvilai’s interesting use of the elements of tension and repetition. He coaxes these elements splendidly out of his performers’ movements to properly create the scene. Thanks to his style, we were able to embed a new sense of tension into this project.

Interacting with audience members of Something Missing ©KAMS

Thong Lor Art Space during Low Fat Art Fest, an inaugural small theater festival Low Fat Art Fest © KAMS

Interacting with audience members of Something Missing ©KAMS

 
Thong Lor Art Space during Low Fat Art Fest, an inaugural small theater festival Low Fat Art Fest © KAMS

Dreams for the Future

International collaborations require commitment, and it is not easy to sustain such partnerships. Both partners have to maintain interest in and understanding of each other. Moreover, preparing a budget to allow one to build a variety of collaborative partnerships is also not an easy task. Nevertheless, these connections widen our horizons and expand our visions. They quench our thirst for something new and drive our desire to incite interest in a topic through art.

Up next, Something Missing is seeking opportunities to share itself with audiences in other Asian countries. A meeting of two people that came about from interest and curiosity developed into deep mutual understanding and friendship. Just as how Director Yoon’s interest in Thai contemporary performing arts grew, we look forward to more introductions and exchanges in the future.

 
 

©KAMS



Something Missing, Korea-Thailand Collaboration

Something Missing

Korea-Thailand Collaboration: Theatre Momggol × B-floor Theatre
Bangkok Residency 26 October - 14 November 2015
Showcase Performance: 12 - 14 December 2015, Low Fat Art Fest, Bangkok Theatre Festival
Seoul Residency 17 - 22 November 2015

Director: Jong Yeon Yoon
Co-Director: Teerawat Ka-ge Mulvilai
Performers: Jeoung Eun Kim, Min Ki, Jee Hyun Nho, Sarut Komalittipong, Wasu Wanrayangkoon
Sound Design and Live Performance: Kamonpat Pimsarn
Producers: Suna Choe, Hyun-Jin Yim
Host: Korean Cultural Center Thailand
Organizer: Theatre Momggol
Sponsors: Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, Korea Arts Management Service, Traveling Korean Arts
Partners: B-floor Theatre, Thong Lor Art Space, Low Fat Art Fest, Bangkok Theatre Festival

기고자프로필

Choe Suna_Arts and Cultural Events Planner
Artistic and cultural event planner working in the areas of independent and interdisciplinary art in relation to art and the community. Member of the Seoul Fringe Festival, alivearts CO_MO, and the Docchang Forum, among other groups. Worked on research on Thai arts and culture and international exchange with the Korean Cultural Center in Thailand from 2013 to 2015.
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