Zoe Chun: Art Community - A Salon of This Generation

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Mar 19, 2020
by Zoe Chun
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Zoe Chun: Art Community - A Salon of This Generation

Salzburg Global Fellow Zoe Chun reflects on her experience at the sixth program of the Young Cultural Innovators Forum

This article was originally published in the Seoul Art Guide.

Last month, I attended the 6th YCI Salzburg Global Seminar in Austria. Leaders, artists, and activists from nonprofit cultural and arts organizations from 50 countries around the world spent a week together to discuss their visions and values for creation. In hindsight, I would say the purpose of this international seminar was not so much to network as to pursue a series of coalitions. Commenting on these expressions, a 'coalition' aims at building and promoting a community, whereas to 'network' implies some kind of exchange—that is, connection. Perhaps the biggest difference in nuance would be that the concept of 'coalition' abstractly implies an ultimate continuity. In what ways, then, could such community ultimately impact the present cultural and artistic world, especially in the exhibition area of contemporary art?

About 50 participants covered various topics including humanitarianism, gender, and human rights based on multinational languages, cultures, and religious backgrounds. Through lectures, discussions, and workshops, we shared approaches to 'sustainability' (which are discussed at major nonprofit organizations), creative social movements for the underprivileged and minorities, and other unique artistic perspectives about local communities from extremely personal stories and experiences.

This community of young cultural workers that formed during a short period of time reminded me of the salon culture that prevailed in the 18th century. In fact, Schloss Leopoldskron, which was where the seminar was held and has been one of the major sites of the Rococo style, was founded in the 18th century. Later, in the early 20th century, an innovative playwright and director named Max Reinhardt founded the Salzburg Festival with leading intellectuals and artists of the time, such as a romantic composer Richard Strauss and a lyrist poet Hugo von Hoffmanstall, and the place became a prominent local cultural attraction.

From the Victorian era since the Reform Act of 1832 to the Nazi regime era in the 1930s to the present, the historical periods of wounds, oppression, and recovery had left their legacies in this space that are now giving young cultural innovators new inspirations and a will to challenge the contemporary perspectives. Perhaps because of this, the participants did not constrain themselves in method and format of their presentations as they played their music, showed short films they directed, and read poems of various sentiments inspired during this period. Coexisting alongside the romantic and emotional elements mentioned earlier were physical dynamics such as live music performances, b-boy dances, and yoga. It is no exaggeration to say that this week-long salon as a loose but united relationship, a free but inclusive environment, gave us all a sense of camaraderie at the level of a mere friendship.

Sadly, the past glory of the salon culture has deteriorated and disappeared as it faced, unlike its origin, limitations in transcending political flows and classes. Whether the attempt and purpose were experimental or aesthetic, the root of the arduous pursuit for aesthetics and philosophy at that time was a 'dialogue.'

Rather than simply telling stories, it repeats a cycle of life interaction, comfort for emotional and spiritual solidarities, courage, recovery, and challenge.

Furthermore, the 'dialogue' is a kind of phenomenal history that forms a memory with the space that was born itself, and a present that anticipates its future influence.

In 1961, at the Theater of Odéon in Paris, when a sculptor Alberto Giacometti was working on a skinny tree, preparing a stage for Samuel Beckett's 'Waiting for Godot,' Giacometti later recalled:

“It was considered as a tree. or a tree and a moon.
We worked all night experimenting with the tree. making bigger. and then smaller.
or sometimes making the branches thinner.
And then we would say to each other. 'well..'
(Dialogue into the VoId: Beckett & Giacometti. Matti Megged, 1985)

In this short three-part series, I would like to take the contemporary art that has sunk into the established order beyond an institutional exhibition and question the concept of an exhibition from a historic, cultural point of view. I hope that in contemporary art the concept of exhibitions can be redefined into ones where it can break from the extant isolated systems and structures to cultivate a healthy and sustainable community, where it can break from the distinctions between experts and non-experts to foster a real coalition of emotions and sensibilities. At the same time, I lay my hopes on my colleagues and artists who are already striving in where a real attention and interest is needed—the field outside the established order. 

Zoe Chun / Independent Curator & Director of The Great Commission
Translated by Minji Chun, Edited by Eugene Park


The Salzburg Global Seminar Program, Cultural Innovation, Leadership and Collaboration: A Global Platform, is part of the Young Cultural Innovators Forum annual program. The program is held in partnership with Adena and David Testa, Arts Council KoreaArts Council Maltathe Bush FoundationCanada Council for the ArtsJapan Foundationthe Korea Foundationthe Kresge FoundationLloyd A. Fry Foundationthe McKnight Foundationthe Nippon FoundationSalama Bint Hamdan al Nahyan FoundationShalini Passi Art Foundation, and World Culture Open.