Korea: Performing Arts Market in Seoul

From a hip hop-inspired production of Swan Lake to a mockumentary about making pizza in North Korea, Performing Arts Market in Seoul is bringing some of South Korea’s most innovative creators to a global audience. Organised by the Korea Arts Management Service, the event gives international arts practitioners the chance to network and discover new work. Seok-hong Kim, head of KAMS’ international development department, tells IAM what delegates can expect at PAMS 2013

Now in its ninth year, PAMS is the annual meeting place for more than 1,500 performing arts professionals from Korea and abroad. Promoting the domestic and international exchange of performing arts – as well as the distribution of Korean arts abroad – PAMS acts as a real springboard for people in the performance field. The event bolsters communication, exchange and cooperation in creative ways.

Under this year’s networking theme, ‘Cross + Contemporary, Continent and Culture’, people will share their artistic ideas, works and visions, build up networks and inspire each other. PAMS explores a different part of the world each year; the 2013 conference sessions will focus on Asia. The programme aims to shed light on the region in order to gain a deeper understanding of the area’s performing arts landscape and look at issues in their cultural and social context. PAMS 2013 will pay particular attention to the role of leadership in the Asian performing arts scene.

‘People will share their artistic ideas, works and visions, build up networks and inspire each other’

The session, ‘Cultural Partnership in Asia: Cross the Border’, will examine international cooperation and share best practice strategies that strengthen arts partnerships. It will allow delegates to establish contacts and explore the possibility of collaborating with Asian arts organisations. In our second session, ‘Cultural Leadership in Asia: The Asian Approach’, experts will speak about arts management, crisis solution, and share their success stories with the next generation of cultural leaders. Speakers across the two sessions include Tisa Ho, executive director of the Hong Kong Arts Festival; Tony Grybowski, CEO of the Australia Council for the Arts; Anupama Sekhar, acting deputy director of cultural exchange at the Asia-Europe Foundation; Amna Kusumo, director of Indonesia’s Kelola Foundation; and Ong Keng Sen, artistic director of TheatreWorks in Singapore.

PAMS Choice is the showcase section of the event, providing a platform for Korean organisations to reach an audience of global promoters, producers and arts executives. A total of 130 works have been selected for PAMS Choice between 2005 and 2012. Performers have also been given the chance to present shows abroad as a result of their participation in PAMS Choice, with over 630 performances staged around the world. Festivals that present Korean PAMS Choice works include Sibiu International Theatre Festival, Festival de Teatro de Curitiba in Brazil, Paris Quartier d’été, Festival Internacional de Artes Escénicas in Uruguay, and the Edinburgh International Festival.

Organisations to be showcased through PAMS Choice are selected by way of a three-stage process. Firstly, a call for proposals is issued. A jury then assesses the proposals based on artistic quality; their potential competitiveness on the international performing arts market; and how well the work represents today’s Korean performing arts scene. The jury selects around 10 works to be showcased throughout PAMS 2013. If organisations are invited to perform at international festivals (following their PAMS showcase), they receive support from ARKO (Arts Council Korea) – PAMS grant towards flight and cargo costs, and in conjunction with the Literature Translation Institute of Korea, support for translation and subtitling.

Among the 10 organisations taking part in this year’s showcase are Creative Group NONI’s Chaotic Twins, and traditional group Ensemble SINAWI, which will perform its Cadenza for Soul with a classical orchestra. Ahn Soo-young dance troupe updates Swan Lake with hip-hop, breakdancing and an environmental message, while Sadari Movement Lab reinvents Jean Genet’s dark play The Maids with video projection, creative sound design and physical theatre.

Meanwhile designer and artist Hwang Kim will present his provocative film Pizzas for the People, a creative response to North Korea’s isolated and oppressive ideologies – and its bizarre recent opening of Pyongyang’s first ever pizzeria. For Pizzas for the People, Kim created a series of DVDs, playfully subverting the traditional notion of propaganda. His work takes the form of a four-part mini-series in which a North Korean couple shows viewers how to dance to pop songs, pack a suitcase, and make pizza. Kim even paid Chinese smugglers to distribute DVDs of the film to the North Korean black market. The work explores how art and design might affect viewers on a social and cultural level, subtly challenging an ideological status quo.

Hwang Kim's Pizza for the People
Hwang Kim’s Pizza for the People

Looking ahead, PAMS aims to be the leading arts market in Asia. We also want to be the most prominent platform for global cultural exchange, so we’re trying to include a range of cultures in our programming. Recently PAMS has been exploring arts and culture in the Middle East, with a view to having our conference programme focus on the region in the future. Korea Arts Management Service is a non-profit public body under the umbrella of the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism. We aim to develop a supportive system for more efficient arts management in Korea, and to provide arts organisations with multi-faceted assistance in the fields of international exchange, human resources development, and advice.