Expat Art Careerists Launch vol.1 of CONCRETE EXPERIENCE

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By Mizaru

Expat Art Careerists launch vol.1 of CONCRETE EXPERIENCE: Transposition

There is a tried and true Irish myth-lore that goes “when you want to be the career-man then you will find a ladder in your travels… at the top of the ladder will be a noose.”

On Friday night, April 15 at Laughing Tree Gallery along the up-top on the dung slope drag of Haebangchon, another expat in Seoul culture project was launched: Concrete Experience. It defines itself as,

Concrete Experience is a journal of contemporary photography and creative writing, published quarterly and aimed at pushing innovation in the way we think about the world around us through carefully curated interactions between diverse approaches to a common theme.

Three cheers to that as I dropped a business card from BestCheapAirTravel into page 59 of Hemingway’s “The Sun Also Rises” and closed it.

Laughing Tree Gallery is a fun place and the hosts of these art soirées always spread out cheese and wine to whomever shows up. Inside the small gallery the company keeping was not the expats in Paris of, “The Lost Generation.” I didn’t chat with “Spider Kelly” about boxing, nor with “Robert Cohn” about very poor first novels. There might have been a “Lady Brett Ashley” on hand, though she was not much of a drinker like the original was. There certainly was more than one “Frances Clyne”—a manipulative status seeker in the hot-house, but not one broken tooth prostitute with charisma in the gallery. And yet at the end of the night, I didn’t have as dreadful a night as could have been banked on.

In the following days I promised myself that no matter how much of a usual suspect expat production Concrete Experience is, that I would not stain the review page with the word “pretension.”  In fact before seriously opening Concrete Experience, I wanted to be in the most favorable disposition to the whole art business so I downloaded Oscar Wilde’s, “Lecture to Art Students.”  Here is a passage:

Now, as regards the relations of the artist to his surroundings, by which I mean the age and country in which he is born. All good art, as I said before, has nothing to do with any particular century; but this universality is the quality of the work of art; the conditions that produce that quality are different. And what, I think, you should do is to realise completely your age in order completely to abstract yourself from it; remembering that if you are an artist at all, you will be not the mouthpiece of a century, but the master of eternity, that all art rests on a principle, and that mere temporal considerations are no principle at all; and that those who advise you to make your art representative of the nineteenth century are advising you to produce an art which your children, when you have them, will think old-fashioned. But you will tell me this is an inartistic age, and we are an inartistic people, and the artist suffers much in this nineteenth century of ours.

Of course he does. I, of all men, am not going to deny that. But remember that there never has been an artistic age, or an artistic people, since the beginning of the world. The artist has always been, and will always be, an exquisite exception. There is no golden age of art; only artists who have produced what is more golden than gold.

I get this—I think.

Now this editorial on art, below, from page 06 of Concrete Experience by the projects’ curator Andy St. Louis:

Complete and perfect objectivity, of course, is a pipe dream for all but perhaps a very select few across the millennia of recorded time. History, they say, is written by the victors, which is of course why Ancient Greek and Latin continue to be taught in primary, secondary and undergraduate institutions, even in a world where they have no practical value whatsoever. The Ancient Greeks and Romans were, no doubt, bestowed with some great minds, but one cannot help wondering what other great

thinkers and theories must have been simply wiped off the proverbial slate, particularly at the hands of the world’s first Western Empire. So that writing—written language—is a tool of preservation of one’s own ways of life and cultural legacies (often posited as superior to others’) as much as it is about remembering.

I get this too—I think.

For whatever reason I wanted to go to something in the new expat artists journal that was in fact art; so to page 12 of “Concrete Experience” and a poem by Gwen Atkinson. At least I think it is a poem by her. Her name is the by-line under Reconstruction of a Translator’s Note. But at the bottom page where the poem ends it reads:

Intertextuality/erasure poetry, spring boarded from “Translator’s Note.” P.89, in At the sky’s Edge, poems 1991-1996 by Bei Dao; translated from Chinese into English by David Hinton. New Directions Books, bilingual version, 2001.

This I am quite sure that I don’t get, but here are the first 8 lines of the poem that somebody wrote and springboarded and translated:

–Made your voice seem to come out of nowhere.


Like rain clouds you saw.

Overhead on a dark day.

Blowing droplets.


Gov. compelled to suppress.

Individuality. The mysterious space–.

There might be something here or there might not be. In fact I must be in some rarefied space that only art can manifest. So put a feather in the cap for the makers of this journal Concrete Experience vol. 1. For the next publication I’ll have to empty my reading list to fully experience what is happening here: for one thing there are a lot of pictures too.

In the meantime it is back to “The Sun Also Rises.” My expat comfort zone, of “The Lost Generation”:  “Jake Barnes” who rarely speaks about himself, “Robert Cohn” who has ideals about expat life even after publishing a critically acclaimed novel, and of course “Lady Brett Ashley” who to me seems like an overrated-dame.  “Spider Kelly” is now out of the novel but the bullfighter Pedro Romero is on his way in sooner or later. Hey I’m only up to page 59.

CONCRETE EXPERIENCE vol. 1 is available in Seoul at the following retail locations:

The Books
The Book Society
Seoul Selection
What the Book?
Your Mind

Here is Oscar Wilde’s essay: Lecture to Art Students.

Ernest Hemingway’s “The Sun Also Rises” can be found wherever people walk upright.


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8 Responses to “Expat Art Careerists Launch vol.1 of CONCRETE EXPERIENCE”

  1. Lady Brett Ashley Says:

    I am not the best writer so you are more than welcome to criticize my sentence structures or what have you.

    I would just like to state up front that I am not in any way being defensive or offensive, I’m trying to share with you something that I think you got very wrong. I would like to say that I think what you wrote lacked honesty and dripped of such obvious smugness. Yes, the truth is the journal and its presentation, were very pretentious. That modern simple design with the write-ups that were half a paragraph long that you forget what it means by the time you finish it; people for the most part aren’t stupid and see through that. So yes, it is true. But I think what you forgot to mention, in spirit of true objectivity and nothing else, was the fact that most of the people came out to be supportive and show love to their friends that are trying something new.
    I was going to type that maybe you forgot to mention how The Laughing Tree with their “art soirées” is trying to build a non-judgmental and supportive community around them. But “I will not stain” this review with making you seem more intelligent that you think you are, because in truth it seems like you were totally oblivious to this fact.

    You remind me of this English major who bragged about going to “dirty” India (Because of course every this is the ‘true beginnings’ for every truthful humble person) after she was done Korea. I met her in the first few months I was here. She went on about how she had not met a SINGLE interesting person in her whole year here. Going on and on for almost half an hour, not realizing that in that time, she did not take one chance to explore who the person across from her was with any inquisitive questions.
    I doubt that your comparisons, actually to be more exact, ‘categorizations’ of the people in attendance were correct. I am sure you cannot adequately judge a person (from what maybe 20 minute conversations? If that) to characters in books like the aimless and lost seductress or the “manipulative status seeker”. You sound like a guy trying to be edgy and an intellectual, but instead you come off as such a naïve twat that has a sad perspective on the people (especially only targeting women) around him.
    I hope you can display some genuine understanding of the world around you and get rid of this pretense of humility that you’re using to justify your writing. It’s such an innate quality in us to underestimate everyone around us but it lacks honesty.

    Good luck buddy and please don’t send me something hateful back.


  2. Mizaru Says:

    Yes I understand showing love and trying something new yet beware the wisdom (and Talent) of the crowd– especially the ‘Art Crowd’

    I have meant plenty of interesting people in Korea: check here: http://thethreewisemonkeys.com/2011/04/11/the-new-phillies-and-the-expat-life-of-a-myanmar-refugee-in-seoul/

    Sometimes (actually often) the made-up people in a real book are better company than the real people in their world of appearances– somehow everyone knows this….

    And BTW I am up to page 80 in The Sun Also Rises.

  3. dasizler Says:

    I am sick of the pretense and the I am better than you of the so-called art and performance crowd here in Seoul.
    They sure need a lot of attention. Let’s just say it’s not my scene.

  4. K. George Says:

    This whole journal was expat run-of-the-mill stuff. Why point out Gwen Atkinson’s contribution when it didn’t stand out as being more contrived than anyone else’s?

    Also, do you really think it’s fair to judge a publication without fully going through it?


  5. mizaru Says:

    2 KG.
    I forget the person’s name… I don’t have the journal in front of me but I just went to the first entry to find some “art” …

    Heed not I am page 96 of the Sun Also Rises now and certainly I will hold off reading that till the next installment of the art journal where we can aggain compare and contrast…

  6. Lady Brett Ashley Says:

    I’m not trying something new, just because I’m not as old as you and a “man of the universe” doesn’t mean I was born yesterday. Dude everything you are saying sounds so naive. Do you even realize that?

    Or have you confused some people doing art together as this malignant Andy Warhole factory assemblage? You really are not even being honest with yourself or lack the comprehension on the world around you because your response isn’t even a response. You’re just repeating the same crap without acknowledging any of the critisms.

    “The art world is a social and economic network, and, like all networks, has externalities or network effects that create more incentives to be connected to the network than disincentives to remain disconnected.” (Martin Irvine ) Like any insular group! It’s so ridiculous that I even have to point that out.

    Obviously you Mizaru and dasizler have an inferiority complex. Educate yourself.

    Link to Institutional Theory of Art and the Artworld
    Overview by Martin Irvine.


    Good luck with this site. I just checked to see if you had posted my reply. I think it was a mistake because there is no real discussion here, just rejected people trying to feel better about themselves.

  7. jakesdarkplace Says:

    reminds me of a run in i had with a so called artist/writer in the states. See, he was of the mind that having a degree in dramatic writing and working on an mfa made him an artist. That creativity and passion could somehow be taught.

    He repeatedly failed to impress publishers(hundreds of pages of mediocrity) and found himself in the discussion zone.

    Yet, he had no problem telling me about theory and what art was. How I just didn’t get it. At this point he became a salesman. Relying on rhetoric and bullying to make me buy into the fact that his art was for reals.

    I blame the middle class and the flops above them on the economic spectrum. Money, titles(Lady? lol), and pieces of paper are just clap traps for discussionists like you. We dont want to discuss art, we dont want to sit in a coffee shop and discuss the revolution. We dont want to talk about the world around us as we are doing just fine participating and depicting it.

  8. Locaso Says:

    Oh I get it now-I think. LBA aka Anna has taken offense to this well-written, critique of a new publication in Seoul. A yes, HBC, the hipsters oasis, has been presented with another outlet for cool people to get published, even if their poetry submissions are pretty light. M, good on ya. LBA, if ya don’t like mirrors, walk past them. and to the publishers of Concrete Souls, re-title your zine, Individuality. The Mysterious Place-.

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