If anyone wonders what performing art has to do with the IT industry, there is one place he or she should visit . Seongnam Arts Center. The art hall, located in Bundang just south of Seoul, has so successfully blended the software (performance planning) with hardware (state of the art staging technology) that it is on almost everyone's lips just two years after its debut.
The superb track record in the relatively short period are also attributable to the performing hall's pertinent . or inevitable as its leader saw it - strategy of harmonizing global standard with local sentiments. "Our facility has been born with the fate of maintaining dual perspectives, which forces it to watch the world and our community simultaneously," says Lee Jongduck, president of Seongnam Arts Center.
Also setting the Arts Center apart from many of its competitors on the outskirts of Seoul is its adherence to its own color and identity. From the beginning, Seongnam Arts Center pledged not to repeat the failures of many cultural and Arts Centers which have disappeared for lack of own characteristics. It is instead benchmarking foreign Arts Centers that have specialized in a particular category of performing arts and succeeded.
Behind all this is Lee, who has taken the lead in turning the fledgling facility into the household word among local artistic community in so short a time. Yet he is far from satisfied with the initial success and is determined to elevate Seongnam Arts Center further to a performing hall that can compete with and even excel larger and older facilities in the capital city and elsewhere. In an interview with the Korea IT Times, Lee reflected on the first two years of his center's performance and mused on its future visions and strategies.
Q: What is the significance of the second anniversary of Seongnam Arts Center
A: Seongnam Arts Center faces dual challenges and tasks when compared with cultural complexes located in Seoul, such as Seoul Arts Center, Sejong Center and LG Arts Center. This is because we have to both accept the global standards and frontiers in culture and arts and, at the same time, seek to become a community-friendly cultural space by keeping tune with regional sentiments.
Seoul Arts Center and other cultural facilities in the capital city are literally going heart and soul into planning events that absorb artistic global frontiers and avant-garde trends. Seoul is already deeply involved into globalized network in the realm of culture and art, too. Therefore, the Seoul-based performing halls are going all out to hold art events that can be on everybody's lips on a global scale.
Seongnam Arts Center, located in Bundang just south of Seoul, has been providing events that can attract audience from Seoul. Actually, it has earned the acclaims of national papers and broadcasters by inviting a number of famous performers, a feat which even Seoul-based facilities have failed to show. Seongnam Arts Center, which has to absorb global trends and seek to become a community-adhering cultural complex simultaneously, needs to be more considerate in terms of planning directions.
Q: What are the evaluations of Seongnam Arts Center's status within Seongnam City and the domestic performing art community
A: If we can call Seoul Arts Center's planning pattern as linear, that of Seongnam Arts Center should be more elaborate, careful and complex. Unlike Seoul-based performing facilities that look only "upward (the world)," Seongnam Arts Center needs to look "downward (community)" and upward at the same time.
In addition to its planning excellence, Seongnam Arts Center's geological advantage is certain to lead to a big potential in luring cultural consumers not only from Seoul but also from its major satellite cities, including Pangyo, Yongin, Suwon, Hanam, Gwangju, Uiwang and Gunpo, not to mention of its home, Bundang.
Q: What are the chronic problems of the domestic performing art business and what is the solution
A: In the 1970s and '80s, a number of culture and art halls were set up throughout the country, but not a few of them appear all but deserted now. This is because they focused more on hardware (buildings and equipment) rather than on software (proper contents and operating personnel). This means the success of the art complexes now mushrooming on the outskirts of Seoul depends on how they specialize and individualize.
For the recently mushrooming cultural complexes not to follow on the footsteps of these culture and art halls, they should try to specialize from one another armed with own characteristics and identity. The Music Academy in Brooklyn, New York, for instance, is known for its differentiation strategy focusing on only frontier works. When the academy introduced the new strategy six or seven years ago, the hall was all but emptied. But it has stuck fast to the "frontier strategy" not just in staging selfplanned products but also in leasing the facility to others and finally emerged as one of the most famous performing centers with the strongest characteristics ever.
Q: What were major events the center has organized and what are its future programs
A: Since its opening in 2005, Seongnam Arts Center has drawn the attention of the nation's cultural community with its excellent planning. Based on its slogans of "Seongnam Only" and "Seongnam First," it has drawn in a number of worldclass artists. Among them were Gilbert Kaplan, a Mahler specialist, baritone Matthias Goerne, mezzo soprano Anne Sofie von Otter, the English Chamber Orchestra, Budapest Festival Orchestra led by conductor Ivan Fischer and Tomasz Stanko Jazz Quartet.
Korean classical music stars also brightened up our stage. They include pianist Paik Kun Woo, violinist Sarah Chang and soprano Sumi Cho. Particularly memorable was the performance of the Seongnam International Youth Orchestra Festival, conducted by world-famous Korean-born cellist Hanna Chang for the first time.
For the lovers of popular music, the center also staged two musicals, "Miss Saigon" and "Mamma Mia." It also won the acclaims of dancing community by inviting Ballet de Monte-Carlo under the choreographer Jean Christophe Maillot to stage "Cinderella" and "La Belle." In 2005, Seongnam Arts Center celebrated its opening by own-produced opera, "Gounod, Faust," demonstrating not just its planning ability but also its abundant and excellent manpower and leaving a longlasting topic among the domestic classical music fans. This year, it staged Richard Strauss' opera, "Ariadne auf Naxos" for the first time in Korea, adding to its reputation and confidence by picking up excellent homegrown vocalists through a strict audition and giving them opportunities to grow as international artists.
Included in the 2008 program are pianist Yundi Li, Netherland Dance Theater, cellist Hanna Chang and many other Korean and foreign artists.
Q: Would you explain about up-to-date facility and future investment plans
A: In the past, the war facilitated the development of technology, but now culture is the prime force in technological innovation. In defining the term culture, we can mean art or industry, or it can be our thinking, life and science.
Most modern theaters are making the most of frontier technology to popularize culture and art programs. Seongnam Arts Center is second to none in this. As the latest performing facility, it has introduced state-of-the-art technology in both software and hardware, such as in control systems for moving stages, various signally systems, illumination and sound.
Our center uses Ethernet, a LAN communication system, in making all mechanic orders, which artificially controls echoes by lengthening or shortening them, controlling the volumes of various musical instruments and adjusting illumination equipment. People tend to link the IT industry to manufacturing and other industrial sectors. But we at Seongnam Arts Center are grafting the latest technology to arts. Equally important to introducing theater hardware is developing software that can make the best use of these hardware equipments. We are going all out to be the best in both areas
Q: What is the ultimate goal of Seongnam Arts Center
A: In just two years, Seongnam Arts Center has grown as a cultural complex and the target of benchmarking not only among performing halls in the metropolitan area but also those in the rest of the country. We will continue to play the role of a cultural leader and step up efforts to make Seongnam City as the cultural frontrunner in Korea and Asia.