Theatrics between Life and Death:
Performing the urban history of Garibong-dong in Camp or the Place that Became a Lion by Miwansung Project and OLTA

Soo Ryon Yoon

This essay examines Camp or the Place that Became a Lion (hereinafter Camp), a site-responsive theatrical production co-created and performed by the Korean artist collective Miwansung Project and Japanese visual art group OLTA in 2014 for the Marginal Theatre Festival in Seoul. Based on participant observation in and close reading of Camp, this essay argues that theatricality as a concept and method has political potency that helps the artists create a space and undo ‘formal’ narratives about Garibong as always already a reborn space devoid of its violent and complex history and memories.

The artists stage a two-part performance addressing the turbulent history of Seoul’s Garibong district, which is often imagined to be a dead, crime ridden and poverty stricken space ready to be revitalized by state-led urban regeneration campaigns. The first part is a ritualistic street procession where the artists invite the audience to walk through the streets of the Garibong district, engaging with its derelict buildings and local immigrant residents from China. The second part of the performance is an improvisatory play loosely based on Gipeun jam (Deep Sleep), a 1988 play on sleep, death and torture under the authoritarian regime. In each of these instances, the artists investigate the theme of life and death. In so doing, this essay shows, the artists recuperate the concept of theatricality to challenge the lines between death and living, theatrical and quotidian performance and formal documentation and informal memories of the urban space.

Tags: #theatricality

Soo Ryon Yoon (2019) Theatrics between Life and Death, Performance Research, 24:4, 118-124, DOI: 10.1080/13528165.2019.1641334

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