K-Pop Supergroup BTS Launch Global Art Project
By HG Masters
Global K-pop phenomenon BTS are expanding their cultural influence into the realm of contemporary art with an international art project announced on January 14. Dubbed Connect, BTS, the initiative features public artworks by established cross-disciplinary artists including Antony Gormley, Tomás Saraceno, and Ann Veronica Janssens, and spans five cities on four continents.
The program kicked off at the Serpentine Galleries in London, where Jakob Kudsk Steensen’s new installation simulating an old-growth forest, Catharsis (2019), debuted yesterday, and began streaming online at catharsis.live. Today, Berlin’s cultural institution Gropius Bau launches the performance series “Rituals of Care,” with more than 17 participants including sculptor and performance artist Jelili Atiku; performer boychild with dancer Josh Johnson and DJ Total Freedom; musician and artist Cevdet Erek; and choreographer and dancer Maria Hassabi, with events scheduled through February 2.
Connect, BTS draws on the K-pop septet’s collaborative practice and their ethos of “diversity, love and care for the periphery.” In their statement about the project, the group elaborated: “We speak different languages and come from multiple cultural backgrounds and have lived through unique life experiences. Contemporary art and music are also two different worlds. This project is especially meaningful to us because it truly represents diversity and creates a collective, positive message for the world that we value.”
Curator Daehyung Lee, who organized the Korea Pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 2017 and was previously the art director for Hyundai Motor Company, led a group of international arts figures in developing Connect, BTS, including Gropius Bau director Stephanie Rosenthal, who worked with independent curator Noemie Solomon on “Rituals of Care”; Ben Vickers and Kay Watson at Serpentine Galleries; and Thomas Arnold, a principal at Alta Art Production, in New York.
For Tomás Saraceno, the initiative will be an opportunity to do something never done before in human history. His project Fly with Aerocene Pacha will send a woman into the atmosphere via a solar-powered balloon, without any lithium batteries or helium to generate lift. Slated to take off on January 28 at Argentina’s Salinas Grandes, Saraceno’s project is a gesture of solidarity with 33 local indigenous communities and non-human elements of the region’s ecology, which has been despoiled by lithium mining.
Also beginning on January 28, the Zaha Hadid-designed Dongdaemun Design Plaza in Seoul will host two installations: a light-and-fog environment designed by Ann Veronica Janssens, and Yiyun Kang’s digital landscape based on BTS’s signature dance movements. In New York, Antony Gormley’s massive tangle of 18-kilometers of aluminum tubing, which visitors can explore, will be unveiled at Brooklyn Bridge Park Pier 3 on February 4.
In his curatorial statement, Lee explained that BTS’s popularity “opened up a space for self-expression and confidence for an audience of millions worldwide,” and that “[t]heir ability to speak meaningfully to people of different cultural backgrounds, social classes, ethnicities, genders, and identities speaks in turn to modern art’s long-standing goal to transcend imagined boundaries, breaking through, creating new expressive space.”
BTS, an acronym for Bangtan Sonyeondan (Beyond the Scene) has been active since 2013. Along with their music industry success, the seven members (RM, Jin, SUGA, j-hope, Jimin, V, and Jung Kook) are known for their self-empowering messages, and were recruited by UNICEF to launch the global learning campaign Generation Unlimited in 2018.
HG Masters is the deputy editor and deputy publisher of ArtAsiaPacific.
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