Nature Created By Design, Seoul, 2014

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In October 2014 Elly Tucker, Deborah Olakigbe, Eleanor Cook-Higgins, Alia Coleman, Sean Heather and Ellie Dearing travelled to Seoul in South Korea to take part in an exhibition our partner university Seoul Institute of the Arts.

To be chosen to participate in such a unique opportunity was a surprise – we never imagined such opportunities would be afforded to us when we decided to come to university.

Our trip to Seoul was a fast adventure. We were greeted by our friendly and generous translator Thomas and friends who warmly welcomed us to Seoul Institute and got us settled in. We soon met our fellow exhibitors and professors from the other Universities involved – Musashino Art University Japan; Fudan University School of Arts China; and of course our host and partner Seoul Institute of the Arts Korea – and though interactions between the groups begun shyly, there was a shared sense of energy and determination to put on a great exhibition.

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Once the show was up, everyone was more able to relax and we all got know each other a little more. It was great to not only travel and get to see the art work of our fellow students abroad, but to have the opportunity to hear each artist’s perspectives and motivations and to be able to ask each other questions – which was made possible by a number of students from the other universities who had impressive and enviable language skills! Placing our own work and practice within the new and diverse context was refreshing, and it was interesting to draw comparisons on differences and similarities in the approaches adopted by artists from different universities in addressing the themes of the show.

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In our time spare from setting up the exhibition, we visited some sites as well as contemporary exhibitions in Seoul. We were lucky enough to be visiting during the enormous ‘MediaCity’ biennial art exhibition at the Seoul Museum of Art, which was truly fascinating, and we also enjoyed exhibitions at the Arko Arts Centre, as well as an exhibition of up and coming local artist at the Gyeonggi Museum of Modern Art. In addition to this we were able to take in the sights and sounds of the Seoul, visiting markets, gardens and one of several sprawling and ancient royal places, still preserved in the centre of the bustling city.

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Our hosts encouraged us to explore and share their native culture, organising several fantastic activities for us during our trip. We explored a Korean Folk Village, made up from partially restored and partially preserved historical buildings and were also taken to the theatre to see a performance of traditional Korean music and dance; we were all captivated, particularly by the dancers and their extraordinary elegance. After this, all the foreign students participated in a workshop where we were able to design and decorate our own traditional Korean masks, and then wear them during a very challenging dance workshop! The workshop was taught by Seoul Institute students who made the complex movements look effortless, and although our own skills were considerably lacking, we definitely made up for it with enthusiasm.

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The whole trip was an amazing opportunity to explore and learn from another culture, and the friends and connections we gained during our visit made the trip all the more special. Overall, the experience of travelling, setting up an international exhibition and making wonderful new friends was even better any of us could have hope for, and we are all so grateful that we were able to be a part of it.

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