Does the human create the artifacts оr is it an artifact itself

ARTeFACT is a multimedia dance performance of Derida Dance. It is a result of an experimental research of the choreographer Jivko Jelyazkov, the visual artist Albena Baeva, the musician Ivan Shopov also known as Cooh and Balkansky and the dancer Jungin Lee from South Korea. It explores the encounter of a newborn identity with its changing and evolving surrounding. The dancer Jungin Lee is involved in a constant interaction with the visual media and the sound. The body changes its identity from an empty form through animal- and robot-like creature as the surrounding also never stops creating new challenges, dangers and opportunities for transformation. About her work on the performance ARTeFACT and her experience of a different cultural environment Gabriela Petrova speaks with Jungin Lee.

 How did the working process with Jivko go?

 It was very difficult. In his previous dance piece A.S.A (Average Speed of Answer) where I also participated he accepted the dancer’s style. For example if I had a release technique training, he accepted this and tried to make movements especially for me. But now he already had an idea for the movement and I had to change my style. It was like a transformation for me. We worked from 9 am till 5 pm with one hour lunch break. We were all the time searching for movements and repeated them again and again. It was very hard. I lost 4 kg for 3 months because this 40 minutes solo performance was created in such a rush. In other companies I can dance as I am able to and they say, yes, ok it’s enough like this. But during this rehearsal period everybody was… how to say… pushing me forward. When I was a student I had a similar feeling coming from my teachers, friends, parents. There was a lot of competition and I always had to do more. It’s very weird now because I rehearsed alone but I felt the same – pushed by myself. I really wanted to make these movements for myself as a dancer. Someone said that this might be a good challenge for me. But I don’t think that this is exactly challenging. I just wanted to go further and further. And now when each performance of the piece “ARTeFACT” finishes I have a really nice feeling that each one was much better than the previous.

 Was this your first experience with interactive visual environment?

 It wasn’t my first time. I had some experience with visual interaction in other pieces but there it was only for a few moments. But in these 40 minutes of “ARTeFACT” the visual environment had to interact totally with the music and dance. It made me really crazy. Albena and Ivan had an idea for themselves. I had to understand what they felt without speaking with them because otherwise I would have gotten some knowledge that I didn’t want to have. I just started to imagine what their idea was. For this performance I had to remove my personality. I just wanted to act more instinctively so I threw away my personality. One time I cried a lot during the rehearsal because in my mind there were two personalities starting to fight. It sounds ridiculous, I know. When I had to change totally, my personality in a way said: “why do I have to change – I can dance like myself”. And the reason is not because of the technique, it is about the way of thinking. During the rehearsals I tried to search for some feelings. But suddenly this was a crush because one time the feeling was up and the other time – down. In each part of the piece the feelings had to be different. If I wouldn’t do it – I could not make a perfect performance. And I’m not an actress. I’m a dancer. I can put some feeling in some movement. But without feeling the movement is totally different. This is not acting because I have already found this feeling inside. That’s why it was so difficult. It made me such a complicated system – my mentality, my mind and my soul. For example the beginning for me is emptiness – nothingness. In the Universe there is now air, and the movements are so simple. I didn’t try to do something new at the beginning, it was just pure existence. Second part is like growing up, third part is more like “I’m an animal”, forth part is like producing something like a robot. I got a really nice feeling from the eating part. For me this is like removing everything from the inside. And after that it’s like a throw away everything from my past. This feeling is like being reborn.

 While I was watching I thought that these were the circumstances around you and when you ate them it was like you were trying to transform them and finally to create your own world.

Yes, the form is similar. But my feeling was like when I was a child and I did something wrong and my mum was asking: “What’s this? What’s this?” And I used to eat what was in my hands because I wanted to hide it from her. And in this part of the performance I have the feeling that I want to remove totally everything and come back to zero.

Did Jivko create the choreography first?

Little by little all was built together during the rehearsal period– Albena brought new light, Ivan – new music. We spoke a lot with Jivko and Albena. But Jivko never said exactly this was this or that was that. He just gave some directions – “maybe you can search in this direction or I have some idea about that…”. For example I think that the light is something like me. It is like a shadow of me. They spoke about some system. I thought that system could be also my shadow. My body is like a doll, empty. When something small finds a perfect body, an empty body and goes inside it, it can make me – my personality, my character. This is a new product, an artifact.

And what about that red lights that appear at one moment? All the time everything is in black and white and suddenly red?

For me they are the forbidden things. At first they are really scaring. For example like the forbidden smoking when you are a teenager. I already know that it’s dangerous but I want to try it and first I’m afraid. Anyway if you start, you can not stop. First when I found the red light I thought I had to escape from there because I didn’t know what it was. But when I put this meaning, it got totally inside me and I found something new for my performance.


Is that your first solo?

No, in Korea I also performed solo pieces but they were of 10 minutes only. Here the solo is 40 minutes and there are so many hard movements. I did everything – stretching, extension, jumping, slow part… Jivko put everything in it. Physically it is really difficult.

 You said that you studied in Korea?

 Yes, I received my entire education in Korea. I have not studied abroad. I studied contemporary dance at the University where and I also finished my Masters. I had some creations of my own and I also worked with several international choreographers from France, Thailand a.o. I worked as a choreographer, as a dancer and as a teacher in an Art High School for one year and a half. I gave contemporary dance lessons. I have quite strict dance education. And when I teach somebody I really want to make things clear – this is from Marta Graham, this is from Horton etc. I never mix these things. I want to teach very exact. When I did everything in Korea, I thought – enough, and moved to Berlin to work as a dancer with various choreographers in different projects. When I got there at first it was amazing, of course. When I walked on the streets everybody was an artist, everybody was a friend of a friend. It gave me a lot of inspiration. Sometimes I found very nice artists and sometimes I thought “what was that?”. I got very confused. I couldn’t find some border – what was art and what was not? Everything was mixed. Little by little I got a feeling that everybody was an artist just because it was Berlin. I still love Berlin but as an artist I want to find something new and I want to be more serious about my work, not like “ok, let’s try”. Then I got a contract with a Hanover company. In Hanover the working process, the salaries and environment were very nice. There was a very supporting system for dancers, some very nice offerings. But the dance choreography and the dance style couldn’t make me happy because they were old fashioned, ordinary thinks, not interesting at all. At the same time I had an audition in Budapest with Derida Dance Company. I wanted to try something new, I met them and I loved their style.

 What do you think about that style?

 It is really Jivko’s invention. And I’m also interested in his way of working because he has studied theater and dance. He makes something by himself. Sometimes he uses some techniques from Cunningham or Horton but most of the movements are his idea, his own creation. Jivko’s style is very free because he makes the movements by himself.

 Can you distinguish some differences between Sofia, Berlin and Korea?

 I can not say. It depends on the artist I think. Bur I can say something about the entire environment. Korean dance system is still based mainly on the technical aspect of dance. Yes, younger artist are starting to make some new things, they have new ideas, a lot of installations and collaborations have appeared recently. There are two groups – the young group and the old group. Korean dancers have a very nice technique but they don’t have any braveness. They work in Korea and they don’t want to go out. They are really scared to speak English first. They need help. But if they can go out everybody will like their performances. In Korea all my friends said that I’m crazy. How can I live alone in Berlin and especially in Bulgaria? But I like Sofia. I’ve never imagined this situation before. Life is totally like flowing water – I can not imagine my situation tomorrow. I follow something like a destiny. In Sofia unfortunately I don’t think there are really great artist yet. There are few individual artists who are doing something new. They are at their beginning. Sofia is really a nice place to make something new. I think if there are more residence programs here a lot of people will come.

During the robot part in the piece you say something in Korean?

When we were researching for some stories once Jivko asked me to tell him something ridiculous happening in Korea. There is a lot! And I told him that one. There was a very nice place in Seoul. Before the Korean War we had a big river – Han River, and it was connected to many small, thin rivers. People used this water for drinking, washing, walking around. But after the war all connections were destroyed and we could not use it any more. And 5-6 years ago our new president said to the people that he wanted to rebuild the river as it was before the war. And everybody said yes but we could not find some connection between this river and all the small rivers and we can artificially rebuilt them. They wanted to make this very natural place but they couldn’t find a way. So they put public water in these thin rivers. And they bought fish from aquariums and put it there. They made it artificial. They made it for the tourists who want to walk along. Now they get a lot of money from this place. The words I’m saying are: This place is Changneungcheon and it is really natural… It’s like a broadcast welcoming people to the place.

I see. Do you plan to stay in Sofia?

I don’t know yet. I think I can go further with the adventure and go to some other place but also I want to stay here. I applied for financial support  at the Korean Art Council. If I get the grant I could make my own creation in Bulgaria. It will be a small work with some Bulgarian dancers throughout the period of the residence program in Derida. Soon I will know more.

 November 2012, Sofia

The material is published under the rubric Independent Scene in Focus supported by the National Cultural Fund.