haihm and Bongsu Park Interview

haihm, photo (c) Naver OnStage

The Bagri Foundation is very excited to have haihm and Bongsu Park take part in our concert series, At the Cutting Edge: Experimental Sounds of Asia and to experience the new collaborative work they will present at the concert on November 14th. Collaboration and new commissions are central to the idea behind the concert, with collaborator extraordinaire Jun Fukamachi (1946-2010) as inspiration. Tickets for their concert where Phew headlines and O YAMA O also perform, are available to purchase here.

The Foundation’s interim Project Manager Rukhsana Jahangir asked the duo some questions about their practice and what to expect on the night.


RJ: Bongsu, you originally trained as a photographer and have explored different forms of visual art media in your practice. Can you tell us about your training in France and the UK and early influences?

Bongsu: When I was young, I used photography as a tool of observation, then later, I used it in conjunction with other media as a tool of expression. When I studied in Bordeaux, I started working with sculpture, video and installation. Since moving to London and doing a Masters at the Slade, I have seen great exhibitions and contemporary dance performances and have been fortunate to have opportunities to work with good dancers and musicians.

RJ: I understand that haihm, you were classically trained but later you began to create computer generated music. Can you tell us about the effect of that early classical training? Why did you decide to move towards electronic music?

haihm: I grew up listening to various kinds of music, not just classical, under the influence of my parents, who listened to music a lot. When I was a college student, I questioned whether I could actually be a classical pianist as a lifelong career. There were various reasons for that, but for example, I wanted to play music in different ways than a pianist. At that time, I thought it was a different genre, but now I understand it is not. The things my teacher talked about at that time are still being applied to my music today and the music I listened to then still helps me. The structure of music, the form, the technique of expression, etc.

RJ: haihm, you use many different types of sound in your music, like vocal samples and different sound textures. Is your compositional process intuitive?

haihm: I am interested in creating something that is heard in our ears as a result of the harmonisation of various sounds, rather than music made by chords or melodies. In fact, not only the sound of an instrument, but everything that is heard can be music. With advances in technology, such things can be implemented into music more easily.

RJ: This concert isn’t the first time that you both have collaborated – can you tell us about your previous collaboration, Dream Ritual (2019), which took as its starting point the Korean custom of buying and selling auspicious dreams?

Bongsu: The Dream Ritual performance is part of a bigger project called Dream Auction, inspired by the Korean culture of buying and selling dreams. I’m currently collecting dreams and organising a charity auction where people can bid for other people’s dreams. I decided to create a Dream Ritual performance first as I wanted to see the audiences’ reaction to this project. Three Korean women were the core team: I developed the concept and direction; we had the amazing choreographer Jinyeob Cha as a solo dancer and haihm created an amazing soundtrack. The sound production was a very important process as it drew together the detailed structure of the performance.

Dream Ritual by Bongsu Park and Jinyeob Cha, photo (c) Van Quan

RJF: Both of your work draws upon different cultural contexts. For example, Dream Ritual sampled music from Aboriginal dream ceremonies as well as Korean percussion sounds. What inspires you about working with other cultures?    

Both: We share the view that the more different cultures become familiar with their own origins, the more they will eventually meet at the same root. For example, whilst languages may be different, the essential content of the story is the same. It is always interesting that people who lived in different eras or spoke different languages had similar thoughts to us.

RJ: You have both previously collaborated with creatives from other disciplines. Can you tell us what you think are the most rewarding and challenging parts of a creative collaboration between two different disciplines?

haihm: When I work with artists in other fields, I leave more creative space open than when I make music alone. I think that if we care about each other in that empty and open space, we can create a harmonious result. It gives me the opportunity to expand and think in many more ways than I experience when I’m making music alone.

Bongsu: Collaboration is very much an organic process. I always leave room for some flexibility. I need to leave some space to accept different approaches whilst at the same time I shouldn’t lose the main objective. This isn’t easy but I always learn new things whenever I work with someone else.

RJ: Can you tell us a little about what you will present at Café OTO on 14 November?

haihm: When I was offered the opportunity to take part in the ‘At the Cutting Edge’ series by the Bagri Foundation, I suggested a collaboration with Bongsu. I decided to combine the tracks for my album with the tracks for ‘Dream Ritual’, in conversation with Bongsu. My scored electronic sound will draw the musical waves and Bongsu’s hypnotic video images will take the audience into the deep subconscious.

RJ: Given that we’ve been speaking about dreams, it would be interesting to know who your dream collaborator would be? If there were any creative artist, living or dead, who you would like to collaborate with, who would it be and why?

haihm: I think it would be Bach, even though I listen to various kinds of music. I am curious about the cultural atmosphere of his time, what kind of person he was and what he thought. I don’t even dream of working with him, but if I could go back to the time when he lived, I’d like to observe him for one day, if he would allow me!

Bongsu: Mine would be Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui because when I saw his works, I realised that performance would become a central feature of my artistic practice.

haihm, SXSW, image by Sungsu Park, photo (c) Nahsol


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