Since the end of June, I have been out of the UK for my third annual research trip to South Korea. I always try to schedule a lengthy research trip during this time of year, as I can collect research materials while spending the summer with my family. Nonetheless, this trip was different from previous trips, where I had spent most of my time visiting the Korean National Ballet for observation. This time I have been busy collecting historical sources from various cultural institutions to evaluate the shifting notions of Korean identity.

For this purpose I went to the National Museum of Korea (NMK) for a couple of weeks to review the permanent exhibition hall, which mainly displays the domestic cultural heritage. The museum is divided into three floors, each of which presents two galleries: the ground floor is arranged into the Prehistory and Ancient History Gallery and the Medieval and Early Modern History Gallery; the first floor presents the Calligraphy and Painting Gallery and the Donations Gallery; and the second floor features the Sculpture and Craft Gallery and the Asia Gallery. I focused mostly on the structure of the museum, including the sub-divisions of each gallery, as the arrangement itself revealed the way in which the NMK constructs Korean identity. National identity is proclaimed by the NMK through its focus on the idea of national history with strong territorial, religious and cultural implications. Here, the concept of dance/movement is highly excluded, highlighting the importance of my role as a researcher to suggest dancing bodies and dance institutions as prominent agencies in articulating national identity.

It was also nice to see the current cultural exchange between the museums of Korea and Britain. The NMK’s Special Exhibition Gallery is presently featuring Princely Treasures: European Masterpieces 1600 – 1800 from the Victoria and Albert Museum. It is one of a number of special events that meet the NMK’s aim of bringing world history and culture to Korean audiences. It specifically focuses on the court and upper class life of the Baroque and Rococo periods through displays of paintings, sculptures, furniture, jewellery and fashion. The Ulsan Museum of Korea has also introduced a similar kind of event, Fantastic Creature, bringing approximately 170 cultural pieces from the British Museum. While I was delighted to see this kind of cultural connection between Korea and Britain, I hope to see a more active exchange between the dance fields of the two countries. 

Before I close, I would also like to let you know of some rather pleasant outside exposure our PGR blog has recently received. The official website of the Ninette de Valois conference has recently been updated with post-conference materials, and, thankfully, it includes a link to my short conference review, posted in May 2011. You will be able to see this by going to www.royalballetschool.co.uk/dvconference/conference.php and clicking on ‘Links to articles on the conference’.

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