Working and studying in the international field across cultural management and cultural studies has always made me interested in understanding and sharing thoughts, visions and practices around the world. Living, studying and working in Asia made me realize how one’s imagery and concepts can be positively broadened thanks to the interaction with other cultures.
When it comes to the understanding of Asia from an European or Western perspective, Edward Said – the father of post-colonial studies – teaches us that we tend to look at the continent through determined lens that have being constructed through centuries of unbalanced confrontation and fascination for the “other” – in what we understand as “orientalism”.
However this “otherness” – which is associated with a culture whose traditions, philosophies and practices are far from ours – comes closer and closer thanks to globalization, to the internet, and to the opening of borders [yet, after 2020, this sentence could sound ironic].
In nowadays’ multicultural society learning about the “other” seems – and perhaps needs – to be an imperative in our everyday practice, in order to enhance the already open intercultural-dialogue between societies and nations.
Nevertheless, the art and cultural sector is a good way to start this intercontinental dialogue, as they are themselves carriers of one’s society representation – whether through traditional or contemporary art.
South Korea has acknowledged this concept since the 80s, where – with a plan of “nation branding” has started a wide investment in the cultural sector and set of cultural policies in order to promote itself abroad and become a hub for the creative industries.
The result is highly visible nowadays, with Korean music industries being at the world forefront of popularity and innovation, Korean movie industry conquering Hollywood’s hearts and the Korean art market being more vibrant than ever (just few days ago Frieze announced its new fair in Seoul for 2022).
Furthermore, in the recent decades, the government has helped financing and building both public and private museums across the national territory – whose collection offers a wide selection of artworks, from antiques to contemporary, from national to international. Among its cultural policies, South Korean government has also started investing a copious amount of money in technological development for both the cultural and the creative industries sector, in a willingness of situating itself at the forefront of innovation and responding to that envisioning of “technoscapes” (to quote Appadurai) which Korea has often being represented as [let’s think, for example, at the Wachowski sisters’ “Neo Seoul” in Cloud Atlas].
One important example of the above-mentioned practice is Bonte Museum, inaugurated in 2012 and situated in Jeju Island – a UNESCO protected volcanic island situated in the extreme south of the country, famous for its natural heritage, is peculiar traditional culture and for being one of the top travel destinations among both South Koreans and Japanese citizens.
I have recently had the chance to visit the Island during an academic holiday and immediately got the idea of writing this article on the Island’s representative museum, with the aim of starting a dialogue and exploration with Asian museal and cultural realities. Let me thus guide you to this interesting reality in the next article.